Please indicate if your Initiative is an Established Initiative.
Team - who worked on the project/initaitve
Our progressive team consists of Aron Kunaseelan, Director who heads FST Gov, myself - Simona Zukaite, Senior Conference Producer, Melissa Sutton, Event Manager, Rebecca Murphy, Head of Delegate Relations and Chris Daros, GM and Sales Director
Senior Conference Producer
FST Government Events Team
Event production within Government IT sector in Australia and New Zealand
Overview - Provide a summary to introduce the project or initiative
I joined FST Government in February 2018 and after re-evaluating our past and current event agendas I realised that the there were barely any representation of female leaders in IT as speakers and panelists. While carrying out market research for the FST Government Victoria event that was scheduled for July 2018 in Melbourne and which was my first production with the company, I decided to promote the cause of gender parity on our agendas starting with the Victorian event. I made several industry friends who helped recommend speakers as well as designed a panel discussion that to address this very issue. We ended up with 19 speakers and one chairperson, out of which 9 were female, a gender parity panel discussion as well as a speaker who appeared as the closing keynote via hologram from Taiwan who is also a transgender female.
How would you say diversity is embraced within your organisation or sector? Are there diversity initiatives in place or are diversity approaches new to your sector?
Within our industry, diversity in speaker line ups are driven by personal initiatives that producers may wish to take as well as male speakers refusing to sit on panels that are not equally represented. After discussing this with my team, I decided to work towards achieving not only equal representation on industry panels but also throughout the entire speaker line ups at all of our conferences going forward.
Detail the approach that was taken to implement the project or initiative, what actions were taken and why?
I spoke about this with my Director, Aron Kunaseelan who couldn't have been more supportive - we, as a company and an team, would like to not only be seen as progressive and taking matters in our hands to promote a good cause, but also actually focus on driving the gender parity within public sector IT through igniting timely and necessary conversations among the thought leaders and decision makers from the government organisations for whom we organise these conferences for.
Demonstrate the leadership shown in driving the initiative and fostering behavioural and organisational change.
I worked out a matrix for speaker acquisition that ensures gender parity, essentially making sure that we consciously think about the number of speakers we invite for each and every session at each of our conferences which then translates in confirming an equal number of speakers for each gender. As you can imagine, speaker line ups really depend on speakers' availability, willingness to commit to a speaking engagement, among many other variables, and thus this is no easy task. However, I also noticed that placing a note in our invitations about our mission for equal participation of both genders in our speaker line-ups helps bring in more senior, more equal and more gender issues aware speaker line-ups.
Was there organisational/industry or other resistance to the initiative? If so, detail the actions taken to overcome resistance to the project or initiative.
I did expect our business managers to view this as an initiative that does not have a business case, however, it couldn't have been more different - everyone in the team loved the idea and supported it from the get go.
Detail the follow up or response to the project or initiative by the organisation /industry /sector. For example has it been extended for a further year, or has the scope been expanded?
I started my work for this cause with the research within the Victorian government IT to identify the key leaders among the relevant departments. As I went along, we developed industry "friends" who helped us push this forward - Paul Cooper, who has ended up chairing our conference and who only agreed to do so if we achieve our pledge to achieve gender parity. Paul helped recommend speakers, a few of which have ended up speaking at our event. In addition, Carolyn Degois has helped with giving her perspective on the issue within the sector and the gender parity discussion according to the conversations we had on this topic.
Please provide 2 references being the beneficiaries or people that experienced the change (as a result of the initiative). Details to be provided should include:
4. Phone number
6. Short description (up to 250 words) of association with the nominated diversity initiative eg as a beneficiary, experiencing the outcome, etc.
Our entire panel that spoke on this very issues:
- Marion Burchell, Government CIO, Office of the GCIO - Western Australia:
- panelist on a discussion on driving gender parity in public sector IT
- Paul Cooper, Independent Strategic Advisory Services -
- chairperson for the entire conference and moderator of the above discussion
What outcomes have been achieved against overall program or organisational performance? Using metrics specify these outcomes, for example financial, growth, policy achievement, performance or capabciltiy uplift?
The outcomes of having successfully worked out a gender parity on our speaker line up are very real - to begin with, we are in compliance with the government pledge of improving gender representation on industry panel which allows us to confirm more senior and coveted speakers as a result. In turn, the equal representation on the speaker line up translates into our delegate lists resulting in a more qualified audience that is representative of the entire industry. I also see an overall financial improvement in the future as our sponsors who spend a lot on our events become more aware of the necessity to support events that include the entire workforce in government IT.
What do you consider your significant achievement with this Initiative and why?
I am very proud to see this idea pick up and crystalise not only into a panel discussion and equal representation on our speaker line up for the Victorian event, but also becoming a standard for ALL of events going forward.
The next one is in New Zealand where we will have the Rt Hon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern open the event followed by the national event in Canberra at the beginning of November - from the kick off of each project, gender parity drives our strategy for each event and diversity and inclusion is no longer a goal to be set and achieved but a standard that needs to be adhered to.
Who inspires you from a diversity perspective? Who provides leadership in diversity and why?
It is difficult to pin point one person who inspired me, rather it would be a great bunch of strong minded men and women who see this not only as a gimmick to drive good PR but as a real cause that if addressed correctly will benefit every aspect of business whether in public sector IT or elsewhere. I had and continue to draw leadership inspiration in gender diversity from my recent meetings with Carolyn Degois, Deputy Secretary, DHHS (Victoria) who had very interesting points to suggest, Tina Wakefield, Deputy Secretary and CIO of Ministry of Justice of New Zealand who has already achieved gender parity within the IT department of her Ministry and Marion Burchell, GCIO of Western Australia who is the only GCIO in the entire Australia and have broken through the glass ceiling and leads by example.