At Dicker Data, workplace flexibility has been a thing for decades.
The IT hardware and services distributor, which has been in business for 40 years, proudly says it’s grown off a foundation of “working mothers”, with women now making up 43% of staff and one-third of managers and leaders.
It seems to be working and has served the business well going into COVID-19, enabling it to respond to a boom in sales.
Recently, the business entered the ASX 300, having achieved a 20% increase in revenue last quarter.
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Dicker Data CFO and executive director Mary Stojcevski recalls accessing flexibility over 20 years ago when she started with the business, with employees able to structure their work hours to suit their availability.
As the company grew, more staff took on flexible work arrangements, including working from home and part-time work.
She says that for the business’ first 20 or so years, employees were mainly women, and predominantly mums looking to return to the workforce.
“When I first started in 1999, apart from David Dicker (the founder) the business only had 15 women employed, turning over around $100 million,” Stojcevski says.
“Most of us had young children and we were all employed on a casual basis, getting paid for the hours we could work and setting the hours around our family and personal commitments.”
Now the company is committed to creating more opportunities for women, and hopes to do so by offering and actively demonstrating how flexibility and paid parental leave is for both men and women.
Flexibility has long been part of Stojcevski’s career, which she started in the late-80s working for chartered accounting companies while studying a commerce degree at university.
She continued to work part-time while starting a young family, but recalls returning to work full-time when her kids were in preschool and kindergarten.
For a period, she juggled full-time work, studying and young kids — lasting, she says, 18 months before taking a part-time position at Dicker Data as the financial controller, initially motivated by the opportunity to work in her local area, rather than in the city.
Stojcevski was later appointed CFO in 2010, just as the company had converted to a public company and listed on the ASX.
Having now been with the business for 21 years, she says she’s grown professionally as it’s expanded, seeing every massive milestone its made and seeing it continually grow — to a base of now 500-plus people across ANZ, targeting a turnover of $2 billion in sales.
Dicker Data is now part of the Male Champions of Change (MCC) within the Microsoft Partner Group, which commits them to increase flexibility and create new career pathways and opportunities for women.
But Stojcevski says there’s more work to do.
“Whilst as an organisation, we have very good overall female representation at 43% females and a board of directors with 43% female representation, there is room for improvement in technical and operational leadership roles,” she says.
“Based on the programs and strategies that are available through MCC, we would be looking to improve our numbers in increasing female leadership representation in our technical and operational roles, and reporting on our progress to this group will hold us more accountable to see the dial move.
“Our paid parental leave policy is available to the primary carer of a child whether it is mum or dad and applies whether birth or adoption of a child.
“To be eligible for the paid parental leave must be a permanent employee or fixed-term contractor with a minimum of two years’ service. Depending on years of service, up to 12 weeks paid leave may be available up to 70% of salary capped at $100,000 salary.”
Although COVID-19 has been tough on Dicker — many staff work in a warehouse, meaning they needed to change processes and hours in order to have fewer people on location at one time — Stojcevski believes there are opportunities in the reset that the pandemic is enabling for women within the tech sector.
She believes there are opportunities for women entering tech.
“It was one of the sectors that did well during this crisis with the increasing speed of business digitalisation and shift to remote working,” she says.
“I think this pandemic has highlighted the fact that … flexible working arrangements is critical to business continuity.”
And the need “to ensure these remote environments are working efficiently, from an access, capacity and data security point of view, has created opportunities in the tech sector” too, Stojcevski explains.
She’s confident a “mainstreaming” of flexible work arrangements can shift the dial on retaining and increasing women’s participation in tech. Especially as the widespread adoption of work from home and flexible work has highlighted for men the value of such ways of working.
“They may have been missing out on this previously and may not have considered it even an option,” Stojcevski says.
“Hopefully, this shift would mean that if men and business leaders generally are adopting a more flexible way to work, then it would be supported throughout an organisation at all levels.”
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.