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How Google is trying to close the tech gender gap

Byron Connolly | June 23, 2016
"Technology isn't just a place for people studying computer science." - Google for Work's Renee Gamble

In 2015, a Deloitte and Australian Computer Society (ACS) report found that only 28 per cent of IT workers in Australia are women. Like most female senior IT execs, Google for Work's country manager, Renee Gamble, wants that number to rise.

"For me, the flat out statistics around [female] representation in the workforce are one facet," Gamble tells CIO Australia. It's about the percentage of women in leadership and things like pay equality, and the support women feel when they come in and out of the workforce."

Around 30 per cent of Google's staff globally are women - Australia is on par with that figure - but a mere 22 per cent across the organisation are in leadership positions. This number is even lower in technology leadership, Gamble says.

Perhaps a generational change is needed to close the gap. In 2013, slightly more than half of students studying IT at the University of New South Wales were female.

Gamble says she doesn't have an answer for why there's still such a gender disparity but she believes vocationally, people have different career paths to the ones their parents had in generations past.

"I think people taking a much more winding path rather than that very vertical trajectory," she says. "Technology isn't just a place for people studying computer science; the technology sector is somewhere where you can have such a diverse range of skills, qualifications and backgrounds. It's a great industry for lawyers to work in, designers, marketers and sales people."

"We need to make sure that women off all walks of life and career aspirations focus on technology as a possible path because the entry ticket is having a passion for technology and fast moving change. If you have that, then a career in IT could be for you."

Google has an internal and external strategy to encourage diversity. Internally, the company is casting a wider net and is thinking differently about the way it hires staff.

"As an example, historically, we really focused on looking at the top elite colleges and universities for our graduate hires ... because we are trying to hire the best. But those institutions have their own diversity challenges too," Gamble says.

"We are also looking at different universities that might be more representative and more diverse in Australia and globally. For instance, we are looking at the University of Western Sydney as a great talent source."

Gamble is also part of a group at Google that works with women and men to increase opportunities for women and create a workplace where they can thrive.

"More programmatically, a really foundational piece around that is training that we do around unconscious bias and trying to elevate thinking across our workforce," says Gamble.

 

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