"[With quotas], if you fail to do something, ideally, it gives them a consequence," she said. "Sometimes good intent does not translate into results."
In addition, high school girls needed to be exposed to the types of job and career opportunities in the male dominated industries, so they wouldn't make subject choices which precludes them from interesting work in these industries, according to Conway. ''Australia has a very segregated occupational structure. Mining and ICT are not repelling women -- far from it, many companies have active recruiting campaigns to find women. However, male dominated industries are offputting to women when women don't see senior female role models and examples, they fall back on traditional jobs. Some of the mining companies are showcasing their women, in films, and storytelling is a powerful tool.''
''To some extent you reap what you sow. Industries such as mining and ICT have seen the necessary talent pools of women are not there, and we see best practice among them where they are going to the high schools, which is where that pipeline starts,'' Conway said.
According to Dell SME and consumer executive director, Deborah Harrigan, women should not hesitate to ask for opportunities.
"It is okay to ask," she said, adding that a combination of networking and identifying a sponsor or a mentor who would support you in your career progression can go a long way.
The importance of networking came up several times during the discussion.
"Good work will get you noticed but other things will get you noticed you sooner," said Kearns.
To be sure, certain companies are already are addressing some of these issues in part by becoming active in offering women flexible and remote work arrangements, she noted.
A snapshot of 12 companies in the ICT sector which report to EOWA reveals that Oracle, Atlassian, Honeywell, IBM and Google have initiatives in place in high schools. About a third of the 12 companies had high school programs, and programs targeting university level ICT students. They had set targets, used social media to target women for recruitment, and had industry networks for women to talk to female peers. About a quarter of the companies asked their recruitment agencies to ensure they included female candidates, and had CEO involvement in gender diversity.
Conway said the EOWA data shows job flexibility through remote work is the most common gender diversity initiative across the ICT companies, followed by mentoring females in non-management and lower management levels. "We want to be an attractive company for 100 per cent of the population, not just 50 per cent.." Bennet added.
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