A world of women in tech
International Womens Day 2020
International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity each year to reflect on and challenge stereotypes, broaden perceptions and celebrate women's achievements.
We’re proud that Infoxchange and Connecting Up are diverse, multicultural workplaces. Thirty-nine percent of our staff were born outside Australia (and a further 22% have parents who were born outside Australia). We also have an incredible team of women working in roles ranging from cyber security to testing, technical support and digital inclusion.
For this International Women’s Day, we talked to five of them about their experiences moving to Australia and being a woman working in tech.
Meet Bahar, Poorni, Rajni, Elena and Marise.
Bahar Forghani, Program Officer, Social Innovation and Digital Inclusion team at Infoxchange (Adelaide)
Bahar came to Australia from Iran in 2011 on a Masters’ scholarship and just last month celebrated becoming a permanent resident.
“It has been a learning curve and growing journey for me moving to a new country with different culture, language, lifestyle … basically starting fresh,” she says.
It took three years after graduation to find paid work in her field of interest, community development and social impact.
Bahar says that women in Iran are generally very well educated, but unfortunately it doesn’t translate to equality in the workplace.
“Interestingly, a high proportion of graduates in science, engineering and tech in Iran are women – around 70%. However, not the same proportion of women are working in these fields because of not many working opportunities and lack of supportive working conditions.”
“In comparison, the work conditions in Australia are much more inclusive and encouraging of women and provide better support such as flexible working arrangements.”
Photo: Bahar in Iran
Poorni Illangasekara, Customer Experience Officer, Connecting Up (Adelaide)
Poorni and her husband moved from Sri Lanka in 2013 hoping for a better lifestyle.
“It was more important for me as a woman to get away from the daily verbal abuse or harassments as I wanted to feel safe,” she says.
It was hard to leave family and friends behind and the move was challenging.
“Getting work was not easy as a migrant, as most organisations require local experience and this was the reason I decided to volunteer.”
Poorni volunteered for six months at Connecting Up before she was offered a job as Customer Experience Officer.
“If you have a passion in any field pursue it … don’t let anyone limit your potential,” she says.
Photo: Poorni (wearing traditional “Kasavu” saree from Kerala, India) with her mother (wearing traditional Sri Lankan “Osari”)
Rajni Noori, Senior Technical Test Analyst, Infoxchange (Brisbane)
Rajni moved to Australia in 2016 and began working at Infoxchange the following year.
When she studied for her technical degree back in India, there were only four female students in a class of 60. Her experience has been the same everywhere she’s worked, including Australia – there are far fewer women than men working in tech.
“Today, technology impacts everyone, so gender equality is very important for the tech industry. Gender balance in tech can bring greater collaboration, innovation and creativity,” says Rajni.
“It does not matter if you are a migrant or native … We need to ensure that when women enter in the tech industry, they feel confident and make an impact.”
Photo: Rajni at the Infoxchange Brisbane office
Elena Platonenko, Project Manager/Business Analyst, Infoxchange (Brisbane)
Elena moved from “cold, overpopulated” Moscow as a skilled migrant in 2012 and joined Infoxchange five years later.
“I was on a holiday overseas enjoying the sun and beach, and I guess that’s when the idea was born to move somewhere warmer and more peaceful.”
She says her experiences of the tech industry in Russia and Australia have been quite similar.
“The IT industry is generally an innovative, fast-paced industry where people tend to share knowledge and views across borders. In fact, the fun, intelligent, vibrant and open-minded people you get to work with is one of the best parts of being in tech.”
For Elena, achieving equality for women in tech is all about embracing and respecting diversity.
“Promoting equal opportunities for women in tech is one of the ways to help us learn to not measure by stereotypes and be open to see and value people as they really are, nonjudgmentally, without preconceived bias.”
Photo: Elena in Russia
Marise Alphonso, Information Security Lead, Infoxchange (Melbourne)
Marise grew up in Kenya and moved to Australia in early 2008 looking for better job opportunities in tech, good weather and a better lifestyle. She started at Infoxchange in 2018 in a “challenging, exciting and rewarding” role assisting with the management of our information security.
“My family loves Australia but we miss our extended family. Finding a place to live and finding work was challenging initially, but thanks to the support of friends we managed and slowly found our feet,” she says.
Marise loves the multicultural aspect of Australian workplaces and the different perspectives people bring to the table. But gender diversity in tech is a topic she thinks needs to be addressed worldwide.
“Tech touches every area of our lives now and having more people contribute to its design, development, operation and maintenance would mean we can get the most out of it to improve the quality of our lives and the most efficient use of our resources.”
Read Marise’s blog posts on information security.
Photo: Marise at the Infoxchange Melbourne office