Promoting diversity and inclusion in company leadership positions is crucial for growth and success in any industry, including the technology and start-up sectors in Australia.
Female leaders bring a unique set of perspectives and approaches that have proven to drive innovation, increase creativity, and improve cultural awareness, collaboration and positive reputation, just to name a few. Essential ingredients to making companies not only survive but thrive.
After the better part of two decades working in the Australian technology, innovation, legal and banking sector, and having co-founded a technology start-up company myself, I have faced many challenges while building a successful career from the ground up in what has historically been a very male-dominated industry.
Whilst I have faced many challenges along the way, I have learned to navigate them by harnessing my strengths to overcome them on a path that hasn’t always been easy or straightforward. However, it has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and it provided me with the privilege of leading teams and reaching leadership positions.
While we’ve seen dramatic improvements in diversity, including the number of women in leadership positions within the technology sector over the past decade, it is far from where it needs to be. This is despite overwhelming research telling us that companies with more diverse leadership teams perform better financially, have higher staff and customer satisfaction, and have a stronger company culture.
So how do we continue to bridge the gap and increase diversity amongst leadership within the Australian tech and start-up scene? To bring genuine and long-lasting changes, we must support each other and the next generation of women entering the sector.
I’d like to play my part, and pay forward some of the favours I have received throughout my career, by sharing my top 10 tips for women looking to build a career in the tech sector for 2023:
1. Develop a strong knowledge foundation: Make an effort to understand your products deeply, your company and your industry. Even if you are not in a tech role, being able to understand and speak competently about your own tools and solutions and what’s happening across the market enables you to speak with confidence and add value to your audience, no matter who they are. “Be curious.”
2. Network: For some, networking comes naturally, and for others, it can be difficult. From my own experience, the ability to build meaningful relationships with peers, customers, and industry representatives has been a great enabler of learning, building my knowledge and identifying opportunities. Be proactive in meeting people, genuinely get to know them and nurture the relationships that you already have. “Respect the relationships you build.”
3. Seek out mentorship: Look for experienced professionals, men and women, who can offer guidance and support as you navigate your career. We should never stop learning and seeking to do so from those who have led the way before us. Seek out those whom you consider to be inspiring leaders. They’re usually only too happy to impart their learnings and knowledge, just as others did to help them. “You don’t have to go it alone.”
4. Stay up to date with industry developments: Be proactive in keeping abreast of new technologies and trends in the industry through reading, attending conferences, and participating in online communities. To become a leader in the space, you have to have your finger on the pulse of what is happening, and not just within your own company. If you don’t, you’ll likely be left behind. Continuous professional development is essential in tech. “Be a person who can bring new ideas to the table.”
5. Build a diverse set of skills: While it’s important to develop expertise in a particular area, also consider developing skills in other areas to increase your versatility and marketability. Our industry is agile and requires you to be adaptable to keep up. Remember, your value is your experience, knowledge and drive, and there is no “end point” for developing these assets. “Never stop growing.”
6. Speak up: Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and contribute to discussions, regardless of your level of experience. You’ve already earned a spot at the table, so contribute as much as you can. Companies want engaged and motivated employees who contribute in several ways, and even if you’ve started a tech company yourself, you need these skills to bring teams and customers on your ride. “Be seen, be heard.”
7. Take on leadership roles: Look for opportunities to take on leadership roles, such as mentoring junior staff or leading projects, or even owning customer relationships. Remember that people you work with will be taking these roles if you don’t. Leading people is a great privilege and one which you yourself will learn from. “Help others, and it will help you.”
8. Be resilient: Building a career in any industry takes time, hard work, and determination. Embrace challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning, keep your end goal in mind and don’t give up. Also, find “your people” at work and across your industry whom you can go to for advice and support. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
9. Be adaptable to change: The tech industry is a fast-moving industry, and it keeps changing at pace. So, you, too, need to be able to do the same to keep up. You need to embrace change and be able to do so quickly, on a daily basis. “Embrace change.”
10. Seek out your passion. Find what keeps you driven and passionate, even if it means stepping out of the familiar. Sometimes change brings the greatest opportunities for growth and opportunities. If you love what you do, it shows and infiltrates your teams and your interactions with customers and the industry. Your energy is contagious, so bring your best every time. “Love the hustle.”
The final piece of advice I have is that it’s important to give back. As your career inevitably grows, don’t forget to take time to support others in your network to grow their careers whenever possible and support the next generation of women looking to grow their careers in technology. The smallest things can have a big and lasting impact on people. Give them some of your time and wisdom.
We owe it to ourselves and to them.
Lara Paholski is the chief executive officer of tech start-up thelawstore.com.au.
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