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Microsoft APC 2015: Women in IT Panel - Quotas, meritocracy and the diversity dividend

Allan Swann (ARN) | Sept. 2, 2015
Panel of female leaders spells out what is required to overcome unconscious bias of sexism.

Another big problem for women working their way up the career ladder is self doubt, and 'imposter syndrome'. Page said she was uncomfortable initially in her role as Breeze CEO (now ASX listed MOQDigital), and didn't feel like she'd earned it.

"We women need to learn to back ourselves," she said.

Marlow agreed. "I had impostor syndrome for a while, i had this fear that someone would find out I couldn't do the job," she said.

"I felt like I had to earn it, but I definitely feel more comfortable about it now.

"Women generally tend to be more humble than men."

She also agreed with Page and Bova's sentiment about the media's cultural impact there, and how many times interviews had started with "as a woman..."

Trestrail said his institute has been working with coaching women in such issues, and to break down their roles and stand up for themselves as individual when making pitches.

"They struggle to talk about themselves, like men. They always talk about the team, or the company as a whole," he said. "Unfortunately, investors back the jockey, not the horse."

Bova said women don't lack the confidence. It was more about building confidence over time. "Look, men are raised by women. They raise confident men. We need to help raise confident women."

Bova believes that competitive sport, such as athletics were incredibly important when she was growing up, instilling confidence and competitiveness.

The panel agreed that the fact that most of Gen-Y have grown up on technology, especially women, means that it is a huge opportunity going missing - the application of skillsets and unique views is vital. Instead of looking at uniqueness as a negative differentiator, it should be seen as a positive.

"Whatever defines you as unique, maximise it. I got to this position because I was passionate," said Bova.

Marlow said this is not specifically a gender issue, but a merit based one.

"We need to build those environments where anyone can bring their experience to the table," she said.

Self confidence is key, according to Page.

"You've got to ask yourself: 'What are you waiting for?' We need to do a better job of putting ourselves out there," she said.

A guest asked a question that summed it up rather succinctly - men are part of the problem. When women stand up and try to act in a similar manner they get shot down.

"I once was told I had too much confidence," she said.

Unconscious bias is a key problem. A recent Harvard Business Review study tested audience reaction to a report - identical, but swapping the name Howard to Heidi.


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