Paying it forward

Paying it forward

Being a good role model often means having a great role model

For ANZ executive Sharon Samson, the secret to her success in being a strong role model was having a great teacher.

Sharon is recognised for her consistent investment in supporting women within the technology side of the bank and at Go Girl Go for IT, a technology conference for schoolgirls between years 5-12.

When asked what drives her, she returns to her formative school days. For her, the interest in IT was ignited by her teacher, Jennifer Orford, and an area she saw she could thrive in. Sharon lovingly describes Mrs Orford as “a quintessential technology teacher, a ‘nerdy IT’ person at the heart who was the most wonderful role model”. Jennifer gave Sharon the strength and conviction to “do it” and be proud of mastering the subject. It wasn’t until Sharon went to university that she realised many other girls did not feel the same about IT and she became even more determined to make a difference in this powerful sector.

Sharon always felt her career could have gone one of two ways. Into the technology space, as her career has panned out, or as a secondary teacher, following in her role model’s footsteps. So it’s no surprise she loves to encourage young girls to pursue an IT career.

Go Girl Go for IT is the largest free event held in Victoria for schoolgirls from grade 5 to year 12. Thanks to Sharon’s influence, ANZ is a diamond sponsor, and she is the key liaison between the bank and the event. This involves co-ordinating over 150 of her colleagues who volunteer to support the event in conjunction with organisers Vic ICT for Women. The event reaches 1500+ students with the goal to inspire girls towards a STEM career.

Sharon is proud they have been able to deliver this support for a number of years. Though it’s not easy, she knows she is making a difference as she is often contacted on LinkedIn by former attendees who are now pursuing careers in IT.

Sharon’s career started in Imperial Chemical Industries (now Orica), where she was the only woman in an all-male team. Luckily, her boss encouraged and welcomed her voice. It was in this environment she learnt to “have a presence” and the importance of being heard, ideals which she has used to be successful across the span of her career. Today at ANZ bank, she holds the role of Technology Domain Lead Corporate Services and is excited by the prospect of being able to encourage more women.

Throughout her career, Sharon has been a champion for women. She finds it is often fear holding them back.  Sharon is a great listener who loves to uncover what the biggest fear is and help the person reframe and deal with it. She feels she has learnt through adversity to take a risk. Her mantra reflects this: “How bad can it be?” For her. the worst thing is to let fear hold you back and not to try.

Since joining ANZ in 2006, Sharon has helped develop other avenues to pursue her passion in supporting women in Technology.

Sharon has been a contributing member and more recently a leader within the ADA Network, named after the world’s first Computer Programmer, Ada Lovelace.  The group was formed in 2017 with the aim of increasing the participation of women in technology.  The network has grown to include approximately 450 allies and volunteers across the bank who champion the participation of women in technology.  This supports a suite of events, mentoring and sponsorship all aimed at attracting, retaining, and growing talent.

Soon after the formation of the ADA network, it was recognised dedicated resources, coupled with a strong volunteer network, would be needed for diversity initiatives to be achieved in line the ANZ purpose and values. Enter the THRIVE Squad, a team of people employed to support not only the Go Girl Go for IT program and the ADA Network but also guide a return-to-work program, as well as provide opportunities for those with autism, all abilities and indigenous peoples. THRIVE allows the ANZ employees to support their passion projects as mentors, allies and sponsors. The results have been amazing.

  • The early talent recruitment of graduates and interns is now at 52% female participation.
  • The Return-to-Work program has a 92% female participation and 95% retention rate.

Return-to-Work was introduced in 2019. It provides the opportunity for people who have taken a career break of two or more years in India, Australia and New Zealand to join ANZ’s Technology Team. It allows people to reskill and transition back into the workforce. This program has contributed to ANZ achieving family-friendly workplace accreditation. Why does the bank bother?  “To shape a world where people and communities thrive,” says Sharon, repeating the bank’s purpose.

For Sharon, Return-to-Work has been incredibly successful in encouraging more women to join the Technology Team. She loves being able to encourage women to enjoy working in a career area which has brought her so much satisfaction.

When asked what advice she would give to others, she says, “If you feel you aren’t ready, just take a (deep breath) and do it.” And for those hesitating about taking on a mentoring role, Sharon says, “The reward is far greater than the perceived burden. I’m so grateful for the role models I’ve had in my career and I love paying it forward by supporting others.”

If you would like to learn more about the other finalists then click this link.

Get the Future you Want

Get the Future you Want

Get the Future you want is the tagline that underlines Capgemini’s global values. It is hard to imagine how that can be realised in numerous countries across the globe and how this is driving diversity & inclusion to new levels here in Australia, so we asked the team.

It is underpinned by the Global Gender equity Index a measure which provides a baseline for Capgemini to overachieve against. It enables each country to measure up to the standards required within the country and provides a roadmap of what needs to be worked on and changed. For instance, when first introduced in Australia the Capgemini standard of equal pay was evident but not embedded in all the relevant policies and procedures.

The vision of getting the future you want means that each employee is responsible for driving their own career. At any stage, they can submit a business case for promotion. One of the gender issues that was highlighted was that women do not go for promotions unless they tick all the boxes, this meant that many were holding back. To overcome this the company-initiated training & support to encourage women to “lean-in to discomfort and take risks”. Today, this has seen a vast improvement in the number of women progressing.

Janani D’ Silva, who has been with Capgemini for thirteen years and the tech industry for 22 years has seen the evolution within the company. She is Head of Culture, Engagement, and Early Careers. She fell into her current role through the work and results she was achieving, but she says had it been advertised with a full description online, she wouldn’t have applied, thinking she wouldn’t be able to do it because she has a young family. With encouragement and role models such as her manager, the HR Director for AUNZ – Maria Dimopoulos, and the AUNZ MD, Kaylene O’Brien, she took the job and thrives in this space, despite her initial concerns. Today she is an amazing role model for flexibility and getting the future you want. Working hybrid with no stipulation on mandatory days in the office, she’s able to work the needs of her work and family’s needs, delivering to the demands of her multifaceted role. She says women can indeed have it all, it comes down to letting your feet do the talking and finding an employer that is truly committed to breaking systemic constructs of what a workplace needs to be like and relegating the ‘9-5 in the office’ workday to the past.

Another benefit of getting the future you want is the company’s attitude to flexibility and family allowing many team members to work from home or work compressed hours to maintain the balance they want.  Caitlin Spence who leads the Women at Capgemini groups works a 4-day week; it is compressed to allow her the time to look after her family.

Capgemini is like other tech-based businesses facing an ongoing shortage of training women. In an effort to improve this, the company has developed an initiative, Relaunch, to help women, women with a trans experience and nonbinary people who wish to transition into Technology Consulting or are returning from a Career Break. If they have any skills even up to 10 years in the past, they will be eligible. It is an intense 3 months of upskilling in new technology & business processes; followed by a week of shadowing. To date, 17 women have completed the program and have been employed back into similar roles. One candidate almost did not apply because “I felt obsolete after just one year out of the tech industry, so I think my biggest challenge was the fear that even if I re-skilled I would still be considered unemployable.”

They offer an award-winning graduate program that is known for recruiting a gender-balanced intake. When asked, Janani D’Silva explains that they do not use a quota system mandating a certain number of female hires, instead, they have ‘targets with bite’, provide unconscious bias training, ensure a gender-balanced interview panel, and education for interviewers to not look for culture fit, but for culture add, challenge their beliefs on what ‘good’ looks like and know that diversity of thinking and backgrounds is critical to the successful tech solutions they as teams co-create with clients.

To help individuals have the working environment they need the team at Capgemini is thinking of everything. They want all their team members to feel safe, valued and respected. What does this really mean? Most offices offer a combination of non-gender bathrooms, breastfeeding rooms and faith rooms. To accommodate the new hybrid work they have collaboration spaces and quiet workspaces, private offices and open areas.

For those individuals going through a gender change, they are given additional leave to allow them time off,  their team members are trained to be respectful and they are gifted $2000 to spend on a new wardrobe.

It would seem like they have all bases covered. However, the team see it as a work in progress with baby steps to try out new initiatives to ensure the whole team feel safe and respected. They still need to drive gender equity to balance the number of female mid-level leaders but with the Gender Equity Index data, their vision and processes, there is no doubt that they are well on their way to success.


If you would like to learn more about the other finalists then click this link.

Shining the Spotlight on the Quiet Achievers

Shining the Spotlight on the Quiet Achievers

All too often, when you hear about inspirational leadership, you mostly hear from those naturally comfortable with shining a spotlight on their achievements.

Not so with Salesforce’s Angelica Veness, a Manager of Solution Engineering and recently a finalist in the Business in Heels Gender Equity Awards. Angelica is well-known for striving to ensure her team is clearly heard and widely recognised for their united and individual achievements.

Not content to support only the individual, she takes a holistic approach to management by identifying knowledge gaps or ideas that would benefit the entire team.

Angelica believes building your brand is essential to career development and progression. But not long ago, she discovered that several women in her team were uncomfortable with seeing themselves as a ‘brand’, believing it to mean they needed to shout from the rooftops about the great work they were doing. Instead, Angelica reframed it as being about being more intentional and knowing how best to influence and lead.

This discovery motivated Angelica to design and organise a bespoke training workshop called “Brand Building. What’s your brand, why is it important, and how do you build it?” Through this course and Angelica’s leadership, individuals could clearly understand the benefits of seeing themselves as a brand to improve their reputation and learn tangible ways they could start to build it.

Angelica has been in the technology industry for the last two decades, and in that time, she has been one of the few, if not only, women in the room. Today she loves her job at Salesforce. It’s the first time she’s worked for a female CEO, with Pip Marlow as the CEO of ANZ and ASEAN at Salesforce, and for a company that actively strives to give women a place and voice at the table. Angelica says, “It’s incredibly motivating and inspiring to see women at all levels within Salesforce, as it gives me the courage and belief that someday I could be there too.”

Salesforce believes everyone should feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work. To support this, Salesforce employees have built several internal equality groups centred around shared life experiences or backgrounds and their allies. Their mission is to make equality a reality inside Salesforce and in the communities where we live and work.

One of these groups is the Salesforce Women’s Network (SWN), of which Angelica is a dedicated member. SWN’s mission is to build gender equality and foster inclusion in the workplace and beyond through empowering, supporting, and investing in Salesforce’s global community for women and their allies. Through SWN, Angelica mentors emerging leaders: “I find it incredibly rewarding to give back to the community, particularly through internal career mentoring and some of our not-for-profit partners such as Thread Together, Dress for Success and Good 360.”

Salesforce team


In addition to her involvement with SWN, Angelica leads the Women in Solution Engineering (WISE) group, a specialised community of women in solutions and their allies to inspire diverse perspectives that attract and amplify talent, incubate ideas, and create opportunities. With WISE, she’s coordinated several Salesforce employee volunteering days (Salesforce offers employees an above-average VTO benefit of seven business days each year.)  Recently, Angelica’s team supported Thread Together, a not-for-profit that saves last season, new clothing from large retailers which would otherwise go to landfill and provides it to people in need.

A big focus of Salesforce is education for underserved communities. Salesforce is a longtime partner of Schools Plus, an organisation that supports teachers in delivering programs to help children facing disadvantaged success at school. It’s also a partner of CareerTrackers, an organisation that creates pathways for Indigenous young Australian adults to attend and graduate from university and gain industry experience. In addition to financial support for these organisations, Salesforce leaders like Angelica volunteer to run programs, such as Design Thinking, in a fun and entertaining way (think Zombie Apocalypse scenario games!).

Angelica has drawn a great deal of inspiration from Pip Marlow’s leadership. One of Pip’s core leadership goals is to create a space of psychological safety so people feel they can speak up and ask her absolutely anything without fear. Angelica is passionate about bringing this energy to her team, and for her, it all starts with open communication. The team sits down regularly to discuss what they want to start, stop and continue, which then becomes a social contract outlining the best way to thrive as a team.

As our conversation draws to a close, one message Angelica wants to ensure others hear is the value of your tribe. For Angelica, this means finding mentors you can trust and talk openly to. Gone are the days of women needing to compete for only one spot at the table. We need to be working harder to lift each other up.


If you would like to learn more about the other finalists then click this link.

The Power of Giving back

The Power of Giving back

Divya Pasupuleti, Executive Manager at nbn, has been working extensively throughout her career to champion gender equity across countries. As a female from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, she is extremely passionate about creating equal opportunities for women in the Australian workforce. So, it comes as no surprise then that she was a finalist in the Gender Equity Awards – Recalibrate.

For Divya, it all started in India with her father, a doctor, who instilled the value of giving back to the community. He was known for providing support to those less fortunate and in need, through free medical camps. With such a great role model in her life, it was only natural that Divya would want to contribute too. While at school, she took the initiative to work for ‘Divya Disha’, a Not-for-Profit organisation (NFP) with UNICEF, that championed women’s and children’s rights, especially those from socio-economically diverse backgrounds. Despite her young age, it was not long before she became president of the South India chapter.

“Back in my home country, India, I was very fortunate to be brought up in an environment where equality and diversity was celebrated, and I was actively encouraged by my parents to challenge biases, call out discrimination and practice active inclusion,” says Divya. However, she quickly realised that most of her childhood peers did not have the same liberal upbringing, many of whom were encouraged to marry at a young age or deprioritise higher education and a career to meet societal expectations. At a young age, Divya recognised the need for gender equality in society and the workplace and the importance of advocating through equity. For the past two decades, this has been her driver and she has worked extensively to champion gender equity across countries.

In Australia, her early career was with a leading telecommunications organisation, where she was often in a male dominated environment and the only female in the room. When faced with challenging situations and inappropriate behaviours coming with inequity and biases, she recalls some of the early advice she was given at the time was ‘learning to deal with it’. Whilst this advice did help her build the courage and confidence to manage situations as they occurred, she says “it requires much more than women ‘dealing with it’ to fix the problem – it needs colleagues and managers calling out biases, it needs education and awareness, and efforts of the entire work ecosystem”. Divya notes that whilst, these days, there is much more awareness and support in the workplace, there is still a lot more to be done to ensure a fair, respectful, and inclusive playing field for women across all organisations and industries.

Divya has had a stellar career to become an Executive Manager at nbn with responsibility for Strategy, Performance and Operations for Business Segment. She reflects that she sometimes has faced imposter syndrome, wondering if she deserves the professional success and achievements she has experienced, or if she just happened to be ‘in the right place at the right time’. She notes that her imposter syndrome doesn’t stem from a lack of confidence in her abilities but rather from years of exposure to systemic practices and conditioning. “When you don’t often see culturally and linguistically diverse women like yourself thriving or succeeding in a career path you’re on, you tend to question if you belong there,” says Divya. This is why she strongly believes in the power of role modelling, mentoring and hearing the stories of other women who have faced similar challenges. Today, she feels more confident in her ‘skin’, but it has taken several years to achieve this.

For many women of diverse cultural backgrounds, she notes there is often a ‘double-glazed glass ceiling’ in the workplace, which can be doubly hard to crack. For this reason, she actively works to champion diversity and mentors to build confidence in other women. At nbn, Divya leads the Events & Opportunities pillar for nbn Equals, a committee sponsored by Executive leaders to support gender strategy and equity in the workplace. Divya has delivered multiple events within nbn, supporting employees on critical topics including career progression, mentoring, and support at important life stages, such as parental leave and busting the stigma around it. She is very proud of the ‘When She Talks’ program she started that shares unfiltered stories of women’s career journeys, which she personally finds enlightening and uplifting.

With a mission to give back to her community, Divya lobbied on the board of the not-for-profit organisation, Arts Assist, with the goal to make it more diverse. It was largely a homogenous group when she joined, with less than a quarter female representation. She soon became Secretary of the Board and has been responsible for leading the strategic direction of the organisation. Divya spearheaded several initiatives, but closest to her heart is the one to diversify the board, resulting in more than 50% gender representation. She is very proud that the current board is not just gender diverse but includes diverse industry experience, cultural backgrounds and lived experiences. “It definitely was not easy and required having many challenging conversations over the last four years,” she says. Having a diverse board has enabled Arts Assist to access and disburse grants to local artists and community groups, ensuring multicultural groups are represented.

Divya continued to take on more board and advisory roles.  As the Non-Executive Director for Project Management Institute (PMI Melbourne), she is very proud of the initiative she delivered in 2021, where project managers were connected to charities and NFPs in Victoria, on a pro-bono basis to deliver community critical projects. More than 1,500 hours of volunteering were allocated to the amazing work of charities such as Wildlife Victoria, Leprosy Mission, Humour Foundation and Cultural Infusion, resulting in enormous community benefits. In her role as an Advisory Committee Member for the National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO), she provides advice to the Board and Executive team on strategy, especially from an intersectionality lens.

When asked what is next, Divya is excited to be playing a pivotal role in leading and governing the 2022-2025 Gender Equity Strategy for nbn. She is a strong advocate of the culture nbn has built to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace that helps its people bring their whole selves to work. She is proud of the work nbn is doing to be a leader in the Australian landscape for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace.

There is no doubt that Divya will seek out more community involvement, as clearly the power of giving back is what motivates her. Her advice to others who want to make a difference? “Don’t try to fit in, be proud of being different and own it.”

If you would like to learn more about the other finalists then click this link.

An Affinity for Infinity

An Affinity for Infinity

Amazon’s mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company, and this mission is central to their work in inclusion, diversity, and equity. “We are committed to doing our part to ensure all technology is developed in a way that’s inclusive, diverse, and equitable in all aspects, including gender,” says Michelle Hardie, Head of Strategy, Operations, Enablement and Engagement. “Inclusive, diverse, and equitable teams have a positive impact on our products and services, and help us better serve customers.”

Amazon Web Services is part of the Amazon group of companies, ranging from household names like Audible, Amazon Prime and To create a feeling of connectedness and inclusion, Amazon created Affinity Groups. “The thirteen Affinity Groups comprise over 90,000 Amazonians across hundreds of chapters around the world who passionately and positively impact our company, each with an executive sponsor that ensures these groups are engaging at every level of the company,” comments Michelle. Some examples of Amazon’s affinity groups include the Black Employee Network, Glamazon (Amazon’s LGBTQI+ Affinity Group), Indigenous @Amazon, Women at Amazon, Mental Health and Well-Being and Amazon People with Disabilities.

Through these groups, employees learn of different individuals’ journeys, their careers and how they arrived at where they are today. This is done through events including “a day in the life of,” panel discussions and social networking. These events provide a combination of inspiration and practical how-to knowledge which individuals can then explore with their mentors. The outcome is a supported and engaged workforce as there is so much opportunity and scope for growth.

The Affinity Groups are also voices advocating for change. One of their notable achievements has been to have breast feeding rooms installed in offices. Another was to change the office space in the wake of COVID to include both a library space where a team can work in quiet and a casual breakout space where teams can brainstorm.

For individuals keen to drive change and make a difference, there is the AWS Inclusion Ambassadors Program which was developed to quickly and broadly amplify the inclusion and diversity work being done at AWS. The Inclusion Ambassadors Program helps employees connect with others who share their interest in becoming allies, advocates, and agents of change. “Ambassadors drive communications for culture-enhancing events such as inclusion forums, accessibility labs, and town hall conversations happening within our organisation,” says Michelle.

Another internal initiative designed to support the development of senior and diverse leaders is the ‘Sponsor for Success’ program which provides employees with a sponsor from another country designed to encourage and create opportunities for the individual to progress.

Not all the work on diversity and inclusion is focused internally. The team at AWS are passionate about creating the future pipeline of young women into the technology industry. They have formed community collaborations with Code Like a Girl and the Tech Girls Movement Foundation, as well as creating community events like the AWS Girls In Tech Day, where schoolgirls are inspired and can explore technology and potential career pathways. One AWS team member, a new graduate, could not believe her luck in being able to spend a day sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with Year 8 & 9 school students. The opportunity to “open their eyes” to the possibilities was very rewarding.

At a recent Girls in Tech community event, Michelle Hardie shared her experience of a young girl with an insatiable curiosity that kept coming back to her every half hour or so with new questions. “How had she got into an IT career?” “What subjects had she studied at school?” “How had she gone from programming to sales?” It was initially playing with the robot dog that had inspired the student’s interest and by the end of the day she was hooked. Michelle left feeling proud of AWS’s involvement and impact.

With all these initiatives it is no wonder AWS were finalists for the Gender Equity Awards, Recalibrate. It is this unique combination of employee and community engagement, externally and internally, that is both genuine and meaningful,  helping to create a huge amount of trust for employees knowing they are individually valued and have a voice where they work.

Photo names: [L to R] Saliya Katungu-Moran, Michelle Hardie, Sumal Karunanayake, Judy Cole, Jamie Simon, Sharon Rode, Nick Blamey, Mary Law, Pela Markogiannakis, Andy Hindmarch and Georgia Mitchell

If you would like to learn more about the other finalists then click this link.

Protiviti Amps up Inclusivity to Improve Equity for All

Protiviti Amps up Inclusivity to Improve Equity for All

Global management consulting companies often pride themselves on their consistent approach to gender equality in various countries while achieving mixed results across the board. Rather than following this pattern, Protiviti has taken a unique approach to build an inclusive workplace culture in Australia by working to adapt to the unique needs of their people. In this way, they are working to support all people to feel valued with a focus on those groups that are not well supported or understood like our first nations people and transgender individuals.

Unconscious bias training has been pivotal in achieving their success. It has led to an acceptance that everyone has different biases. The team are now able to have robust discussions where someone can ask for help because they are concerned their approach is biased while others can call out examples which appear biased so the discussion can ensue. Ghislaine Entwisle, Protiviti MD shares that, “whilst initially it was very uncomfortable for everybody, it was very thought-provoking.” One of the great benefits is it allowed Protiviti to explore the day-to-day activities and uncover where unconscious bias most often occurs.

Chantelle Salas, HR Manager, shared that it has been the basis for great discussions in performance reviews. “In the past, the team might have been defensive. Today, the team have the tools to have a robust discussion. For instance, it is okay to say, ‘I am going to challenge this because I think your comment shows unconscious bias.’”

To take this further, they have done training to better understand the process of people changing genders. Everyone who participated was touched by the “rawness and authenticity” of those who presented it. It opened up their understanding of why publishing a person’s pronoun is so important. Ghislaine explains, “by denoting that she is a she/her it demonstrates acceptance that others can choose their pronouns without judgement.” This a powerful message for both the team and their clients.

Leading the way globally, Protiviti embarked on their Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Through the process, they came to a better understanding of first nations culture and their needs. Today, management works to support them through employment and procurement. It started with understanding and awareness. A pivotal stage was when the team reflected on what they wanted to be passionate about. One initiative was to commission a piece of artwork which encompassed their vision. Today, this is proudly displayed in their office. As they have their staff and clients at the heart of this vision, everyone was given a gift with the art. Now, many other offices have adopted this approach to dealing with their own indigenous cultures.

Management at Protiviti works hard to support their team members to succeed as individuals. They are very proud of the fact that their entire team will be considered for a pay rise, whether on leave or not, so all receive “market-relevant salaries”. Similarly, if they come across a talented person to recruit, the fact that they may be pregnant does not go against their chances of success. “It is about the best person for the role and being in it for the long haul,” says Chantelle.

Stacey D’Cruze, Associate Director, commented on Protiviti’s culture “I was 22 weeks pregnant when I started at Protiviti. To be given the opportunity to advance my career and become a parent in the same year felt like a dream. The support and flexibility I have received from senior leaders and the team before, during and after maternity leave is a testament to Protiviti’s great culture and inclusivity.”

Accordingly, their parental leave policies are very inclusive and family friendly. They have changed the wording so there is no distinguishing between primary and secondary carers resulting in the same paid benefits available to all parents within the first 24 months of childbirth or placement. This has led to increased adoption by both the men and non-birth parents in the team and those that would have traditionally been described as secondary carers. For Chantelle whose partner is pregnant “the introduction of their gender-neutral parental leave policy, allows the same paid leave benefit for both birth parents and their partner. Along with the flexibility and choice to take the leave in a manner that suits employees and their families. I am lucky enough to work for a company that recognises and supports that both parents play an active role when it comes to parenting and I look forward to being able to take time off with my partner as we both navigate being a parent”.

Another great initiative is the bonus 20 days return to work premium each employee receives to use within the first 6 months of returning from parental leave. This suits some employees to initially work 3 days and get paid for 5 days using the return-to-work premium. 

As you can imagine with these parental leave initiatives, their open recruitment and inclusivity policies, Protiviti had become a great place for women to work. Like many other finalists in the Gender Equity Awards, their approach to solving female issues has created a workplace culture that embraces the diverse and is openly inclusive for all.