For Edwina McCann and Vogue, it’s not just about shifting women’s attitudes towards jobs in the tech sector more quickly.
As someone who runs a business facing increasing digital disruption, it’s practical. But as the mother of young twin girls, it’s also personal.
“I wanted to have that conversation around making sure they were continuing with STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at school and were computer literate and able to do basic coding,” the editor in chief of Vogue Australia tells Westpac Wire ahead of next month’s Westpac-sponsored Vogue Codes event.
“I don’t want them in a workplace like I was where you are developing female focussed products and we couldn’t find a female developer to work on it.
“I want young women to know that technology is an important part of our work.”
While the tech revolution is firmly here and may be the most modern of professions, it’s stuck in the past when it comes to gender equality.
A range of studies both in Australia and globally in recent years have found similar results: men generally outnumber women in tech jobs by at least two to one; and the number of women in executive roles is well under 20 per cent.
Of greater concern is that those stats are not showing signs of improving. The good news is efforts are being made to shift the balance, including initiatives like Vogue Codes.
In its third year, the event will assemble an impressive line-up of speakers designed to inspire and empower future female innovation and encourage young women to consider tech jobs.
“I think it’s estimated 300,000 jobs are going to be created around the tech industry in the next few years. If women truly want equality, you can’t be locked out of so many jobs,” Ms McCann says.
Workplace attitudes are changing, but not fast enough, she adds.
“There was a young Australian of the year who is an expert in robotics, and she told me she felt she had to dress differently when she went to hang out with the programmers – so she would deliberately wear very feminine clothes when she went to speak with young girls at schools to encourage them to be interested in robotics, but then when she went back into the workplace, she had to put on a sloppy joe and eat pizza,” she says.
“I thought, gosh, that sounds like women feeling they had to wear the power pants-suit to go into the board room in the 80s. What is wrong with this industry where women can’t dress – or don’t feel they can dress like women? That is a very Vogue perspective on the issue, but I think it is very telling that it is a very male dominated world.”
As for digital disruption and those who predict the demise of magazines, McCann is both defiant and optimistic.
“I am not saying that all magazines will be here, they won’t – but Vogue definitely will be. Technology for us has actually offered us an opportunity. Our business is double the size it was five years ago and really that has been born out of the fact we have embraced technology.”
Vogue Codes attracted 200 people in its first year, then 2000 in its second. This year 3000 are expected to take part.
“Vogue has always led the way. We make things fashionable and this is a good cause to make fashionable. I have been really pleased with the way it has been embraced – by Westpac first – and now we have so much interest from the broader community.”
Westpac is a principal sponsor of Vogue Codes.