by Lynne Barry
We had a chat with our Global Head of Learning and Development, Lynne Barry, to find out how Telstra is ensuring gender equality in our workforce.
Can you talk us through why gender equality is a challenge for the tech industry?
While the vast majority of the technology industry’s biggest employers have gender equality policies in place; parity remains a challenge for every organisation. Even as more women join the industry, day-to-day we face an imbalance in the talent pool.
At Telstra, women often form only 30 per cent of candidates for roles, and this can sink as low as 20 per cent for roles with a strong technical focus. In these scenarios, it’s tough for recruiters to facilitate parity. The next conundrum, we face, is that once women are in a recruitment pipeline, there can be an unconscious inclination for hiring managers to look for talent who are just like themselves.
It’s a cultural issue that we can address through awareness but also through policy intervention, when required.
How have you seen the work environment change for women in the past five years?
I’ve definitely seen a shift. Today, there is a more open conversation around the gender equality challenges within the industry. Tech companies are increasingly saying the impetus falls on them to address the gender gap and developing targeted initiatives to tackle the imbalance head-on.
Opportunities are growing too; technology talent is more heavily demanded as organisations begin to focus on digitisation. To meet their need for digital talent, companies are thinking about non-financial rewards that can set themselves apart from other employers, such as flexible working arrangements and offering defined career pathways. I believe the biggest certainty for women today is that there are more opportunities at their fingertips than ever before.
Do you have a view on women taking ownership of their own career?
Today, I often speak to young women who have a career plan from early on and are ready to have conversations about their career development; this attitude is to be commended. It’s important that we encourage women to think carefully about how they can cultivate their strengths in order to reach their career goals.
Whether this is volunteering for difficult projects or accepting leadership roles when they’re offered – I implore women to have the confidence to say yes. While having get-up-and-go is important, we can’t let the onus fall onto women; businesses need to make sure feel women feel empowered to ask for the next role and take risks along the way. It requires a culture-led approach, and we must all play a part.
How is Telstra ensuring women feel supported in the workplace?
For us, diversity is about adopting a holistic approach. We recently introduced a recruitment requirement that women make up at least 50 per cent of recruitment and interview shortlists. We also actively promote ‘All Roles Flex’, allowing employees to determine how, where and when they work.
Through this approach we’ve been able to support men and women to adjust their working life at different periods. This can be as simple as supporting parental, social or sporting responsibilities; or more formal, such as transition to part-time.
We’re always exploring new ways of creating an inclusive culture that allows women and men to achieve their full potential.
What is the feedback you get from Telstra people about our diversity culture?
The feedback we are hearing is that the involvement of our senior leadership team really brings our diversity initiatives to life. Women don’t just want to hear from HR about progressive policies; they want to hear about our commitment to diversity from the senior leaders too – either through them raising the profile internally or championing industry-wide change. It’s about having influential industry figures elevate the conversation – and this breaks down a lot of barriers.
Learn more about what diversity means to us here at Telstra.
Tags: diversity, leadership