Australia’s tech industry is such a ‘boys’ club’ that when a start-up included the word ‘woman’ in its name, the ‘tech-bros’ were so excited that they pressured it to rebrand.
Shivani Gopal launched her brainchild, a women’s networking app called The Remarkable Woman in 2023, but changed its name after complaints that men felt left out.
Ms. Gopal took advantage of the relaunch to add new features, but had to replace her powerful concept of a community of women with what is now ‘a digital social learning and mentoring platform’.
She confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that the change was forced to make the company make the name “more inclusive”.
A supporter of Ms Gopal’s project, Sydney tech entrepreneur Candice Burningham, believes the case shows how men still make career-defining decisions for women.
Shivani Gopal used the relaunch to add new features, but had to replace the powerful concept of a community of women with what is now “a social learning and mentoring digital platform.”
Sydney tech entrepreneur Candice Burningham believes a forced change in The Remarkable Woman shows how men still make career-defining decisions for women.
One of the few women to have found great success in the senior executive ranks of Australian tech is Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins.
Her comments come as a LinkedIn investigation, published to coincide with International Women’s Day last week, found that only a third of all senior executive roles in Australia in 2022 were held by women.
‘When an announcement is made that a woman has been appointed to one of the most important posts in an organisation, it is still almost a surprise,’ said Ms Burningham.
It’s a real pity.
While the tech industry is considered progressive in part because it is built on innovation and provides benefits to employees not seen at most companies, it was the third worst offender.
In 2022, only 20 percent of technology leaders were women.
In construction, just 17 per cent of leaders were women in 2022, making it Australia’s worst-performing industry, with transport and logistics at 18 per cent.
Education is performing best, with 42% of senior executive positions held by women.
While the number of women senior leaders in some industries remains very low, overall the situation is slowly approaching parity.
Women held 41 percent of all new leadership positions in Australia in 2022, up from 37 in 2018. Overall, women make up 45 percent of the workforce.
Ms Burningham believes that Ms Gopal’s company did not receive the attention it deserved because her name was considered attractive only to women.
The company is understood to have secured new sources of seed funding and its future looks much brighter.
‘I think they would have gotten that with the name The Remarkable Woman? No.’
Burningham, who spent decades working in insurance, commercial banking and media here and in Britain, says technology in Australia is still “a boys’ club.”
She said one of the worst examples she has witnessed involved an unidentified founder of a tech company being interrupted by a man at a convention who wanted to talk to a man about her company.
In the Australian construction industry, only 17 percent of leaders were women in 2022
‘I often hear from other women that they have to deal with a brother culture that is quite common in tech companies, guys saying to each other “hey bro, yeah bro.”
She said the ‘brother culture’ in tech is not ‘hostile’ towards women, but regularly overlooks their achievements.
“The articles I read and what I hear about VC firms always seem to be backing male-led tech entrepreneurs.
“It’s always about the guys from Afterpay or Atlassian.
Percentage of female senior female Australian executives: by industry
Across all industries in Australia, women held a third (33%) of senior leadership positions in 2022.
The figures for the large industry groups are as follows:
- Accommodation: 25 percent of senior leaders are women.
- Administrative and support services: 29 percent
- Construction: 17 percent
- Education: 42 percent
- Financial services: 25 percent
- Technology, Information and Digital Media: 20 percent
- Real estate and equipment rental services: 25 percent
- Transportation, Logistics, Supply Chain and Warehousing: 18 percent.
“The only one with a female CEO was Melanie Perkins at Canva.”
Perkins co-founded Canva with Cliff Obrecht in 2007 when he was 19 and still at the University of Western Australia.
As of January 2022, Perkins and Obrecht were jointly estimated to have a net worth of $9.21 billion according to Forbes.
Ms Burningham said that the media was probably worse than the tech sector for not providing avenues for women to reach top management.
Ms. Burningham, who worked primarily as an executive assistant before parlaying her experience into two businesses, said the best chance for a woman to fill a high-level role in technology is to start her own company.
‘I did it myself… I don’t think people look at an EA and think they can be business leaders.
“So I turned around and did it my way instead of going through the lines.”
LinkedIn’s Prue Cox said traditionally male-dominated workforces are more resistant to high-ranking female executives.
“While the data shows that there have been some improvements when it comes to the representation of Australian women in the workforce, it cannot be denied that we have a long way to go to achieve equity, particularly in industries that may have been traditionally viewed as ‘male-dominated’ roles.’