Yesterday in Parliament House, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP addressed past and present DELL Women in IT Executive Mentoring (WITEM) participants as part of commemorations of the Dell WITEM 10-year milestone.
The aim of the program is to accelerate the development of leadership skills of women within the IT industry and profession and mentors CIOs, CTOs and CEOs from across federal government departments, and large Australian organisations such as Westpac, Ernst & Young and Woolworths, as well as technology leaders from many of Australia’s leading universities.
Bishop explained that the WITEM initiative had been founded as a response to a call-to-action from the then Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, who was concerned about the number of girls taking STEM subjects in a world where technology is changing the way we live, we work and society in general.
Julie Bishop, without the assistance of any notes, shared some opening thoughts preceding a panel discussion on the future of the workforce.
“I’ve been a champion of mentoring programs throughout my career. Back in another life when I was Managing Partner of a law firm, I had informal mentoring programs in place,” Bishop said.
“It was important for women to know that there was someone looking out for their concerns. We looked at what practical action we could take, how we could support each other to have equal opportunities in the work place.
“When I became Education Minister, I was struck by the success of mentoring programs by universities. Researched showed that those in formal mentoring programs were far more likely to be promoted, to receive grants for research and had a much higher job satisfaction than those that had not.
“I didn’t need convincing. Whether the program is formal or informal, the fact is that mentoring works. I’ve always sought out mentors, people who are prepared to give you the benefit of their wisdom, expertise and advice and actually care about what happens to you in your career.
“If you’re ever doubtful about supporting and mentoring women, always remember Madeleine Albright’s quote: ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’.
“As the 38th Foreign Minister, I am the first female appointed. I’ve sought to embed gender equality, gender empowerment and support for women within foreign policy and foreign trade. I believe on promoting on merit. But I’m relieved that our government has made it a target to have a 50/50 female/male split on government appointed boards.
“When you have a target, you think about it.”
Julie Bishop recognised that unconscious bias is embedded in many workplaces, including government.
“The Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is housed in a very large building and all of the meeting rooms are named after Australian diplomats. Every room is named after a male. There are eight smaller rooms. Those were named after flowers,” she continued.
Bishop has since changed the name of these rooms as the “first” women to do certain things, adding “While it is a small matter, it has sent a strong message throughout the department.”
Angela Fox, managing director and senior vice president at Dell Australia and New Zealand, is the current patron for Dell WITEM after it was founded by the Former Dell Australian MD Joe Kremer.
Fox led last night’s event, declaring, “I am passionate about creating an open and inclusive environment that values diversity around the table where different perspectives add value to the business. There are many facts to support this notion of inclusive workplaces delivering stronger business results, and hence the importance of greater representation and the inclusion of women.
“Dell WITEM is a program designed to invest and develop our talented female leaders of tomorrow. It is an incredible program to be involved in and one we at Dell EMC are very proud of.”
Kate Burleigh, managing director, Intel Australia/NZ participated in the first Dell WITEM program which launched at the end of 2005.
“I was nominated by the then managing director of Intel A/NZ to participate in WITEM’s inaugural year,” she said.
“I’d like to say I felt special about being chosen but the reality was I was the first and only female on the leadership team at Intel Australia/NZ so instead I joked to my boss that he was lucky to have me as a token participant.
“As it turned out my cynicism was misplaced as the WITEM program came from a genuine place and I was matched up with a mentor who funnily enough was David Webster, the then CEO of EMC Australia who is now of course President Asia Pacific Japan for Dell EMC. David was very generous with his time commitment and provided me with a great sounding board which is exactly what every good mentor should do.