What it means to be an ally to women in tech

November 29, 2022
ally for women in tech

Women are making steady advances in tech. But the fact remains – when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), there’s still work to be done! 

So, how are companies in the industry moving the needle?

They’re making DEI a business imperative and encouraging everyone to participate. 

Allies like Phil Goldie are doing just that.  

He’s no stranger to tech. After working at Microsoft for twelve years, he’s recently joined Okta as VP and Managing Director for ANZ (Australia and New Zealand). 

“The opportunity to learn new technologies and experience a different work culture has been so rewarding. I’m excited about the potential impact we can have in countries like Australia and New Zealand.” 

Here’s his take on how allies can grow a diverse workplace culture and make a difference to women in tech.  

The influence of representative leadership in tech 

Has a great interview with someone at a company ever influenced your decision to join? 

That’s what happened to Phil. 

During his interviews with Okta, his conversation with President of World-Wide Operations, Susan St. Ledger had a lasting impact. 

“She’s a legend in SaaS (software-as-a-service companies), having worked at Salesforce and Splunk. She was so impressive and had a clear view of Okta’s direction. After we spoke, I told my wife: ‘This is a person I want to work with. This is the company I want to join.’”

At the time, Okta was also recruiting for the Head of APJ – the leader Phil would ultimately report to in his role. So, accepting the position still required a small leap of faith. 

“The impression that the Okta leadership team, including Susan and others, had on me really assured me that their focus on culture and world class talent would mean someone great in that role.”

“I’m so glad I took the leap. Now have a fantastic leader to work with in Ben Goodman who heads up the APJ region. Okta’s ability to attract such amazing leaders speaks to our incredible culture! During my first few months, the culture has truly met my expectations, and I’ve experienced so much personal growth.”

The pathway to becoming an ally to women in tech

Allyship can mean something different to everyone. But, as Phil notes, it’s more than simply agreeing diversity and inclusion is important. 

There have been several moments throughout his career that have shifted his perspective about DEI. 

The first was early on in his management career when he was hiring for a role and felt pressure to hire a woman. 

“Firstly, I strongly believe in clear diversity targets, particularly in large companies and key roles. In any business, you track progress against key targets and so if diversity really is important, then there should be goals.”

“I spoke to the country manager at the time, asking if we shouldn’t be focussing on finding the right person, not the right gender. As all great leaders do, she asked me a perfect question: ‘What have you personally done to ensure the talent pool has an equal number of all genders to choose from in the first place?’ and the truth was I wasn’t sure.” 

It was a great lesson. The question led him to discover how he could focus on the right things, lean in, and take proactive steps. 

ally for women in tech

“Since then, it’s become a big part of the how I contribute to building a workplace that welcomes everyone. How I network and help champion talented women. How I proactively pipeline women for roles I know we’ll be opening in the future. These are things I focus on continually that I really learnt the importance of in that moment.” 

On another occasion, Phil was leading Microsoft’s efforts in the Champions of Change Coalition and hosted learning circles with members of women’s groups across the company. 

“We started each session with one simple question: ‘What’s your lived experience today as a woman at Microsoft?’ Their responses really opened my eyes about other challenges of inclusion. I felt like I learned more in those four to five hours than in the last four to five years. It grew my awareness and made me reflect on what I’m actively doing to drive change and how my choices and behaviours contribute positively and negatively.” 

Another key experience was leaning into understanding what it means to have privilege. Admittedly, it was a confronting experience. 

ally for women in tech

“As a white, married male living in Sydney, working in tech, with kids – I was forced to face and lean into the privilege of my experiences, and what it means for others. 

“When people confront personal privilege, often their first instinct is to mentally justify or defend themselves. The opportunity though is to accept it and try to understand how it shapes your views and biases. It can be hard – but moments like this help you achieve the greatest breakthroughs, discover new ways to be proactive, and start making a difference.” 

What does affirmative action look like as an ally?  

While it’s still early days for Phil at Okta, he’s already having an influence as an ally. 

“We’re hiring and growing quickly, which presents lots of opportunities for us to grow diverse talent pipelines. Prioritizing diversity is something I really challenge our hiring managers, leaders, and everyone on as it’s a company-wide responsibility – not just something that rests with our Talent Acquisition team! Being deliberate about this has helped.”  

After having the privilege of working in a large organization like Microsoft, he’s also a big believer in sharing experiences. 

“Sharing diverse perspectives and learnings has been valuable. We have lots of fantastic programs and Employee Resource Groups – like Global Women at Okta, which I’m involved in. The right pieces are in place, so it’s a matter of encouraging people to lean in and turn good intention into action.” 

Okta has cultural diversity, women, and LGBTQI+ employee-led diversity groups and more

Find out more 

Who’s responsible for influencing change?

As Phil shares (and we agree!), when it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion, the burden of change must be taken up by the majority. 

“To create meaningful change, everyone needs to be on board. Diversity is one thing, but it needs to be backed up by inclusion. It requires conscious effort and deliberation. I’ve learned so much in the past few years. So, my goal is to encourage others, particularly leaders, to examine the steps they’re taking.” 

For Phil, it ‘just makes sense!’ 

“The tech industry is fundamentally grappling with skill shortages. So, strengthening diversity and inclusion creates more opportunities. It allows us to think differently about development, attract diverse talent, and secure the right skills.” 

In fact, every company, no matter what industry, could create real change as the tech revolution continues. 

“I believe that all businesses will transform into technology businesses. By focusing on diversity and inclusion, and hiring people transitioning into tech, so many companies will be able to bridge skill-gaps and achieve more.” 

The future looks bright for women in tech at Okta

Okta is on a huge growth trajectory and becoming an industry-defining company. By extension, Okta’s people are set to receive career-defining opportunities too. 

“My job is to fulfil that promise by delivering customer value with our great products and services, and creating a place where people feel valued, safe, and included – a place where people want to work and do their best work!” 

To do so, Phil is focused on being a good role model and encouraging everyone to contribute.  

ally for women in tech

“On a personal level, fairness matters to me. I want to contribute to creating an admired workplace that’s fair and inclusive.” 

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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