Financial Freedom, Leadership & AI: Women Leading Tech Gather For Exclusive Alumni Breakfast

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The second ultra-exclusive Women Leading Tech Alumni Breakfast took over 477 on Pitt Street last week with a delightful spread and a delectable conversation with some of the tech scene’s leading lights.

Lead image L-R: Letitia Hope, partnership experience lead, ISPT; Kate Box, industry director for retail, Meta; Katrina Troughton, Vice president & managing director, Adobe ANZ; Megan Dalla-Camina
founder & CEO, Women Rising; Tatia Rashid Data science, executive manager, Quantium

Speaking on everything from AI to mentorship to parental leave, the expert panel, moderated by ISPT’s Letitia Hope, left the audience with plenty of insights but even more to ponder and take back to their respective organisations.

“We see constantly that companies perform better in business when there is at least 30 per cent female leadership — which isn’t enough,” said Kate Box, Meta’s industry director for retail.

“It’s not that women are inherently better leaders, just that diversity is a better place to be. Tech is at the cutting of so many industries and, with the decisions being made around AI, it is more relevant than ever. Tech is a growing industry and working in it, you can create quite a bit of wealth and I want women to have more of the wealth in society.”

While ensuring women get a bigger slice of the tech industry’s sizeable financial pie is essential — and one of the content pillars for the new, standalone Women Leading Tech publication launching next week — the problem remains that not enough women are entering or staying in the industry, at all.

“Half of the companies and the women that I work with come from tech industries all over the world,” said Megan Dalla-Camina, founder and CEO of Women Rising, and Women Leading Tech Mentor and Woman of the Year.

“There’s absolutely the piece on women seeing pathways and wanting to go and take those opportunities. But those opportunities need to be created and they need to overcome confidence challenges. There’s still this misconception that tech is a blokey industry and that women can’t see people that look like them so it’s not for them — even though there are pathways that are opening up.”

One person who has made an indelible mark on the tech industry, having started at IBM back in 1991, is Adobe’s vice president and managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Katrina Troughton.

“In my very first year, I had a managing director who used to run these projects that we called roundtables with a random 15 people across the business, just to talk about what was going on.

“I was a new graduate who had come into the business and there were older, more experienced men ‘leading’ the discussion, as you can imagine and the managing director said, ‘Now, this is a roundtable for everyone and, Katrina, I’m going to come back to you in a second because I’d like to hear your opinion.’ At the time, I remember thinking ‘Oh my gosh, that means I have to have an opinion.’

“But it was a really clever way of doing it because I had a few seconds to stop my heart beating out of my chest. But ever since, I’ve been really aware of that. He said, ‘You will have a different perspective’ and that inspired me in terms of the leader I want to be. It really made a difference in my career.”

However, the panel also touched on one of the biggest technological shifts that society has seen since the internet — the advent of generative AI. With Meta, Adobe and Quantium all active in the space in their respective ways, there was plenty for the panel to discuss.

“We need to understand that generative AI and decisioning models, do what we ask them to do and they feed out what we feed in,” said Tatia Rashid, executive manager, data science at Quantium and the Women Leading Tech Data Scientist of the year.

“The output is based on whatever the algorithm was and we need to be very cognisant of that. If we keep feeding these technologies and methodologies the past, which we would because that’s all we have.”

There was plenty more discussed in the 40-minute session from mentorship and sponsorship to male allyship and that there has never been a “worse time to be a mediocre white man.”

We’re looking forward to the next one already and the new Women Leading Tech publication.

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