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January 25-27

Celebrating a decade of Women in Digital

March 18, 2024 by Women in Digital

Ten years. More than 13,000 members. An awards program that has seen 2,328 nominations, 238 finalists, 95 winners and more than 5,500 attendees across all our events. From humble beginnings in Brisbane a decade ago, Women in Digital (WID) has forged a name as a peak body for women working in Australia’s digital sector. 

Holly Hunt founded WID on March 18, 2014, after she realised the digital industry was missing something – a strong female presence. As a future-of-work specialist, she was particularly fascinated by the confidence gap between women and male candidate, plus the lack of inclusive digital events. Fast forward to today, WID collaborates with some of Australia’s leading technology businesses and industry heavyweights to deliver events, workshops and awards designed to promote diversity in the industry.

Terry Weber, Regional Manager – QLD, NT and PNG at Cisco and Platinum Corporate Member of Women in Digital said, “Partnering with Women in Digital has been an amazing collaboration for Cisco. It not only boosts our workforce, but also sparks innovation, diversity, and resilience in a fast-changing digital world. It has helped us change the conversation and support equality and inclusion for everyone.

So in honour of our 10th birthday, we asked 10 of our biggest supporters about Women in Digital and the state of the industry. Here are their answers!

How have you seen the digital and technology industries change for women over the last decade, or since you have been in the industry?

Rowena Samaraweera, Head of Customer Experience Design at Auto & General – I am really pleased to say that I can now see a lot more senior women hitting the CIO/ CTO role which was still quite rare even 10 years ago. Not far behind them are a more visible group of female senior leaders, as well as a wonderful cohort of female founders establishing their own businesses and social enterprises.”

Gavin Douglas, Head of APJ Alliances at Wiz – “I’ve seen increased awareness of the benefits of a more diverse workforce to employers (and their customers), an increase in employer programs to support women at work, eg. career breaks, paternity leave, work from home/flexible working hours etc. to support those with families/carer responsibilities (male + female) and more resources like Women in Digital for women wanting to forge a career in digital and tech.”

Lisa Sarago, Chief Executive Officer of Land on Heart – “Although I only recently joined the tech industry, I have already seen a massive change, with more visibility of women in tech, and championing their successes. There has been a lot more emphasis on women in tech from leading tech giants promoting their own, as well as through our social media, seeing the number of networks, events, and awards becoming established institutes – highlighting and celebrating the deadly female talent in tech.”

Nicola Lambie, Group Head of New Business Solutions at Findex – It’s been fantastic to see the rise of women across all aspects of digital and technology, from trailblazing senior leaders in traditional and start-up businesses to the shift in developer and engineering teams away from being dominated by males to more balanced or even female-led, and all supported by the wealth of networks and courses for women in digital and technology (shout out to the amazing She Codes, for which I’m an alumni of!) and the increasing accessibility within schools for girls to participate in STEM subjects and opportunities.”

Michael Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Megaport – “Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed a significant shift in the IT and tech industry towards inclusivity and opportunities for women. There’s been this incredible wave of initiatives and programs aimed at levelling the playing field and ensuring we tap into the full potential of women. From mentorship programs, diversity training, and equal hiring panel requirements to women represented in leadership, we’re making strides to address gender disparities. There has been a growing recognition and studies that have highlighted the invaluable contributions that women bring to the table, leading to increased efforts to foster full participation in all aspects of technology and innovation. I’ve had opportunities afforded to me by women in leadership; I’ve had the chance to learn from those leaders, including colleagues and team members, which would not have been possible if the room was only filled with men.”

Brooke Powell, Partnerships and Account Manager at Rivernet – “When I first started working in the technology industry, I was the only female in my team and had only met two other women in the company during my year in that organisation. As a 19-year-old looking ahead at a career in the tech industry, I found that uninspiring and unacceptable. My next role saw more female colleagues, but it was still a very disproportionate ratio of male to female. From the conversations I shared during my career there, I noticed a significant pay gap between men and women doing the same work. This was a real blow, as I had believed that a gender pay gap was a thing only companies that are ‘old school’, had a ‘legacy mindset’, had ‘boy club’ leadership, were ‘change-resistant’ (and all the synonyms that go with those terms) would continue to allow in this day and age – not a cutting edge, modern tech company!? Since completing my degree and starting my current role, I have to say there has been a huge change of tune. I started in 2022 as the second female employee, and now in 2024 we have 6 female employees – which occurred without aiming to meet any sort of gender ‘quota’. The pay is fair and even across the board and the team is the most cohesive and well-retained team I’ve ever been a part of.”

Zoe Ackerman, Safety & Wellbeing Data Analyst at Collins Foods Limited – “With increased awareness regarding gender diversity, there has been a significant increase in access to initiatives that are trying to close the gap. Initiatives such as Rails Girls and Women in Digital are helping to open paths for women in the technology space. Government and companies are clearly measuring gender diversity and what gets measured gets managed, as they say.”

Vinojini Nair, Major Pursuits & Planning Lead at GHD Digital – “Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed significant strides in gender diversity within the digital and technology industries. There has been a notable increase in initiatives aimed at encouraging and supporting women in tech, from mentorship programs to networking events and advocacy campaigns. Companies are placing a stronger emphasis on diversity and inclusion, recognising the value of diverse perspectives in driving innovation and success. That said, there is still significant work that needs to be done to deliver on these so they don’t stay as empty promises/cupcakes in meetings – this is decades of habits that need undoing!”

Rebecca Dredge, CEO & Founder of Kiddo – “The landscape has transformed significantly in just the past four years I have been in the industry. Companies have undergone a remarkable evolution towards greater support and inclusivity. We’re witnessing a surge in women leaders and entrepreneurs, serving as inspirational role models for future generations. While there’s been considerable progress, the journey towards full equality is ongoing, promising even more positive change on the horizon.”

Bel Lloyd, Founder of Zandi Group Consulting – “The rise of remote work, increased funding for STEM education for women and increased representation of women are standout shifts that have helped drive momentum for gender equity in the digital and technology industries over the past decade. Remote work has helped level the playing field. Providing women with greater flexibility and access to job opportunities in the digital and tech industries as we can now balance work and caregiving responsibilities more easily.

STEM education and initiatives for adult women are better funded now than ever before. I’ve personally experienced the momentum to promote women into STEM education and industry roles. Through COVID I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to re-invent myself and joined She Codes a coding education community with the sole mission to get more women into the tech industry. I’ve been actively involved as a mentor and now as a Lead Mentor due to the strong sense of community and progress being made by programs such as this.

How has Women in Digital been part of your diversity journey over the last decade, or since you have been in the industry?

Rowena Samaraweera, Head of Customer Experience Design at Auto & General – I joined WID to see if I could help raise awareness of the amazing digital and technology career paths out there as I wanted to see more women applying for my roles, learning new skills and representing the 50% of the community and user base we are designing for. I have enjoyed being part of the awards program and being able to hear the stories of women’s success and celebrate the achievements of the companies who really are embracing diversity and reaping the rewards. I also have found so much personal inspiration from networking events and meeting people in the digital community.”

Gavin Douglas, Head of APJ Alliances at Wiz – “Women in Digital has been hugely educational for me. I had a very simplistic view of diversity; what it meant and why it was important when I first got involved in WID, though I still have so much to learn and as the question implies, diversity is a journey. I still get a lot wrong but bring a curious mindset to learn from others on actionable ways to empower women. The experiences I have had, the information I have gathered/read and most of all the people I have met – have helped me to better understand a few things: Diversity is multi-faceted and so much more nuanced than simply having more of one minority (or another) in the workplace. eg. diversity of thinking is critical; Diversity won’t just happen – even if everyone in an organisation has the right intentions, explicit steps need to be taken & programs created to ensure diversity is front of mind and becomes a part of the every day.”

Lisa Sarago, Chief Executive Officer of Land on Heart – “I came across WID as was nominated for an award with WID by my team in 2022 and subsequently won the award. During this time, I was able to expand my network to include some amazing female tech experts and innovators – my fellow nominees – and also in the broader tech industry. I continue to support and work with WID as I see it as a critical platform for women, including Indigenous women, to be recognised for their skills and achievements. Particularly this year, when we called for #CountHerIn, WID saw the value of including a category for Indigenous women, but also called for Indigenous women to be nominated for any award.”

Nicola Lambie, Group Head of New Business Solutions at Findex – “Women In Digital has been the ONE constant network in my career journey over the past ten years. The leadership demonstrated by Holly and the team puts women firmly on the agenda in the digital and technology industries and I have enjoyed so many events, webinars and meet-ups that have allowed me to meet, interact and learn from a diverse group of women (and men!) through this time.”

Michael Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Megaport – “Women in Digital has been an integral part of my leadership and diversity journey over the past seven years. In 2017, I stepped into a role leading 60 folks in QLD. At that time, 6% were female. With the support of Holly, we made a tremendous turnaround to 30% female diversity over three years. This partnership led to my contributions back to the WID Advisory Board. WID has provided me with invaluable resources, support, and networking opportunities. It has also offered a safe space for males to ask difficult questions and understand best practices when approaching sensitive topics or decisions. Without male champions of change, it’s almost impossible to re-write the status quo since they continue to hold most positions of power. I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative impact Women in Digital has had on empowering women, breaking down barriers, and offering a community that celebrates & recognises their achievements. The Women in Digital awards ceremony was an idea Holly and I devised on the back of a napkin. To think that today, more than 1,000 people attend each year is astounding!”

Brooke Powell, Partnerships and Account Manager at Rivernet – “I was first introduced to Holly at WID in 2019 while I was studying a Bachelor’s in IT and Business Management at UQ. Being involved in the events through volunteering and invitations, I was able to see that not only did women exist in the industry, but also that they held influence and impact in the industry. The statement ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ that is often WID’s north star, is extremely accurate – when you can’t picture yourself in a role, how can you possibly begin to aim for it? WID’s community has been a real highlight throughout my journey over my career, having that connection to other women in the industry has provided a support network, enabled mentorship, and exposed me to a wealth of knowledge through the sharing of experiences and advice.”

Zoe Ackerman, Safety & Wellbeing Data Analyst at Collins Foods Limited – “I have only been a member of Women in Digital for about a year. However, the advocacy, networking, community and informal mentorship, and leadership have all influenced me and are no small part in helping build my confidence and support me in my current role. Many thanks to the community.”

Vinojini Nair, Major Pursuits & Planning Lead at GHD Digital – “Women in Digital has been a crucial component of my personal journey, providing a platform for women to connect, learn, and advance in their careers within the digital realm. This community has played a vital role in fostering support networks, sharing experiences, and advocating for gender equality in the industry. There is an unspoken appreciation when women who are facing similar challenges, support each other and cheer each other along… especially when not many others are voicing us!”

Rebecca Dredge, CEO & Founder of Kiddo – “Women in Digital has been instrumental in fostering invaluable connections, providing me with exposure in the industry, and offering unparalleled networking opportunities for my business. The WID community stands out for its unwavering support, extensive reach, and remarkable diversity. As an entrepreneur, the connections I’ve forged through WID have propelled my business forward, enabling me to establish strong ties within not only the industry but with corporates, other entrepreneurs and business leaders alike.”

Bel Lloyd, Founder of Zandi Group Consulting – “Women in Digital has played a huge part in helping me see what I can be. Bringing together influential and inspirational women in the digital arena to network with and be empowered by. Winning the award for Digital Marketer of the Year with WID was an incredible feeling. It was empowering and gave me confidence I didn’t know existed. WID is fostering a community of empowerment and encouragement for women to be seen, heard and recognised – a powerful combination for contributing to the increase in representation of women across the digital and technology industries. Efforts from WID have contributed to not only raising awareness but also in creating opportunities for women in these fields to advance and gain seats at tables where once there were none.”

Where do you hope the industry is in 10 year’s time, in regards to gender equity?

Rowena Samaraweera, Head of Customer Experience Design at Auto & General – There is still a lot of work to be done, both to move forward and to hold onto the progress we have already made. I’d like to see more progress in young women studying in STEM, or mid-career women cross-training so that women are participating equally in what will be a heavily digitised economy. Research shows that gender stereotyping starts early, so we also need to bring schools, even at the primary level, into the conversation, as well as parents. We need to make sure women are part of the move to AI, to ensure safe and non-biased application of AI technology. In 10 year’s time I hope we have removed the ‘surprise’ around gender in the digital and STEM industry, dismantled as many of the unconscious biases as possible, and are being led by talented men and women who are confident to embrace all differences in their teams.”

Gavin Douglas, Head of APJ Alliances at Wiz – As I see it, gender equity is a human right, my hope is that there are some aspects that are addressed well before 10 years, for example, compensation (address the gender pay gap) and access to digital tools and education. Others may take longer to become equitable but we must see: more women studying digital/tech courses and choosing careers in the digital/tech industry; women representing 50% of leadership roles – to provide role models; making digital environments safer for women and girls.”

Lisa Sarago, Chief Executive Officer of Land on Heart – “Hopefully beyond parity for both gender and Indigenous representation.  In 10 years, my vision is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls across Australia, regardless of whether they live in remote, rural or urban areas – know that they can be the next tech giant if they want to – that if they dream of being a tech professional, they know that there is a path for them to follow, and it isn’t a difficult one, because we have already created and walked that path before them.  Just like our ancestors did for us.”

Nicola Lambie, Group Head of New Business Solutions at Findex – My daughter turns 10 this month and we speak a lot about equal opportunities for all. My hope is that by the time she turns 20, we don’t even have to mention the issue or need for gender equity and that digital and technology can be one of the leading industries where this is the case.”

Michael Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Megaport – “In the next decade, I hope that ALL industries, not just IT/Tech, empower and support women to reach their full potential. For the IT and Tech industry specifically, I see us serving as a beacon for women to join this industry, feel appreciated, and make an immeasurable impact. I hope to see a time where women are not only equally represented across all levels of the workforce but also thriving in leadership positions, shaping the direction of innovation and driving positive change. 50% of Megaport executives and Board are women today. I envision a culture where gender biases and stereotypes are dismantled, and women aren’t just “breaking glass ceilings” but designing the whole ceiling itself. I have no doubt we will get there. With initiatives like Women in Digital leading the charge and companies doubling down on diversity and inclusion, we can all look forward to a future where Women In Digital is no longer needed, a time without gender bias… We’ve still got a ways to go yet.”

Brooke Powell, Partnerships and Account Manager at Rivernet I hope in 10 years time, the gender pay gap (which is still present between men and women today) in the industry has been closed. I hope that technology companies have modernised and adapted their workforce with the same sense of innovation and thought as their own products and services. We know a diverse, equitable workforce produces long-term staff retention and improves innovation – so it only makes sense to invest as much thought and effort into your workforce as you do your solution offering – one can only be as good as the other. I hope that in 10 years time in the tech industry, there is a strong representation of women in leadership. I’m hoping for an even split between men and women across C-suite, board, and management roles. I really hope to see strong representation of non-binary leadership in these positions as well.”

Zoe Ackerman, Safety & Wellbeing Data Analyst at Collins Foods Limited – “I hope the sector is well on its way to achieving gender parity at all levels. Not just overall numbers but equitable representation in all departments and sectors, including technical roles where women are currently underrepresented. I also hope that the workforce, in its entirety, is working towards gender equity. That the complex and nuanced forms of discrimination that can affect women of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities and health and biological cycles.”

Vinojini Nair, Major Pursuits & Planning Lead at GHD Digital – “Looking ahead, in the next decade, I hope to see even greater progress towards gender equity in the tech industry. This includes not only increased representation of women in leadership positions and technical roles but also a culture shift that prioritises inclusion, equity, and respect for all individuals regardless of gender. I envision a future where women feel empowered to pursue and thrive in any aspect of technology they choose, where diversity is celebrated as a driving force behind innovation, where leading with vulnerability and other attributes that make us feminine are seen as strength and essential in ensuring optimal outcomes and where gender equity is not just an aspiration but a reality. And if I’d really allow myself to dream without any boundaries, I’d love to see a time when every voice gets listened to in the board room, not just those of women.”

Rebecca Dredge, CEO & Founder of Kiddo – “In a decade, I envision a world where the concept of ‘gender equality’ becomes obsolete, where our daughters and sons inhabit a realm where they’re acknowledged solely for their abilities and actions. A world where mothers receive support in the workplace, where such support is the norm, and where every individual can thrive and reach their utmost potential within a nurturing environment.”

Bel Lloyd, Founder of Zandi Group Consulting – “Let’s pick up the pace, keep the momentum and in 10 years imagine a world where diversity isn’t just a buzzword as part of a conversation, but the norm in which society operates, where companies in all industries will prioritise inclusion, creating safe environments where everyone, regardless of gender, thrives. Remote work needs to stay. The future of remote work isn’t just about flexibility—it’s about levelling the playing field for gender equity in the workplace.

Overall, while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done. My hope is that the next 10 years bring us the opportunity to focus on progress over perfection, to make mistakes as we go, but to keep moving in the right direction, fail fast, learn together, lift each other up and continue to address systemic barriers, biases, and stereotypes to achieve equity. So that my daughter is free from many of the burdens inequity brings and has the opportunity to focus instead on driving humanity forward into what will be an incredibly enlightened future we may have only ever dreamed of, shaped by the powerful forces of technology emerging today.”

Women in Digital