Developing diversity in the NZ tech sector

Posted by Sophia Hobman, Test Practice Manager on 11 September 2017

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diversity in IT techOptimation was part of a strong turnout for a recent NZTech event on Developing Diversity. Over 100 people attended the panel discussion, where Colin Philip of Integration Works, Sue McLean of Transpower, Jeff Brandt of Deloitte and Emma Barrett of Intergen talked about empowering women at work. They shared personal experiences on the importance of inclusive language, the culture inside, unconscious bias, the diversity awakening, the bubble of privilege, and how we can advocate for change in our organisations.

There is plenty of evidence that diversity leads to better business performance and shareholder returns, but New Zealand’s NZX listed companies still trail their Australian and US counterparts when it comes to getting women onto boards. Across the private sector, only 4% of New Zealand’s top CEOs and chairpersons are women, and the stats are even lower for Maori, Pacifica, Asian or under-40 women. The public sector provides a welcome contrast, with 45% of director and senior leadership positions held by women. State Services Commission CEO Peter Hughes has just put out a direction to government departments that 50% of all management positions should be held by women.

Why is this important?  Research shows that companies outperform when they have diversified management and governance teams. Women think differently to men, they tend to collaborate more, and have a stronger EQ focus. Women are good at bringing teams together. The drive to diversity allows companies to leverage wider talent pools. Tapping into broader range of perspectives and experience enables greater innovation, improved decision-making and better risk management.

Practical steps towards diversity

The panel discussed a range of local initiatives to encourage women in the workplace. These include:

  • MBIE Returnship from maternity leave:  A programme to look for women returning to work and introduce them back into roles. Transpower is one of the companies using this programme to identify and hire new talent.
  • Maternity leave job report: Provide a monthly update on job progress to women on maternity leave. The goal is to help them feel included in the work environment and also keep them up to date with what is happening so that the transition back into work is smooth and there are no surprises.
  • Flex at work: The ability for people to work their hours around childcare drop offs, and work from home for sick leave.
  • Personalised recognition:  Targeting a recognition strategy to someone’s needs.
  • Korero: When someone is succeeding and merits a reward personalise that reward to what works for them – dinner, movie tickets, day off, recognition, gift cards.  See the person; find the reward!  We are not all the same.
  • Using gamification to train people on diversity.

Another key piece of information – the number one name for CEOs in the UK is Andrew! Have a think about that! 

For more insights into why gender equality is better for everyone, check out this TedTalk by Michael Kimmell.