The need for change when it comes to gender equality in the technology space has long been apparent. However, what has not always been so clear is what this change should actually look like.
For Sophie Mitchell, who recently joined administrator and policy body for the .au country code auDA as chief communications officer, creating positive change can start with the smallest things.
“In my experience, successful organisational change comes through leadership and leading by example. Change doesn’t have to be seismic, it can be incremental and still be impactful,” Mitchell told B&T.
“We can start with simple things like calling out areas of improvement and behaviours you want to see changed, it can be demonstrated in the language and images you use, ensuring you hold inclusive team social events, considering diversity in your hiring practices and measuring diversity.
“These steps instil a culture that encourages and celebrates a diversity of people and ideas, which in turn foster further change.”
At auDA, a strong focus on fostering an inclusive environment has led to material changes. Mitchell points out that 58 per cent of the team are female, while over 65 per cent of senior managers are women.
She added that initiatives such as B&T’s Women Leading Tech awards – which auDA is sponsoring again in 2021 – “is an active example of promoting and celebrating” greater diversity for the wider technology industry.
As a leader within auDA, Mitchell is responsible for guiding her team and helping the company meet its goals.
Reflecting on her own personal leadership style, Mitchell said she puts an emphasis on enjoyment and collaboration.
“I aim to ensure the team has a strong sense of purpose and clear goals that we strive towards together. This makes our work more rewarding and helps us course-correct when we encounter bumps along the way,” she said.
“I also seek to foster a friendly and united team environment, where we support each other to meet our goals. I have found this to be more productive (and enjoyable) over the longer term than competitive work environments.
“Lastly, I encourage my team to take an active role in their own career development – whether it’s growing their current skillset or considering their career progression. This is important as productive workplaces are ones that allow staff to grow and extend themselves. When a team member develops new skills, the whole team is rewarded.”
This leadership style has not been developed overnight. Having been in paid employment since she was 15 years old, Mitchell has seen a number of different leadership styles and had had the opportunity to work with a number of mentors.
This background has been a major force in shaping her leadership style.
“Having worked in consulting, law and politics, I have had the opportunity to study various leadership styles at close range. The benefit has been being able to see the impact of these different leadership styles over time and how people respond to them,” she said.
“It has taught me that; curiosity, problem-solving skills and integrity are essential; leaders are only as effective as their team, so it is important to nurture the people around you; and good humour is optional, but it makes the ride so much more enjoyable.”
Fronting communications for auDA, Mitchell explained the organisation is focused on building trust and confidence in the .au domain space.
“When people see a .au domain name, we want them to feel confident that the person or organisation behind the domain has a connection to Australia and they are who they say they are. At a time when Australians are embracing the internet and ecommerce more than ever, this can have a real impact on helping people navigate the online environment and support local organisations and businesses,” she said.
“To ensure Australians understand the value of the .au domain, we are increasing our engagement with our members and the tech and telco industry and are looking to partner with like-minded organisations to help shape Australia’s digital transformation.”