This month, I wanted to talk to our readers about the 'leaky pipeline' and gender diversity in STEM fields. When I came up with the idea for the topic, I needed to interview someone- or rather, a business, that was dynamic, innovative, fresh-faced, and consciously working towards ensuring women are not underrepresented in their field.
So, who better to talk to than Xero?
Firstly: tell us a little about Xero, and what you guys do:
Xero is a dynamic, progressive and expanding global SaaS company with offices in New Zealand, Australia, United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Today we employ a world-class team of more than 1500 Xeros in 20 offices around the globe.
Given small business is the heart of the global economy, our purpose is to help millions of small businesses thrive through beautiful software, advice and connections. We aim to make being a small business more efficient, profitable, and importantly more enjoyable.
Creating and implementing game-changing ideas is what drives and inspires us and it’s not just talk – we’ve been ranked #2 on the list of top 50 Australian and New Zealand technology companies, #1 coolest companies in New Zealand, and Forbes awarded Xero World's Most Innovative Growth Company in 2014 and 2015.
What is Xero’s outlook on gender diversity in the workplace?
We are committed to focusing on gender diversity and inclusion across the organisation to ensure it drives our innovation and growth globally. We are acutely aware that women are underrepresented in the tech sector but our commitment to drive change both within Xero and industry wide is unwavering.
We know the technology industry is particularly poor when it comes to the number of females working in the sector. In fact, on average women comprise only 29% of the workforce across technology companies (refer http://www.cnet.com/au/news/women-in-tech-the-numbers-dont-add-up/) and that number is declining even though the technology sector is rapidly growing.
As seen in the graph below Xero is doing well with women comprising 38% of our workforce which is well above the average. Even in the technical side of the business women represent 27% of our workforce, which is higher than most global technology brands where women comprise on average 15% of the workforce.
Graph 1: Tech workforce
Our CEO and Founder Rod Drury highlights the importance of gender diversity to our innovation, performance and growth, stating “it’s important we ensure that our gender balance reflects our base of customers and partners. Given our product is used by accountants and bookkeepers, an industry where women have strong representation, having a matching mix of perspectives developing these products gives us a competitive advantage from more traditional companies in the new global economy.”
Although we know we have made some good progress in the area of gender diversity we still have a long way to go. We want Xero to lead the way in terms of attracting more women to the tech sector and ensuring we foster an inclusive culture where everyone has a sense of belonging, feels valued, respected and with a sense of fairness.
What is Xero’s goal in terms of gender diversity?
Diversity has always been a part of our DNA. From our inception, we’ve sought to build and maintain a diverse workforce through entrenching our company values which speak to diversity, our recruitment and onboarding process, our diversity policies, and our constant efforts to cultivate an open, accepting and inclusive culture.
Although this has been a relatively successful approach and we have made some good progress we have now grown substantially in size and complexity and are therefore taking a more formalised and strategic approach to diversity with gender as a major focal point.
We are currently in the process of undertaking a full review of diversity and inclusion at Xero which includes an Employee Diversity Survey as well as Focus Group sessions being undertaken in each of our offices across the globe. This review process will help us understand and plan what action we need to take in terms of gender diversity and inclusion in the medium to longer term. Our Diversity Action Plan will specifically highlight the goals and key initiatives we plan to undertake to ensure we continue to drive the innovation and performance needed to compete in the new global economy.
Why is it so important to have more women in tech fields?
We know that having a gender-diverse and inclusive organisation benefits our people and it makes good business sense. Research shows that workplaces with greater diversity are outperforming their competitors. It increases employee morale, engagement, health and well-being - ultimately helping people believe, belong and flourish which is pivotal to our business strategy! It’s also vital to the success of our business as it results in more innovation, a more diverse talent pool, harnesses team dynamics, and ultimately improves productivity and performance.
As our CEO and Founder, Rod Drury states “The demand for talent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is only going to accelerate in this digitally connected world. Females are significantly underrepresented in the tech industry so encouraging their participation is not just crucial for Xero but the tech sector in general. We are actively trying to attract and retain more females at Xero. We are actively putting initiatives in place to encourage more women to consider tech careers when they come out of university and ensure that Xero has an open, diverse, and inclusive culture where they can succeed and grow their careers”.
Rod adds, “it will take half a generation to balance out gender diversity at the leadership level so we are especially vigilant about eliminating the glass ceiling to ensure our emerging female leaders can grow without constraint within our business and beyond. It’s important we have women in senior leadership positions at Xero and more recently we have appointed three women into our top management ranks. New Zealand Managing Director Anna Curzon, Chief Accounting Officer Kirsty Godfrey-Billy and Chief People Officer Rachael Powell.”
There is so much more we can and will do. As a business, we are committed to driving change in this area to ensure we lead the way in terms of more women working and flourishing in the tech industry.
Special thanks to Siobhan Warren and her team for providing us with such in-depth answers, a truly insightful read. Stay tuned for more GirlBoss x Xero.
Written by Maitreyi Aria Jain