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International Women’s Day: Diversity, inclusion and supporting women in the tech workplace

Art Processors staff at the Business Chicks International Women's Day breakfast

Rae Morey could be forgiven for worrying a little about telling her new employer she was pregnant. An experienced journalist and communications professional who has also worked in tech companies, she had heard the stories and seen for herself how some employers treat pregnant employees and mums returning to work. 

Morey joined Art Processors in January 2020 in the role of Communications Manager after working with the company as a contractor. She was around 29 weeks pregnant with her first child, Jackson.

Sadly, women still need to be wary of such things. Not all organisations live up to their progressive rhetoric. The 'motherhood penalty' in all its forms is very real for many working mums.

Morey, though, was impressed by how Art Processors supported her maiden parenting voyage.  

"There was no issue made of my pregnancy. Everyone knew I was going on maternity leave, and I felt very supported and welcomed. The idea was I would work until I was 36 weeks pregnant, but then my son was born four weeks early, so I left a week early, after being with Art Processors about six weeks."

Beyond the kind words and good wishes, the company's substantial gender equity, diversity and inclusion policies greatly reassured her. She felt valued by the company as an employee and a person. "No one was rushing me back to work," she says. 

On her return, she utilised the company's flexible work arrangements policy, which emphasises a 'life first principle' that provides for flexible start and finish times, home and remote working, job sharing, and flexible parental leave.

The company's parental support policy also helped Morey navigate working from home during a pandemic with a baby. 

The policy, which is fully inclusive of LGBTIQ employees and their families, recognises the difficulty working parents can have in harmoniously managing their professional and personal responsibilities. 

It includes provisions such as breast milk shipping, subsidies for school holiday programs and after school care, and access to emergency childcare leave and back-up carer's leave. Alongside this, Art Processors also has a raft of parental leave supports designed to help employees through all life-stages of parenthood.

While Morey's experience has been overwhelmingly positive, women's status in tech is still far from ideal. In Australia, women remain massively underrepresented in the STEM professions. Women also leave STEM jobs in droves. Facts that all point towards continuing systemic and workplace culture issues.

According to Australian Government statistics, women comprised only 17 per cent of the STEM qualified population in 2016. In engineering, women represented only 12.4 per cent of the workforce. Women made up just over a quarter (28 per cent) of the ICT workforce. The STEM gender disparity also extends to areas such as pay equity and career progression opportunities. 

Art Processors Chief People Officer, Vanessa Doake, says improving gender equity is an essential goal and an integral part of its broader push for diversity and inclusion. 

"We take a holistic view of diversity and inclusion within the company," she says. 

"Part of our strategy is having a broad definition of what that looks like to create an inclusive environment regardless of how you identify from a gender, cultural, socio-economic and educational perspective. It doesn't matter what your background is or how you identify; you still feel embraced and valued by the company."

Art Processors' executive and management team comprises around 50 per cent women. Women are increasingly fulfilling technical roles, too. Doake says with just under 70 employees, pursuing gender equity and managing commercial realities can be a balancing act.

"It can be a challenge for smaller businesses to access some of the services that can help establish and implement diversity and inclusion strategies. Bigger corporates like banks have the resources to access some incredible tools, but the cost is often out of reach for smaller businesses. Given our size, we've made amazing progress."

Doake says Art Processors has partnered with organisations like Circle In and Vic ICT for Women to help support better outcomes for women in the workplace. 

"We know that by ourselves, we can only do so much. That's why we partner with organisations that align with our goals, principles and values."

Art Processors recently undertook accreditation with Project F through its Program 50/50, which aims to create a tailored roadmap for companies to invest in and cultivate their female talent.

"We don't work to quotas or targets, but through the organisations we're partnering with, like Project F, we're trying to help tackle the problems from a systemic level."

She says International Women's Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate women's achievements and reflect on how things can be improved.

"We have an amazing group of women at Art Processors, working across all areas. As a company, we're doing all we can to create a welcoming, diverse and inclusive workplace for everyone."