Making a difference for women in the Australian Internet industry

By on 17 Mar 2023

Category: Community

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Narelle Clark raising questions at APRICOT 2023.

If you have ever googled ‘women, Internet industry, Australia’ you would know that the search returns nothing very significant or useful. Looking at the Internet Association of Australia (IAA) member cohort as a guide, our current membership is approximately 90% male. While we certainly value our members, it is alarming to see how under-represented women are in our industry.

There is a long history of significant contributions by women to the Internet — Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Hedy Lamarr, Joyce Reynolds, Radia Perlman — to name a few. Australia has some great female leaders too; one, in particular, is our CEO, Narelle Clark.

Narelle once told us during a team meeting about a job she had in the early days of her career. She had just had another child and upon her return to work was made to feel that she had to choose between being a mother or working full-time. There was no in-between option offered.

Thankfully, she had a good friend who knew of her technical skills and offered her an opportunity to work part-time supporting the fledgling Internet network for the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and in turn, the whole of AARNet’s New South Wales’ network, hosting all the educational facilities connected to the Internet at the time (not to mention a few banks and others — remember this was virtually the only Internet in Australia at the time). Moving from the biomedical lab to network engineering to becoming a prominent Internet industry expert, Narelle has often been the only woman in the room.

Those early Internet days in the university context — where she observes there were plenty of technical women — set her up well for a successful and fulfilling career.

So we asked ourselves, ‘how can we be advocates for positive change and bring more women into our industry?’. Our solution is the IAASysters program.

IAASysters is based on the international systers@ietf and ISOC fellowship programs and is designed to support women in their Internet industry careers in Australia. The program runs across three days and comprises a one-day workshop and a two-day industry conference.

The IAASysters Workshop is a day to focus on personal and professional growth. Attendees have the opportunity to hear from Internet experts, and a career coach who will take them through a career planning session. We also host different speakers year-on-year but continue to focus on building presentation and other skills and helping the Systers create their professional network.

This program also offers sponsored attendees the opportunity to attend the biggest annual two-day conference in the Australian Internet industry calendar — AusNOG. This will enhance the attendees’ technical understanding and skills and help them grow their professional network by meeting other professionals in the industry.

If you know anyone that would benefit from IAASysters, let them know about it and encourage them to apply before applications close on Friday, 28 April 2023, 17:00 (UTC +10).

If your organization would like to join us and make a difference for women in the industry in Australia, we have a range of sponsorship options.

In true IAA style, we work for the benefit of the Internet and the people who build and operate it; this includes supporting the talented women who have always been and continue to be part of the Internet fabric, and running the IAASysters program is just the beginning!

Emily Gallarde is a Digital Marketing and Communications professional currently working in the Internet industry in Australia. 

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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