As one of New Zealand's leading digital disrupters and the recently crowned HubSpot APAC Partner of the Year, our team at Hype & Dexter is no stranger to making waves in the technology industry. But one of our biggest achievements and commitments to making an impact that we've made as a business, is to increase the representation of women in the tech industry.
For the team at Hype & Dexter, diversity in all senses has always been an important focus of our company culture, as exemplified by one of our internal values: "Embrace Different". As part of that, we're proud to have a team that's made up of 48% amazing women who are passionate about the tech industry, ranging from copy and design creatives, to CRM and Data specialists.
Today, it's March 8th, 2021: International Women's Day. There's no better time to look back at how far we've come as a business and the impactful results we've seen off the back of our team's efforts, spearheaded by the brilliant 'woman in tech' herself, Romi Dexter.
Here's a timeline some of the initiatives we've been chipping away at thus far. We're very proud of how far we've come, and are even more excited about where we're headed – watch this space!
2017: Romi's Role in the Inception of H&D
Meet Romi Dexter, our COO, Founder and undeniably bad-ass and inspirational director who's been at the helm of this ship since it's very inception - and when we say inception, we mean inception. Romi is also a super-mum of sorts. The birth of Hype & Dexter coincided with the birth of her second child, which made for a pretty interesting 12 months or so.
In fact, Romi quit her job a month before going on maternity leave, then started dealing with what would become H&D's first client while she was in labour (eek). While on maternity leave, Romi did a lot of training and research around the pre-planning stages of setting up the business, all while juggling the needs of a toddler and newborn. Romi herself credits her husband Pete for being an absolute hero when it comes to support - and she's no stranger to the feelings of guilt that come along with being a mum and a career woman simultaneously.
"I regularly have that underlying feeling that I’m letting one side down, though. Mum guilt is huge and it’s something that as females we have to stop... Every family is different and every family has different levels of support. I don’t balance work and home life well enough (I don’t think many people think they do). But my kids are thriving, the business is thriving and everyone is happy and healthy. The house is a mess but you’ve got to let something go!" - Romi Dexter
With over 20-years in the tech industry working with big brands and businesses like TVNZ, Microsoft, Telstra, Vodafone, Microsoft and NZME under her belt, Romi not only has a wealth of experience in all things technology, but also a personal experience of the underlying gender equity issues that present themselves from time to time. These moments are no doubt familiar to so many women in the industry and beyond and spark that drive to make a difference.
[Gender inequity] was most telling a few years ago I went to a Computer Society anniversary in Rotorua. The people at my table started introducing themselves then someone asked me, “So, whose wife are you?” . I was like, “... wow.” At the time, I was running my own successful digital business. I’d been a successful senior technologist for some of the top digital properties and I’d managed some of the best product development teams in the country. It was interesting because the subject matter of a lot of that conference was that we needed more females in that space, yet the immediate assumption from some of my peers in the industry was that I was somebody’s wife, it was quite amusing. - Romi Dexter
It's these unique experiences combined with Romi's unmatched digital chops that make her such an asset and respected leader to the H&D team. For the women in the business, we can all confidently agree that Romi has played a huge role in inspiring us and prioritising professional development, and as a business as a whole, we've all had that moment in a room with Romi where you just sit back and think "WOW, her brainpower is something else".
Happy International Women's Day and hats off to you Romi 🎓🎉
EOY 2017 - 2018: Our First Female Hires!
A short few months after H&D was launched and began making it's mark in the APAC tech space, we were ready to hire! All four directors set out to fill the very first roles available with the top minds in each respective space, and we welcomed Maddie, Karen, Camilla and Olivia to our team – three of whom are still here all these years later!
These hires created the foundations for what would eventually grow into a fully fledged initiative to bring in the best talent, give equal opportunities and nurture women in the business through personal and professional development - and eventually would result in around 15 more female hires and a wonderfully diverse workspace.
Maddie recently commented on the impact that Romi and H&D have made on her career from the very beginning:
Romi would attend my national hockey games, which made me feel supported in an outside of work context, and in turned pushed me to succeed at work. For example, after coming to my hockey games she would identify and encourage me to apply the skills she saw when I was playing and framed it in a work sense - always recognising potential from unconventional or outside or work situations to grow my confidence. - Maddie Dowe
2019: The Internal Women in Tech Initiative Launch
It was around 2019 that the women in the workplace first received an out-of-the-blue calendar invite from Romi to attend a monthly Women in Tech meeting. Here, we were offered a safe space to share our experiences within the business and the industry, have dedicated time with Romi to ask questions, seek advice and develop plans for the future of women within the business.
Back then, it was a tight-knit group of only about eight of us and a casual affair, but it would soon grow in numbers, direction and impact, and be the starting point for ongoing initiatives to be supported by the wider business.
2020: The Fruits of our Labour Come to Life
Right in the middle of the very first COVID-19 lockdown, all of the women in the business jumped on a Google Hangouts call from their respective lounges, home offices and bedrooms, and something had changed. COVID had a collective affect on everyone in the business, and forced people to consider what was genuinely important and how they wanted to spend their time and efforts.
Romi pulled up a slide show she'd prepared and we began to formalise our processes as an official group: "H&D Women in Tech". We dreamed up goals, outcomes and actions and formulated a plan. We identified gaps in the business where there was inequality, and discussed ways in which we'd love to be upskilled and developed and how we could make that happen. One of the best outcomes of this meeting was the inception of the Women in Tech Internship Program which would come to life just under a year later.
From then on out, our Women in Tech meetings became structured and regular, facilitated each time by a different woman in the business, and contributed to by everyone.
H&D Hits 50/50 Ratio of Men to Women Employees
It was around mid-2020 when Hype and Dexter hit the milestone of a 50/50 ration of male to female employees - a goal that many companies strive for in industries that are lesser impacted by gender inequality. The best part? We did it by hiring the best of the best and following the genuine intentions of our leadership team in creating a company culture that welcomes everyone and encourages diversity through action and intent. What an accomplishment.
We introduce the Brilliant Anna Burda to the Senior Leadership Team
As identified by our Women in Tech group, we felt as a collective that the Senior Leadership Team was lacking in female representation. Naturally, we were all thrilled to hear that Anna Burda, our wonderful CMS Team Lead had been made a Senior Leadership Team member thanks to her technical brilliance and natural aptitude for leadership. As Anna puts herself:
I can confidently say I have always felt supported throughout my journey at H&D and my voice has always been heard. This, I think, is critically important for professional and personal development. Being listened to and given a platform to share your experiences and lead makes you feel empowered and able to reach your full potential. - Anna Burda
This is an amazing step in the right direction for our organisation, acknowledging that it's not just about getting women into tech, but enabling them to develop as leaders at the top, too. We're excited to see who's next to follow in Anna's footsteps!
Mentorship Framework Developed and Finalised
With our Women in Tech internship plans coming into fruition, Romi called our team into a meeting to go through a thorough mentorship framework that she'd carefully designed to ensure that our future female interns felt as supported and enabled as possible, but also, that our internal team got the most out of our mentorship program.
It's processes and frameworks like these that really showcase how committed Romi is to genuinely making a difference - always going above and beyond to make sure everyone benefits from our initiative and that we make the biggest splash.
"Embrace Different" Becomes an Official Company Value
"We welcome unique personalities, qualities and abilities.
We foster relationships to learn, listen and evolve. And we seek out new and diverse ideas."
We even have a beautifully designed logo for it too - need we say more?
2021: Women in Tech Internship Launch
The most exciting achievement and the first tangible and impactful outcome of a years' worth of Women in Tech meetings: The Women in Tech Internship launch.
The purpose of the WIT internship is to give high-achieving year 13 girls an opportunity to gain work experience in the technology space with guidance from female mentors who are thriving in the industry.
The long term goal of increasing the representation of women in the tech sector through participation in the program.
Four female high school leavers will joined H&D team for a four week, paid period. During this time, they were accompanied by a mentor from the team who was there every step of the way to answer questions, give insights, and to help cultivate a positive experience for the interns during their time at H&D.
Throughout the process, the interns had a chance to try their hand across all areas of the business, shadow team members, and get a feel for 'a day in the life' of working in a tech company. They had full reign to follow their interests and gain experience in areas they'd potentially like to work in, in the future.
What did our interns walk away with?
- A valuable experience in the technology industry, with full control of choose either an area of interest to specialise in and shadow, or a more generalist 'feel for the industry' experience
- A written reference and CV experience to support their future career endeavours
- A professional photo to be used on CV and LinkedIn profiles
- One on one mentoring including daily stand-ups, weekly meetings to review progress, challenges and learnings from the week prior, followed by an end of internship review
- Career advice and guidance from peers in roles relevant to the aspirations of interns
We think one of our interns, Salote Tuitavuki, summed up her experience best:
I never was interested in the tech industry as I thought it was just numbers and computers everywhere. I thought people would look like nerds and have glasses, like they show in the movies. I thought it was all men, and that's why I didn't really want to explore tech, but when I came here I saw that there were actually a lot more women and it wasn't what I expected. - Salote Tuitavuki
You can read more about the Women in Tech internship in detail, here.
Future Relationship with James Cook High Cemented
Most recently and after the successful implementation of our very first Women in Tech Internship program, Romi sat down with James Cook High history teacher and Black Civil Rights Fulbright scholar Roydon Agent, to discuss a future relationship and how we could work together to make a bigger impact for young and aspiring women in lower decile areas.
To say the least, both sides of the partnership left the meeting feeling inspired and excited about the future of the program, that impact it will continue to make for students, and other opportunities to work together, from presentations to one-off shadow sessions.
We can't wait to see where we go from here.
So where to, now?
As we look back on all of the accomplishments of Romi and her outstanding leadership, individuals in our team, and our team as a whole, we have already come so far and created some amazing change - and we're thrilled to say there are still many things in the works! Watch this space for more updates, but until then...