We recently took a look at the under-representation of women in leadership and the lack of equality this brings to the global workforce.
As we celebrated and acknowledged International Women’s Day, it was also important to draw attention to the under-representation of women in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths – known as STEM. Unfortunately, in 2017 women are still significantly outnumbered when it comes to working in STEM-related studies and careers, making up only one in four IT graduates and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates.
Many organisations are doing their best to address this gender imbalance, yet more work is needed to dismantle the unconscious bias that often exists towards women in these industries. How then, can we accelerate gender parity and move towards a more equal and diverse workforce?
Championing women’s education is a large part of addressing gender disparity. In support of this, the Australian Government recently announced $3.9 million in funding to 24 organisations to rollout projects that will encourage girls and women to study and pursue careers in STEM.
One of these organisations is Melbourne-based Girl Geek Academy, an Australian startup actively working to inspire and engage more young girls in technology and coding. Through its one-day events, online training and ongoing support, Girl Geek Academy aims to increase early awareness and participation of girls and women in STEM.
We talked to co-founder Tammy Butow about her motivation for creating Girl Geek Academy and her own experience working in the tech industry as an engineer and Site Reliability Engineering Manager at Dropbox.
Tammy attended her first hackathon in 2009, flying up to Sydney from Melbourne for the OpenAustralia Hack Weekend at Google. At the event, she noticed there were hardly any women at all.
“I wondered why there were not many women at the event while I was there. I thought it was tons of fun and I was able to learn so much in a compressed weekend. It was awesome having engineers from Google and other companies offer to teach and share their knowledge,” Tammy says.
On returning to Melbourne, she decided to create her own events and workshops for women to learn.
“I went back to Melbourne and in 2011 I started running programming workshops. Over the years, I got more and more practice and met other women who were passionate about improving the world too. I decided to ask them to create a new company with me called Girl Geek Academy, asking Sarah, April, Lisy and Amanda to be my co-founders.”
As Tammy explains, each founder brings their own awesome and unique skills to the company.
“Yes certainly. I have also experienced it myself and there is a ton of research to support this. It's important to call things out when they happen. I practice calling out horrible things that happen to me or other women each day. With practice, you will get more comfortable calling things out,” she says.
“If you do not feel safe calling out the person directly then try to tell somebody you trust. Find out if your company has a HRBP (HR Business Partner) or EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Take time to get to know your HR team so you can understand how they can support you. Many companies have a confidential EAP you can use.”
Tammy also believes men must play a role in addressing gender bias in the workplace and becoming better champions for equality. She recommends following the Twitter account Better Male Allies (@betterallies) for great advice on how to support your female colleagues, and taking a few moments to watch the videos on malechampionsofchange.com.
With one last question, we asked Tammy for her top tip for young girls and women who are keen to pursue a career in the tech industry.
“Don't settle for a bad workplace or bad mentors,” she says. “Find amazing people that will support you and help you learn and grow. They are out there.
“Come along to our Girl Geek Academy events to meet amazing people that will help you grow. We are a friendly and welcoming community. We have connections to companies where they do not tolerate harassment or workplace bullying. We can help you be a great engineer.”