Taking place every year on 8 March, International Women's Daybrings together women from all over the world to salute the social, political and economic achievements of women past, present and future. This year's theme is #BreakTheBias and is a call to action for a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination where women can thrive and move ahead.
To celebrate this global event, we sat down (virtually!) with one of Future NSW guest speakers, Sally-Ann Williams, on what action is needed to help shape the digital sphere so that it is gender equal, and the ways in which we can all play a part in helping create a more diverse and inclusive future.
Sally-Ann is the CEO of Cicada Innovations, Australia's home of Deep Tech. The Sydney-based incubator has a twenty-one year track record of developing deep tech ventures tackling some of the world's most pressing problems, like the future of human health, food security and the climate crisis.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced as a female leader in the tech innovation space?
A challenge is like one side of a coin. If you flip it, the other side is opportunity. Every time I've faced a challenge I prefer to try and reframe it to an opportunity. Over my career I've been underestimated because of my age, gender, background, qualifications, and experience. Rather than focus on the situation I've focused on delivery and in some cases my detractors have become my supporters. It's important when we face a challenge to step back from the situation and see if we can reframe it as an opportunity to lean in to.
How are you shaping a digital future?
Technology can be a powerful tool to help us solve fundamental challenges for people and the planet. But it's important not to elevate the technology above the role of the people using it and building with it. People are the most powerful asset we have to solve wicked problems and it's critical we involve more people in the design of technical solutions to ensure we have the broadest and most inclusive solutions and that we are lifting the entire community with our products.
What digital innovations are you most excited about?
For me it's not the technology itself that excites me, it's what it enables. For example, Cicada residents Loop+ have a smart sensing pad for wheelchair users that gives them insights to better manage their health and wellbeing and avoid things like pressure sores. Presien have a hardware and software solution that can be deployed in industrial sites that enable better safety for workers and in some cases could save lives. Regrow use data and insights to help farmers sustainably produce more - feeding and protecting the planet. Technology can and should be an enabler of doing more with less and doing better for people and planet.
What career advice do you have for women considering a career in the future-building science and engineering space?
Find the problems you are passionate about and deeply engage in communities of problem solvers who want to fix them. It's a long and challenging road to solve wicked problems so you need to find your community and network and build authentic relationships, so you don't journey alone.
Join Sally-Ann, along with an impressive lineup of industry leaders and experts, at this year's Future NSW event and register today.