Discussions of diversity in the Australian tech sector need to move beyond a sole focus on gender to include other aspects of inclusion in order to change the entire paradigm, according to FusionGrove CMO Iris Chan.

Chan, who will be speaking at ACS’ International Women’s Day breakfast on Friday, said that in terms of diversity, she has experienced “triple jeopardy”: she’s female, she’s of Asian descent and she’s an immigrant.

“If women are struggling in male-dominated work environments, imagine having to deal with being an Asian female immigrant. The challenges have been threefold, and possibly even more,” Chan told Information Age.

A better balance is clearly required, with International Women’s Day adopting the theme #BalanceforBetter this year.

Iris Chan will be speaking at the ACS Innovation Hub this Friday. Image: Supplied

It’s a man’s world in tech

The tech sector has long had a reputation for being a male-dominated industry, and attention has recently turned to improving gender diversity, especially in start-ups.

A 2018 report commissioned by tech giant Canva found that just 14 percent of executive roles in tech companies are held by women, and make up about 30 percent of the overall workforce.

While this is crucial, Chan said it is important to ensure this effort also focuses on other aspects of diversity, including ethnicity and generation, to ensure the industry experiences a real step-change.

“I really think we need to take this discussion beyond just the gender piece,” she said. “If we don’t take a more holistic view then there’s not going to be real progress. There needs to be a cultural and mindset shift, and those things won’t take place if you can’t change the overall mentality of people in the workplace.”

Ticking boxes

“If you’re just telling them to be more gender diverse, I don’t think that’s fundamentally changing someone’s mindset – we need to be applying inclusion and diversity broadly in all respects,” Chan said. “Just telling them to work on this one track around gender parity isn’t changing the culture or the paradigm.

“We need to turn the whole thing on its head. I know it sounds crazy but to improve gender diversity you almost have to stop talking gender diversity - only.

“Focus instead on broader inclusion and diversity of different identity groups and backgrounds, while still firmly aligned to talent and merit. Gender diversity will be addressed as a result of organisations having this kind of inclusive culture as one of their core values.

“If you don’t fundamentally adopt this mindset across the board and from the ground up you’ll never be able to experience true diversity. It will be short-lived and just box-ticking. It’ll just be people doing a few things and making everyone feel good, but it’s not sustained over longer periods of time.”

Chan joined data-driven sales acceleration platform FusionGrove nearly two years ago as chief marketing officer, and her first task was to completely rebuild the company’s brand, all the way down to changing the company’s previous name.

“My responsibility was to build the marketing function from scratch and to design and formulate the overall marketing strategy,” Chan said. “The first thing I did when I joined was to rebrand – FusionGrove is the brainchild. We needed to come up with a very powerful brand name, so I came on board and built out the brand strategy.
“That was every marketer’s dream. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.”

FusionGrove helps business-to-business technology companies attain revenue targets through data-driven sales acceleration, with the company’s software platform allowing clients to identify best-fit opportunities using AI-driven account insights.

The platform provides clients with access to information on their customers’ current technology stack, allowing them to identify new sales opportunities, which can then be organised through the same platform.

The tech experience

Before joining the Australian software company that operates globally, Chan had over 20 years of experience working in marketing at large tech companies, including IBM and Cisco, so joining a smaller company was an exciting change.
“In the previous companies there really wasn’t an opportunity to define the brand strategy and build a brand,” Chan said. “It was a major change for me to move into a much more entrepreneurial, start-up-like environment.

“We’re still very nimble and growing, and we still operate very much like a start-up.”

Chan completed a media and communications degree at the National University of Singapore, and was soon exposed to the tech industry which she immediately found “super fascinating”.

“Maybe I was actually a geek at heart. As soon as I saw Unix terminals and the Internet browser for the first time, I wanted to be in this really dynamic and very driven vertical industry, and made the decision then to be part of IT, and I’ve never looked back since,” she said.

As someone that has worked at the convergence of marketing and technology for two decades, Chan said this area is only becoming more important to all businesses.

“Today it’s more and more important for marketers to be well-versed in technology,” she said.

“With so many digital applications driving marketing activities forward and the growing complexity of the buyer’s journey, marketing leaders need to have a strong grasp of the latest innovations to stay competitive.”

Iris Chan will be joined by Monica Wulff of Start-up Muster, Siobhan Hayden of HashChing and Allison Reid of Equal Reality at the ACS Innovation Hub for a special International Women’s Day event on Friday 8 March 2019 from 7.30am. Details and tickets here.