Sydney-based insurance tech company Insured By Us is turning the women-in-tech imbalance on its head, championing gender parity in all areas of the business from a “gender cap customer discount”, to support of its staff.
As the backlash against tech’s toxic “bro” culture continues, the focus is shifting to what companies can do to empower under-represented groups and create an environment of inclusion.
Company co-founder Ben Webster said everyone in his company worked a four-day week, a policy that initially came from his own needs as a parent.
“I wanted my children to know who I was,” he told The Australian. “We work really flexible hours; we call ourselves a remote-first company. We have staff working all over the world, and the people who are in Sydney come in to the office for about two days a week on average.”
Insured By Us coders Kath Fleischer and Tracy Mu Sung are part of a small team of developers with a female-to-male ratio of 1:3 — almost unheard of in the tech industry.
The company’s flexibility for Ms Mu Sung meant a recent month in Thailand working remotely. “I just did normal hours, I didn’t take leave,” she said.
“I did the same work and the same hours, but I feel like I’ve had a holiday; I’m refreshed and invigorated. I haven’t been missing out on anything workwise, I’m still on top of everything.”
Earlier this year Insured By Us announced it was enacting through its online start-up Travel With Jane a 16 per cent Gender Pay Gap discount to customers who identify as female. It’s a discount that reflects the 16.2 per cent average amount that women earn less than men.
“The good thing about this workplace is we really do discuss stories about gender and inequality, all the stories you see in the paper about people and companies who have had gender problems,” Ms Mu Sung said. “We discuss them and share them; and that lets everyone know its obvious what kinds of behaviours would be unacceptable, without having it written down in some legal document.”
Ms Fleischer said for her, the attraction of coding and working in technology was to improve human interaction, not replace it.
“The whole ninjas and rockstars programmer culture isn’t something we really buy into,” she said. “From the job ads, it’s immediate from the beginning, little efforts like not referring to groups of people as guys, and instead coming up with alternatives.”
According to Mr Webster, there was a need to make more senior roles available with flexibility and ensure that women were paid based on capability.
“We cannot exploit women’s capability because they’re only available part-time,” he said.
“Tracey going overseas is showing the rest of the team that there is no impact on the business and it’s OK to work from somewhere else. Two weeks ago Kath came to work and said she’s moving to Broome for the next year. And she knows her job isn’t in jeopardy. We attract people who are looking for that flexibility, and that goes for both men and women.”
The company has committed to replicating the fluctuations of the gender pay gap until March 2019, when the strategy will be reviewed.