Jane Scowcroft believes that every career of the future will be a “tech job”, in one way or another. So, in that respect she tells me, “the future looks brighter for everyone who touches tech.”
As the Head of Product at CSIRO’s Data61, Scowcroft is hopeful that we can work towards a more equitable workforce in the tech world – “but I think it will take thoughtfulness and the promise to address any unconscious bias that might exist”.
Scowcroft was the only female in her computer engineering class, “which meant there was definitely no option of skipping class!” she tells me.
“I always loved learning how computers and software worked – there’s an elegance to coding, and a deep satisfaction with debugging.”
Scowcroft’s journey with tech has evolved away from the computer, to being more people facing, as the lead Product at Data61.
“I find that understanding how people use and leverage technology has brought its own challenges and excitement.”
But to get to the level Scowcroft has, mentors are important.
“There are so many phenomenal women (and men! Too many to name!) in this industry who have achieved absolutely phenomenal successes, and even better, those that are willing to share their failures and learnings,” Scowcroft says.
“Luckily, in our world of social media, access to these influencers is readily available and easy to seek out. Their voices are democratized and their insights are important.”
Scowcroft says it is also important to recognise that great mentors can be both male and female – and can exist outside tech or other male dominated industries.
The whole of the industry stands to gain from more diversity, Scowcroft points out. It’s not just gender diversity we need to address.
“Everything from culture, background, nationality, age, to the unseen of cognitive diversity – we all have something to offer to this industry, and we need to welcome and embrace these differences.”
Scowcroft tells us she’d love to see changes made to the silo-isation of the tech industry.
“Products directly reflect the team that created it. If the team is homogenous, the product or service won’t be successful. It’s the best future-proofing any team can do for itself.”
There are many programs currently aiming to fix the lack of diversity in tech – and Scowcroft says CSIRO’s national program – Science in Australia Gender Equity – takes a values and evidence based approach.
“However, I believe any initiative needs to address the whole system,” she says. “To enact change, we can’t just look at the minority.”
“Diversity is a whole of system opportunity – not just a female or racial consideration. We need to look at diversity holistically if we’re to address the issue successfully.”
Jane Scowcroft recently spoke at the CSIRO Data61 ‘Women in Tech’ event, which explored the barriers to gender diversity – with a particular focus on the technology industry.