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Making tech cool to women the challenge, not promotions through the ranks

02:11pm July 28 2017

Role modelling was the key theme of the first Vogue Codes panel with (L-R) moderator Janice Petersen (SBS presenter); Anastasia Cammaroto (Westpac consumer bank CIO); Dr Kirsten Ferguson (ABC director); Julie Trell (Head of Telstra's Muru-D start-up accellerator); and Sally-Ann Williams (Google's Engineering Community & Outreach Manager).  (Emma Foster)

Westpac chief information officer Dave Curran says finding women seeking careers in technology is the biggest challenge facing banks trying to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles.

Speaking at a “Vogue Codes” event in Sydney today, Mr Curran said that while only a third of his leadership team in the technology division were women – below the overall group’s near 50 per cent – it wasn’t due to lack of promotions.

“At Westpac we’re really passionate about creating equal opportunities and equity for all in the workplace, be that gender, be that religion, background, age,” he said at the event, co-sponsored by Westpac.  

“We’re at a third (women in senior roles) the whole way through our team, which told us a couple of years ago, we don’t have a problem promoting the women we have. We have a problem finding the women we need.

“How do we make technology more cool for women, particularly young women, so we can grow the industry? If we’ve got 200,000 more jobs, why aren’t 100,000 of them taken by young women?”

At a group level, Westpac is on track to meet its goal of having 50 per cent women in leadership roles this year. Mr Curran said the Vogue Codes Summit was one of several initiatives by the bank aimed at lifting the proportion of women in senior roles in technology.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors' most recent data shows that the percentage of women on S&P/ASX 200 boards is 25.4 per cent. A further 28.5 per cent of "key management personnel" are women, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

In its second year, the two-day 2017 Vogue Codes Summit – created as a partnership between Vogue Australia, Westpac and Telstra – brings together a series of panels and events that aim to encourage more women to pursue careers in tech-related industries.  

With almost 40 speakers and panellists – including the heiress and director of India’s largest private sector company, Reliance Industry Limited, Isha Ambani; Google’s Sally-Ann Williams; Muru-D’s Julie Trell; Lighthouse’s Annie Parker; and Westpac’s Anastasia Cammaroto – the common topic being discussed was around how to address the skills gap and fuel future innovation through a more gender balanced technology industry.

Recognising that the challenge of gender stereotyping in tech starts from a young age, the Summit includes a workshop for kids, covering robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality and coding; and a new session – Vogue Codes Live – aimed at young tech-minded women early in their careers.

Vogue Australia editor-in-chief, Edwina McCann said in her opening address that the Summit was “necessary and making a difference”, and thanked participants for joining her in her “crusade to see women empowered by technology, not disabled by it”.

She said this year’s event had substantially increased in scale to allow more people to participate, and the response to the event had “reassured us this is the right thing to do”.

“The statistics of female participation in the commercial and education tech-sectors are appalling and we want to leverage the attraction of the Vogue brand through Vogue Codes to engage our audiences with this topic and help make a career in technology more fashionable, thereby empowering more women through technology,” Ms McCann said.

Emma Foster is a freelance writer. Previously, she led Westpac Wire and was a key contributor until December 2022. Prior to joining Westpac in 2013, she spent almost 20 years in corporate affairs and investor relations, primarily in large financial services and consultancy firms, in Australia, UK and Europe. She is also a photographer and podcaster.

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