Marendaz spoke to B&T about how businesses can encourage women to speak about their experiences both inside and outside the work place, and make their working environments more accessible
B&T: What steps can tech businesses take to ensure that they are supporting female leaders?
AM: The first thing businesses need to do is listen to the women within their business. I think dedicating some time and space for women to have frank and honest discussions about their experience both in the industry as a whole and in their current workplace is essential. Obviously, some of that feedback might be pretty rough or difficult to hear, but it will take all the guesswork out of how you can actually support the women around you.
At MiQ, we have an inclusion and diversity survey which comes out twice a year, and people can discuss their experiences anonymously.
You get more honest answers from an approach like that. We also have dedicated Slack channels, so we can share podcasts and articles, and certain things that are happening in the news that are interesting to us. That way, we can have discussions about what’s happening in the world with women, and what’s maybe affecting us in a macro sense at work.
Really, having open discussions is super important.
Maternity and paternity leave is also really important to support women leaders. Gone are the days of choosing between a career and a family – we have to find ways of ensuring you can do both if you want to do both. That will allow people, especially women, to stay in the workforce, and progress, and thrive if they have kids.
What do you think are the most significant obstacles facing women in tech, and do you have ideas about how to overcome them?
It can be male-dominated. Like a lot of other business, there’s gender inequality at the top. The question is, how can we get more women to the top? I touched on it before, but I think one of the factors that you see more inequality with leaders is the family and the maternity leave situation.
We need to make it easier for women to have children, we need more maternity and paternity leave plans, businesses need to shout about it more and show that they’ve really thought about it, and that they care.
It’s about supporting all parents. One family may decide that the father is going to be taking more time off than the mother, and that has to be ok – and has to be built into your policies.
Flexible working arrangements are really beneficial. COVID showed us that we can be flexible, we don’t have to be at the office nine to five. Allowing people to do school drop-offs and take carers leave with sick kids is definitely important.
Also, important is creating spaces where women feel comfortable to speak up and get their voices heard. At MiQ we have a buddy system that at the moment functions through calls, but we can easily roll it out to face to face when that happens!
It’s just keeping an eye on people – if someone’s spoken over, maybe you can say, “ooh, Annie, I don’t think you’d quite finished your point,” and it will allow all voices to be heard, allow everybody to feel valued and increase confidence.
That will translate to women staying in their jobs, progressing, and becoming leaders.
The trading industry is very male-dominated – how do you respond to, and succeed, in that environment?
Well, I was incredibly fortunate that when I first started trading because my manager and my direct report were women. So from the get-go, I had experience with women supporting me and strong role models within the trading team.
The support of these women gave me confidence from the beginning and has allowed me to forge a successful trading career. Without their guidance I wouldn’t have been able to help grow MiQ’s Melbourne and Adelaide markets, or become the local lead on global products such as Advanced TV and RIO.
I was able to progress quite quickly, just from working hard and from their support, so I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t faced any issues in a male-dominated trading team, and I’ve just had really strong women role models.
I suppose for women, if they’re feeling like they’re the only woman in the trading team, that must be very difficult. I think connecting with women outside the business who are in trading, so using LinkedIn as a resource and building networks outside of your own business with women in tech is super beneficial. You can discuss but trading issues with women so you get a different perspective on how the industry is going, how your job is going, and how the workplace is going.
How do you ensure that you have screen-free time?
It can be super hard, because being a trader, all I do all day is look at a computer screen and then have meetings on a video call, and very rarely leave the house! So, I just try to at least go on a fifteen-minute walk at lunch, or not eat my lunch at my desk, try and walk away at least once a day. After work – I mean, I’m addicted to my phone, I’m addicted to Instagram – I’ll try to cook dinner, so maybe that’ll take an hour, or read a book instead of watching Sex And The City again on my computer.
So really, trying to leave the house and do activities that don’t involve a screen reduces my time a little bit.
Do you have a woman in tech hero?
I don’t have one specifically, but I’ve been just so lucky that over the past four and a half years.
As I mentioned, when I first started I was trained by women and reported to women, and my manager was a woman, so I had very strong trading and tech rolemodels from the get-go that paved the path for me.
I saw them rise to the top and be the best in quite a male-dominated industry, and they really advocated for me when I was fresh and new and didn’t have a lot of confidence.
They really pulled me up and brought me with them.
I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been surrounded by super strong women. It’s like, “ok, cool. She did it, why can’t I?”
Do you have any final reflections on women in the tech industry?
I just think we need to keep the dialogue open in general about women’s experiences. A lot has been happening – I mean, a lot is always happening – but it feels as if in the last few weeks it’s been quite disheartening to be reminded about the bigger issues of being women.
I think it’s important that you’re comfortable talking about that at work, not just in tech, in any industry so the people around you understand that there is a lot more to being a woman than just not seeing representation in CEOs and leadership.
There’s a whole list of stuff we go through that we’re sometimes blasé about.
I don’t know about your social media, but mine has been flooded with stories of messaging your friends when you get home safe, and having your keys in your fist walking home, and that’s just one aspect of it. Every work place is different and we’re lucky at MiQ that we’re comfortable talking in a work environment about what’s happening and how we’re feeling, and I think you just have to be able to create environments where people can openly talk about that stuff.
It can have a real effect on your mental health, and therefore your work, and people in the leadership positions and management positions maybe need to understand that “Annie’s having a crap day – it’s not because she’s bad at her job, it’s because there’s a lot happening in the world.”
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