Please indicate if your Initiative is an Established Initiative.
Vic ICT for Women
Team - who worked on the project/initaitve
Sara Ogston - Director (on maternity leave in January - August 2018)
Irene Evgeniadis - Acting Director 2018
Koula Tsiaplias - Deputy Director
Kate Illsley - Team member
Chairperson, Vic ICT for Women
Vic ICT for Women Associate Board Member | Grad Girl Deputy Director
Overview - Provide a summary to introduce the project or initiative
The Victorian Information Communication Technology for Women Network is an inclusive networking forum furthering the entry, retention and progression of women in the IT industry.
Grad Girls is a 1-year program targeting female University students studying STEM related degrees, to discover and understand the pathways available when taking the next step in their career.
The program is unique in its approach and focuses on bridging the gap in transitioning a student from an academic life to a professional life.
Participants walk away with: information and support to guide them in making informed career decisions, the opportunity to experience what tech means for different industries/companies, a start to their professional network, and mentoring in soft skills often not covered in tertiary education.
The program runs in a series of 7 platinum sponsor hosted events spread throughout the year, commencing in February with an end of year celebration in October. Each session includes office tours, talks/panel discussions, and advice on what companies look for in graduate/technical candidates.
The driver behind the creation of this program is the decline of female representation in male-dominated fields and, in particular, Information Technology (Australian Government WorkPlace Gender Equality Agency 2018 report on higher education enrolments and graduate labour market statistics), and the entry level gender pay gap with men’s starting salaries higher than women’s in 17 out of 19 fields of education. We hope this program will provide female graduates with the skills and confidence to enter the workforce and to strive for leadership positions.
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?
Vic ICT for Women supports women shaping the diverse future of the technology sector. Our aim is to increase the number of women entering, staying and progressing in the tech industry. We run a number of diversity and inclusion programs that are geared towards the support of women across the employment lifecycle. These programs are inclusive of participants within and across industry sectors and aim to increase gender diversity in a traditionally male-dominated sector. The programs include:
ATTRACT - Go Girl, Go for IT (school aged years 5 - 12)
JOIN - Go Grad, Grad Girl (university students)
RETAIN - Go for IT, What’s Hot in IT and Importance of Women in IT (female professionals within the industry)
PROGRESS - Go Grow, Mentor Programme (female professionals within the industry
LEAD - Go Lead, #BOLD moves (female professionals within the industry)
The Vic ICT for Women business model also has an educational membership tier which means any student or staff of a member university can attend and participate in Vic ICT for Women events and programs at the discounted membership rate. This encourages students and staff to take advantage of the educational membership. It also aims to increase the involvement of students, both undergraduate and graduate, as volunteers to assist in the running of events and programs.
Detail the approach that was taken to implement the project or initiative, what actions were taken and why?
Over a year ago, Sara Ogston (Grad Girl director) was awarded a stipend to attend the Grad Cohort workshop (The Grad Cohort workshop is run by CRA-Women and is spread over 2 days for female PhD students to interact with senior female computing-related researchers and professionals who share pertinent information on graduate school survival skills, as well as personal information and insights about their experiences) in Washington DC in April 2017 by the Computer Research Association. She leveraged that opportunity to meet speakers and hear their views on what they felt was missing from a university student’s perspective when they entered the workforce. Sara also met the organisers who helped her identify the logistical requirements for running the program in the hope of bringing back lessons learned and new approaches to Australia and have these incorporated into the Grad Girl program.
The program director and deputy director ran a workshop with students and academic staff from the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Deakin University and Swinburne University to understand the setup of IT related courses at Victorian universities. The workshop considered the concerns and wishes of academic staff and students, and sought to test out the objectives and suggested format of the program. The workshop also provided us with a good understanding of how universities structure their degrees and where the need was most prominent. Based on the input, our best option was to focus our support on undergraduate students and look to include Masters and PhD students in future programs.
Following the workshop, the program leadership team developed a branding and marketing strategy and a value proposition for our participants and sponsors. With the collateral and strategic approach in place, we started advertising by reaching out to our contacts at Vic ICT for Women and member universities, in addition to using social media channels to ‘spread the word’. It was crucial to us to keep the program free so that there would be no financial barriers to participating.
Demonstrate the leadership shown in driving the initiative and fostering behavioural and organisational change.
The Grad Girl program team has used a variety of means to reach out and spread the word about the program to both students and sponsors. A significant amount of time has been devoted to meeting with prospective sponsors and sharing our passion and dedication for making a difference and increasing diversity in the workplace.
The program has been very deliberate in its targeting approach. We have sought to collaborate with companies that share the same beliefs as the Grad Girl team and that are genuinely interesting in adopting and fostering behavioural and organisational change not only within their company, but also in the tech industry as a whole.
From a Vic ICT for Women perspective, the program has enabled us to reconnect with Victorian universities and their women in tech student clubs. It has also allowed us to work closely with Victorian universities to support the next generation of female tech leaders.
We note that the team’s commitment and dedication resulted in the successful allocation of all 7 platinum sponsorships that were offered in 2018.
Was there organisational/industry or other resistance to the initiative? If so, detail the actions taken to overcome resistance to the project or initiative.
The organisations we have collaborated with, inclusive of Vic ICT for Women, have been ready to make a change in their industry and embrace the values of the Grad Girl program. We have therefore been fortunate in our collaboration with all of our 7 platinum sponsors - M&T Recruitment, REA Group, Telstra, The University of Melbourne, AGL, Origin Energy and BUPA.
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?
This is the first year that the program has been run in its current format. The program has been revamped and rebranded following its evolution as a one-off event. It is the intention of Vic ICT for Women to continue to run this program every year after the huge success of the revamping and rebranding effort.
The 2018 program had 43 participants from a range of universities including: Charles Stuart, Deakin, La Trobe, RMIT, Monash, the University of Melbourne, Southern Cross, Victoria University and Swinburne. The program was, to some extent, experimental in attempting to deduce whether the proposed format would work for both participants and the sponsors. Initially, we wanted to focus on university students in undergraduate degrees so that we could understand if the format would work. However, we were also able to include a small number of Master’s degree students to see if their needs could be met by the program.
In 2019 we hope to include TAFE students in the program so that we can support and reach a larger audience. We also seek to offer our 2018 program participants with to opportunity be involved in future programs as volunteers on our program team thereby providing them with the opportunity to gain work experience in non-profit organisations prior to graduating.
Going forward, we aim to include PhD students in our 2020 program. PhD candidates can struggle with the transition from student to postdoc life, particularly when they are unable to immediately find a post graduate role in academia. Furthermore, obstacles are evident when recruiters are uncertain about how to pitch PhD candidates. This can result in matching students with roles that are not relevant or suitable.
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.
ORGANISATION: Grad Girls
ROLE: Participant in the Grad Girl program
DESCRIPTION: Going into my final year of study in data science and computing I was unsure of what I wanted to do after I graduated. I saw a poster for the grad girl program and decided to sign up. The program has exceeded my expectations, the team involved are so dedicated to the cause and helping us grad girls! Each event has been enlightening for me as a grad girl seeing the inside of businesses and what a career in that industry is like. The support of the team has been overwhelming, Koula and the other organisers go above and beyond for us. I've recommended the program to friends who are also studying as what we have experienced in the program is not offered in our studies. It has been a priceless experience for me and seeing that there are champions for women in tech, it makes me optimistic for my future career.
ORGANISATION: REA Group
ROLE: Grad Program Manager
DESCRIPTION: VIC ICT for Women’s Grad Girl program has started a valuable initiative in supporting young women through their critical first career steps. Grad Girls has begun to activate the relationships and networks that will foster trust and inspiration to the unbelievable minds that will very soon start to realise the importance of their contribution and leadership to champion the unlimited possibilities that a Tech career provides young women. It’s been a exciting journey so far and I can’t wait to see what Grad Girls achieve in the next few years.
- ORGANISATION: Grad Girls
- PHONE: N/A
- ROLE: Participant
- DESCRIPTION: For a year, I am given the privilege to go on company sites and hear from tech leaders in various fields of tech. Without Grad Girls, I would have been missing out on opportunities to network and develop my career whilst at university. So far, I have toured the Security department at Telstra and jumped off a building in a VR game at REA group. It has opened many doors for me where one of them allowed me to volunteer for What's Hot in IT, a sub group inside VIC ICT 4 Women like Grad Girls. I nominate Grad Girls for changing women's lives like mine.
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?
Our initial goal in 2018 was to have 30 participants from seven institutions, with seven platinum sponsors for the program. We exceeded this goal by registering 43 participants from nine institutions. We also exceed our sponsorship target (with interest from nine organisations) and therefore have already secured two sponsors for 2019.
Another metric which will be measured further down the track is how many of our participants apply for graduate recruitment positions with the sponsoring companies. We have been advised by sponsors that our participants are reaching out to them for advice on guidance with applications and preparation for interviews. This program is making those connections possible and changing the path for females, this is a major achievement.
What do you consider your significant achievement with this Initiative and why?
Our biggest achievement is that we have discovered that a program like this works, is needed and is being met with support by the tech industry in Melbourne.
The feedback we are receiving from our participants is positive and it is great to hear that our participants are spreading the word that a program like this exists. Below is some of that feedback:
“I found it really informative and interesting to attend. Thank you.”
“I enjoyed listening to each speaker talking about their experiences and their journey, to just see how far each of them have come. It is very motivating and inspiring in trying to achieve my own goals in life. The questions asked of them were both specific and broad enough for them to have a unique take on the questions.”
“(The speakers were) really cool, bold, intelligent women. Very upfront about their personal experiences.”
Several existing sponsors have already requested to be sponsors for the 2019 program which we take to be a sign that this program is able to reap benefits for both students and employers.
Below is some feedback from one our sponsors:
“…We are sponsoring the Grad Girl 2018 program with Vic ICT For Women in Melbourne this year This is only one of many initiatives needed to attract, recruit and retain female talent to careers in technology. We need to continue to do more to see a real change in gender diversity.”
This feedback is significant for the Grad Girl team as it indicates we are on the right path to achieving our ultimate goal in building a sustainable program that delivers value.
Who inspires you from a diversity perspective? Who provides leadership in diversity and why?
We were impressed by the Work180 team. Sara Ogston first heard about them at the 2017 Tech Diversity awards and has been following them on social media ever since. We think that it is great to see a recruitment company focus on highlighting employers that support diversity and benefits that make common sense for the 21st century. Paid parental leave for both parents, pay equity, opportunities for development, mentoring, and in-house coaching are important and should be provided by innovative employers.
We are hopeful that participants in our program can enter a workforce and industry that values taking care of their staff and understands that a diverse team is a strong and highly productive team.
We would like to collaborate with Work180 in the future so that we can show our participants that there are companies that they can turn to when looking for the right role that fits their lifestyle and family circumstances.