NAB's push to break the glass ceiling

The bank's desire to address the gender imbalance within technology circles is starting to pay dividends.

The move by National Australia Bank to address the gender imbalance within technology circles is starting to bear fruit with three women promoted to senior roles.

NAB has about 550 women in all permanent technology-related roles, an average of about 30 per cent of the total IT workforce at the bank. The figure drops to about 20 per cent moving up the ranks.

According to the Australian Computer Society, about 28 per cent of all IT and communications workers in Australia are women. This includes those in occupations such as graphics, web design, telecommunications, software programming, sales and marketing.

Dayle Stevens, enterprise applications and data services head of technology, will assume the position of general manager, support services technology.

Nicole Devine, head of portfolio services and transformation, enterprise technology becomes general manager, program office and commercial management.

Lisa Palma, program director of NextGen direct bank deployment, is the new general manager for technology workplace service.

The technology unit is responsible for systems and infrastructure. Enterprise transformation covers all major transformation program activities, including NextGen.

The trio were promoted in a senior leadership restructure for the technology and NextGen teams. As part of the recent changes, five people were promoted: three women and two men.

Ms Stevens’ position was one of two newly created posts, while Ms Devine and Ms Palma replaced men.

A NAB spokesman declined to comment on whether the women’s remuneration was on par with their male counterparts.

Ms Stevens and Ms Palma report to chief information officer David Boyle, while Ms Devine reports to Steve Collier, NextGen executive general manager. NAB has 14 general managers, nine in technology and five in NextGen.

Mr Boyle and Mr Collier report to NAB group executive, enterprise services and transformation, Lisa Gray. Ms Gray hopes the appointments will help tear down the general misconception that IT is a “blokey” environment.

She said NAB wanted to be recognised as an employer of choice “not just for women but for women in technology”.

Ms Gray is one of two females to sit on NAB’s 11-member group executive committee, which includes the CEO. Michaela Healey, group executive for people, communications and governance is the other.

In January, Ms Stevens and Ms Devine began working on an idea to create a women in technology program. Ms Stevens said the program aimed to demystify what senior level roles were like, what personal commitments they required and help encourage women to “put themselves out there and have the confidence to go for those roles”.

“We have traditionally been such a male-dominated space that it frightens people off a little bit,” Ms Stevens said.

She said that generally speaking there was a gap in confidence where women refrained from putting themselves “out there”. She said: “They seem to be more risk averse (and) that’s something we’ve been exploring in our women in technology program.”

According to an internal survey, access to sponsorship and mentoring, and building confidence were areas where women in IT said they needed help the most, she said, adding that often women did not go for a particular role because they assumed the job would be detrimental to their family life.

“They feel they can’t juggle work and family commitments even before applying for the job,” Ms Stevens said, admitting that she, too, suffered from this self-­defeating syndrome before landing her new gig.

She knew the head of technology role was up for grabs but didn’t apply, assuming she couldn’t dedicate the time to such a demanding post.

Ms Stevens, who has two boys, aged 6 and 8, said that, now she had been promoted she worked differently and not necessarily longer hours than previously.

She said NAB had great workplace flexibility and a simple conversation with one’s manager could work wonders.

“You can work from home on certain days or work from other offices,” Ms Stevens said.

A “role-shadowing” program had also been introduced to showcase what different parts of technology roles would be like.

Ms Stevens said NAB was an active player in developing the next-generation of female technology workers and leaders, and that increasing the number of women in IT had the strong backing of the senior leadership team.

She said Australia’s first female hackathon earlier this year was set up by a female NAB employee who worked in technology.

Apart from sponsoring various initiatives, there are 40 women from NAB involved in Robogals, a student-run organisation that teaches young schoolgirls about engineering and science. Robogals has chapters at major universities in the capital cities and also in London.

Organisations such as Google are using various methods to boost their female workforce.

The software giant recently said it would cover three months’ tuition for computer programming courses for women and ­minorities to enhance their skills.

Thirty per cent of Google employees globally are women.