You can be what you can see

This year, International Women’s Day comes after worldwide calls for gender equality driven through the #metoo and #timesup movements. While it’s encouraging that conversations are becoming more transparent, I’m mindful that a lot of work remains to translate this momentum into real change. And indeed, the International Women’s Day 2018 theme of #PressforProgress is an avenue to continue to motivate and advocate for more inclusive action.

I’m a big believer in the importance of having female role models to support and coach other women, and demonstrate what is possible to achieve. It’s well known that you can’t be what you can’t see.  So to mark International Women’s Day, I wanted to celebrate the women who are role models, who are kicking goals and trailblazing, and are dedicated to helping progress careers in different fields.

We asked the amazing women at DiUS to shine a light on the women that have inspired them during their careers and who have already been pressing for progress.

Paula Burton – Principal

It’s not often that you meet someone and just click as if you have known each other your whole lives. Yvonne Lee and I fortuitously connected through my volunteer work with Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK). We realised that by joining forces, we could make a dint in some real-world problems – like tackling gender diversity in tech and encouraging others to invest time into doing worthwhile and impactful work (Yvonne is a co-founder of the inspiring B Corp, WildWon – check them out). I will never forget the pep talk she gave me (whilst heavily pregnant) before I took to the main stage at Link Festival. She said, “Paula, the audience wants to hear about Paula. No fluffy shit like most talks can be. Tell them why you do what you do.” So I did.

Although Yvonne is sadly no longer with us, her energy and drive (and all round amazingness) is one of the things that inspires me to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone, and more importantly, send the lift down for other females in tech.

Bethany Skurrie – Senior Developer

I had an awesome experience working with Kelsey Van Haaster a few years ago when we were both consulting at REA. She was working as a BA on my team doing some “root cause” style analysis on a very complicated problem, and man was she thorough! I’d love the opportunity to work with her again.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sharon Holiday in a few different places over the years. Back when I was a graduate in my first job, it was great seeing a woman doing what I wanted to do in my IT career – staying technical. It’s been many years since I was a grad, but Sharon is even more of a technical expert now than she was then, and I hope to follow a similar path.

Jaime Sanft – Senior UX Consultant

Katja Forbes was my boss for many years. She is a fantastic leader and expert in her craft. She taught me many things over the years, and she is still an inspiration to me even though we aren’t working directly together.

My friend Nicola Telfer is amazing. She fearlessly pursues anything she desires and nails it every time. Currently, she is working in mining (an extremely male-dominated industry) on machine maintenance. How inspiring!

Julia Peters – Senior Office Manager

My mum inspires me. She is a jack of all trades and nothing is ever too hard. I can always rely on her. In a work sense, her influence has inspired me to believe in myself and have a go at things and to look out for those around me.

Leah Garrett – Software Engineer

Michelle Gleeson (Technical Practice Lead, SEEK) is not only carving out a successful tech career for herself but is determined to bring as many women with her as possible, creating genuine work opportunities where she can. I was really inspired by the talk she gave as guest speaker at one of our brown bag sessions and always love catching up with her at tech conferences or out and about.

Sadia Mir – Principal UX Consultant

Kirsten Mann (SVP of Product & Experience at Aconex) is the most inspirational woman I know. Being in technology for many years, she has navigated through complex hierarchies within predominantly male-dominated environments to smash through that glass ceiling and pave the way for many of us. What’s so impressive is how she does it respectfully and with such passion and dynamism – in a way that’s uniquely female. She makes time for everyone and everything and is an active member of the technology and UX communities despite the pressures of her job and balancing motherhood.

Liz Salvage – Iteration Manager

It may sounds obvious but my mum. She was always working to make sure 4 kids were clean, fed and warm. She would clean other people’s houses when we were babies and after a few years worked her way into a position where she was running the retail operations for a company with over 20 outlets. I distinctly remember the way she listened to people and let patience and compassion be the guiding force to managing a large number of staff. This would not have been a common approach in the early 90’s, in a male dominated industry but it was obvious to me that she was admired and respected because of it.

I currently work in a team that is led and supported by two, amazingly talented, young yet wise females who have an amazing capacity to deliver. Alina Hunter is our Product Lead at Qantas Business Rewards and every day I am impressed and engaged with the level of capability she brings to her team. Safa Fatayerji is a lead business analyst with experience & skill that is demonstrated in everything she executes. To say she ‘knows her stuff’ is an understatement. Working with these two females and seeing them in action, especially the way they interact and support each other, inspires me and makes me so excited for females today. Also into the future where my 7 year old daughter will benefit from the amazing trails these women are blazing!

Kirsty Miller – Head of Partnerships and Communities

Paula Burton (Principal, DiUS) who I have worked with for nearly six years, has been a constant source of inspiration to me. While I appreciate working with her on a day-to-day basis – she is the one person I always want on my team – she’s supported me to (a) have a go at those stretch opportunities that scare me and (b) blazed a trail in her work to encourage more diversity in tech. She supports me by always being there to talk things through with me, to encourage me to take my idea further and provide concrete tips on what has worked for her.

Nicole Tzavaras (Head of HR, DiUS) has taught me about speaking up and how to give and receive feedback in a constructive way to move a situation forward. No other person I have worked with has encouraged me, through practical advice and coaching on how to handle a scenario, to practice so I am ready to handle situations when they occur and to rise above my natural tendency – perhaps gender-related, perhaps not –  to let things go for fear of not being liked.

Penny Ivison – Marketing

When I was being interviewed by Ally Watson and Mai Nguyen at Code Like a Girl, we were talking about coding workshops and I mentioned I had a daughter. I held my breath expecting the reaction I had been used to getting at work: either “How do you juggle it all?”, surprise or some comment about my age. But there was nothing but polite acknowledgement. At that moment I knew that I was being judged on my work – and my work only – and it was such a relief. Once I started working with them, it occurred to me that it was one of the few work environments where I had felt genuinely supported by the women above me.

When I was interviewing for DiUS, Brooke (Talent Acquisition Manager) told me that Paula (Principal) and Kirsty (Head of Partnerships) were two senior women at the organisation who would be really supportive and great to learn from. It was one of the main reasons I took the job. Since starting I have found the workplace to be full of supportive women and men, so it gets a big tick from me.

As I was reading through these stories shared by my colleagues, I found myself wondering whether any of these women highlighted had any idea how they were admired, whether they had been told: you’ve inspired me or you’ve made a impact on me and my career.

It made me question whether I had told any of the women who have inspired or coached me that they had helped me, and had contributed to the person I am today.

It reminded me how important it is to acknowledge and lift others up, to support each other, as well as continue to give back to other women.

And it inspired me to continue to #PressforProgress.

Want to know more about how DiUS can help you?



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DiUS wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work and gather at both our Melbourne and Sydney offices. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters of Australia.

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