International Women's Day - Nik Rolls

International Women's Day - Nik Rolls

For part three of our series, asking members of the Harmoney team for their thoughts on International Women's Day, here is lead software engineer Nik Rolls

What do you think of International Women's Day?  Is it relevant for you?

International Women’s Day is very important as a reminder of the gender inequality that still exist. It’s also a time to recognise the remarkable achievements of women throughout history which are even more significant considering the challenges they faced in their time.

As a software engineer for the web, I have the likes of Ada Lovelace to thank for inventing the concept of computer programming, Grace Hopper for creating early programming languages and introducing concept of “debugging”, Hedy Lamarr for her design of systems that would pioneer mobile networks, Sharla Boehm, Elizabeth Feinler, Sally Floyd and Hu Qiheng for their designs and contributions to the protocols that now power the internet, Chieko Asakawa for her development of the web browser for the blind, and many, many more.

The theme of IWD this year is #balanceisbetter. What does that mean to you?

For me, “balance” means that you’re in a much better place when all people with diverse experiences have an equal voice. It’s important to realise that people with different life experiences – whether due to gender, ethnicity, or upbringing – bring very different perspectives to the likes of product design, features, accessibility, and problem solving. This is something many people can miss until they’ve seen it first-hand. In this way, diversity and gender can be an important factor especially when a team’s current mix is very skewed in one direction.

How important to you is gender diversity in the workplace?

Unfortunately the term “gender diversity” has become maligned and misunderstood. It doesn’t mean quotas or diversity hires, but it does mean that balance of your team’s diversity is very important, especially in how closely it matches that of your customers. It’s something we should all keep a close eye on to prevent skew, and should be on everyone’s minds in their day-to-day interactions.

What would you like to see Harmoney do differently in relation to gender equality or diversity?

We’re lucky at Harmoney in that we do already have a lot of diversity in our company, but we still have work to do especially in areas that are traditionally male-dominated such as software engineering. One thing that’s important for me is to ensure that there is as little bias and as much diversity as possible, both during hiring and in day-to-day interactions. Things such as helping to ensure everyone's input and opinions are respected, especially when they offer a unique perspective, can go a long way.

Should we be asking men the same questions?

I think it’s important for men to take a moment to listen and understand, otherwise there is a tendency for women to be drowned out by those who already have the advantage of a captive audience. Men absolutely have a very important part to play though, and should be encouraged to get onboard and make positive change in support of the women in their work and personal lives. We know that there still needs to be change, and for that we must do it together.

Do you feel your gender has affected your choices and opportunities?

I absolutely feel the male benefit of things like automatically being listened to and not talked over. This is fairly global (and honestly, often unintentional) no matter the environment or company. Through my friendships with women I also notice advantages I took for granted until I realised they may not have been available to others. I have to be mindful of this privilege and ensure that I’m aware when others may be getting the short end of the stick and might deserve an opportunity that I’ve been offered simply by association.

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