Closing the gap for women in digital

Supporting women into leadership roles is critical to the success of the APS to deliver quality services to Australians.

A women smiling at someone off-camera.

With only one-third of the digital and information and communication technology (ICT) leadership cohort being women, the Women in IT Executive Mentoring (WITEM) program seeks to help close that gap. WITEM provides opportunities for participants to reach their full potential as leaders in the digital age, through a professional mentor/mentee program.

Close to 400 people have participated in WITEM over the past 13 years, which has helped contribute to the steady rise in numbers of women in digital leadership. This is good news but there’s more to do.

The program, sponsored by Dell™, matches Senior Executive Service (SES) mentors with female — including feminine identifying and non-binary people — Executive Level 2 (EL2) mentees from across government for 12 months.

Support for women in digital — you’re not alone

WITEM is about community, development and support. It encourages mentees to share their experiences with other mentees, and to make the most of the relationship with their mentor. It does this by encouraging relationships between mentors and mentees, and hosting group sessions to share their reflections, and providing networking opportunities.

Each relationship is different and is developed around the needs of the participant. This is what makes WITEM so flexible and relevant for each person in the program.

Mentors and mentees can set up regular one-on-one catch-ups, to discuss a variety of topics — from different leadership styles, managing and working through change, expectations from SES executives, and what it takes to be successful at a senior level.

The program also provides opportunity for mentors to share experiences, answer questions, listen to concerns, and provide valuable advice.

Human-centred mindset and the way we do things

Digital is about mindset and the way we do things, including how we use technology to deliver better services for Australians. The WITEM program operates on this understanding. It's about finding new areas of value for business, products and services, being human-centred, user focused, and building the capabilities that support new ways of working for women in digital. This includes people who work in technology and ICT.

Being digital also considers how we use data to make better and faster decisions, more cross-functional and cross-agency collaboration, flatter hierarchies, and working in more iterative and faster ways to meet user needs.

Benefits of having a mentor

Reaching out to peers or a mentor is especially important for career growth. The benefit of having a mentor who can listen and provide various strategies along the way is invaluable. WITEM’s reflective practices focus on this.

Past mentees reported positive outcomes including increased confidence, increased understanding of the government environment, and having an external perspective on challenges. They reported feeling they were becoming the leader they aspired to be.

“My confidence has grown and my ability to deal with people management issues has been strengthened”

“I will be staying in touch with my mentor at the end of the program! She was amazing and I learned so much from her.”

WITEM helps deepen the understanding of what drives SES executives. It helps mentees develop leadership skills, by drawing on the experience and guidance of a mentor.

Combining the knowledge and expertise of other mentors and EL2 participants creates more opportunities to build relationships and networks for women in IT and digital across government.

Mentors also reported benefits to their own career and a strong sense of satisfaction, while gaining a new understanding of work from the perspective of mentees. The program can help mentors design more inclusive workplaces and workforces.

All EL2 women are welcome to apply, including feminine identifying, and non-binary people.

Nominations for the 2020 program close on 17 March, so if you’re interested as either a mentor or mentee, please visit WITEM or email capability@dta.gov.au.

Steve Hibbins is a content designer at the DTA.