Ange Ferguson is the Group Managing Director, Asia Pacific, for ThoughtWorks – a global tech company that prides itself on hiring at least 50 per cent females. The company is very committed to improving diversity in the Australian tech industry.
“We’ve made a conscious effort to not only attract female technologists, but to create something unique and special that they want to evolve with for the long term,” Ange said.
“In our company, seven of our managing directors are women, and our global Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a woman. Our global executive team is made up of six men and four women. Many are surprised to know that in Australia half our ThoughtWorkers are women, and close to 40 per cent of our technical roles are held by women,” Ferguson said.
“The real challenge in the tech industry is that of retention. Retaining a brilliant and diverse workforce means creating inclusive workplaces that encourage, foster and actually embrace diversity.”
“The real challenge in the tech industry is that of retention. Retaining a brilliant and diverse workforce means creating inclusive workplaces that encourage, foster and actually embrace diversity. This is something we have worked hard at, primarily because it’s just the right thing to do.”
ThoughtWorks Australia offers graduate roles across Software Development, Business Analysis, Testing and Experience Design. The company has created ways to help develop female technologists within the business – ranging from a focus on gender equality in recruitment to detailed gender remuneration analysis, internal policies and communities, and Women in Leadership development programs.
Ferguson said they’re striving to be a catalyst for positive change in the way women are viewed and treated within the tech industry.
“It’s important to encourage young women to consider the opportunities that the tech industry offers, and we’re getting more involved in doing just that. On International Women’s Day this year, Dr Leila Alem, our Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Specialist, visited a girls’ school in Melbourne to talk to them about the tech industry – and she was pleasantly surprised by how much they knew and how many senior students were planning for a job in technology.”
“Because of the fast pace, perhaps more than any other sector, technology is about continuous learning and development. Regardless of whether you’re a graduate or nearing retirement, a rewarding career in tech is all about keep up with (or one step ahead of) industry pace – and I like to think we have an environment that encourages continual growth and exciting, ever evolving tech career pathways.”
But it’s clear that a major challenge is in not only attracting the next generation of tech stars, but retaining them for as long as possible.
Ferguson said the industry needs to work much harder at focusing on keeping females in the industry by creating something unique, so that they want to evolve with the company for the long term.
“To do that we’ve invested in creating an inclusive workplace that supports women through initiatives like dedicated Women in Leadership development program, a Parents’ Community and a Women’s Network, as well as implementing a detailed bi-annual gender remuneration analysis as part of the company’s pay review process,” Ferguson said.
“We invest in creating a workplace where everyone feels supported no matter their individual circumstances, and we place a firm emphasis on assisting women returning to work, especially seeing as the fast pace of the tech world can sometimes mean people can feel left behind.”
Ferguson believes more companies must embrace the benefits of having a diverse workforce.
“There are two things to consider when it comes to the discussion about gender and age. Firstly, we are facing a huge talent constraint in the tech industry and, secondly, we know that having a diverse workforce delivers big benefits to the business – so, if you’re willing and able there’s no such thing as being too young or too old,” Ferguson said.
“We hire, support, and recognise all employees without penalty or privilege towards their gender identification or life stage, and really are proud to stand out as a tech industry leader with nearly half our people in Australia identifying as female. If you have the drive and determination, anything is possible.”
“It’s also an important time to reflect on the contributions women have made in the tech space, and just how far we have come. There is still a lot of work to do, however, but we have set a strong foundation to work from.”
ThoughtWorks University offers grads a five-week experience in India that enables them to connect with colleagues from around the world and gain an intimate understanding of the business and its broader purpose. Last year 324 graduates attended ThoughtWorks University and in 2017 that will increase to 444.