More than half of Atlassian's graduate intake this year are women

Atlassian graduate intake of 2017 at HackHouse in Coogee, Sydney. (Source: supplied)

Atlassian is pushing hard to improve the gender balance in the $US6 billion Australian-based workplace solutions company, with women making up six in every 10 people in this year’s graduate intake.

With female representation in technology an ongoing challenge for the industry, Atlassian hopes to challenge through its graduate program.

The latest graduate intake, which underwent an induction “bootcamp” this week in Sydney, consisted of 57% women, compared to just 17% last year.

“It’s definitely something that we’ve been thinking about the last couple of years,” Caitriona Staunton, Atlassian’s Asia-Pacific head of recruiting, said.

“All of the studies show us that diverse teams in workplaces are just more creative teams. They’re better at solving more complex problems. So for us, knowing that there are those underrepresented groups in technology, it was about looking at the root causes and, in hiring, addressing those causes.”

Staunton, speaking at the HackHouse graduate training event, told Business Insider that Atlassian was focussing on three different stages – early promotion of computing to girls, removing biases in recruitment, and making the work environment inclusive.

“We looked at the causes why girls aren’t encouraged into computer science as much as boys. It wasn’t a problem in the 1980s, it’s only the last 20 years when we’ve seen the imbalance occur.”

The company has increased its exposure on-campus through university society sponsorships, formed partnerships with pro-diversity industry groups such as Girl Geeks and RailGirls, ran a “What it’s like to be a girl at Atlassian” promotional campaign and started funding a University of New South Wales Women in Engineering scholarship.

“On our process side of things, we made a lot of steps to ensure there was no bias [in recruitment] — making sure the language in our job ads was gender neutral and ensuring our interviewers knew what unconscious bias was and how to recognise it.”

Atlassian has found itself at the centre of the gender balance controversy following a presentation an at its developers conference in Berlin two years ago.

The staffer, who still works for the company, compared development tool Maven to his girlfriend during his presentation to a crowd of software engineers.

He said that Maven, although she looks beautiful, “complains a lot, demands my attention, interrupts me when I’m working” and “doesn’t play well with my other friends”.

An attendee leaked a photo of the presentation slide, with people criticising him for alienating women at the conference (and in the tech industry), comparing a woman to an object, and perpetuating stereotypes.

That presentation in 2014. (Twitter/Marko Saha)

At this week’s bootcamp, this year’s class of 28 graduates – labelled Gradlassians — were trained in the company’s values and procedures. They were challenged with “hacking” Atlassian products and in the end participating in a contest that the company calls ShipIt -– where ideas that solve real customer problems are pitched to peers to be voted on.

“It’s an intense but fun week. They get a lot from it,” Staunton said.

Most graduate staffers at Atlassian have just completed undergraduate degrees, with many having worked there previously as interns. Among this year’s class of 28, 10 were already working full-time at the company, 8 are returning after past internships and 10 are coming in fresh to the startup.

“We just started an intern programme last year, and it was a phenomenal way for us to attract the best and brightest at that stage before they get snapped up elsewhere,” Staunton said.

Atlassian was founded in 2002 by Sydneysiders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes. The company floated on the NASDAQ in December 2015, for which Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes were named at the top of Business Insider Tech 100, and this month pulled off one of the biggest acquisitions in Australian tech history with its $US425 million purchase of Trello.

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