Women in Tech

Women in Tech: Nirit Peled-Muntz, Chief People Officer at HiBob

In today’s edition of our Women in Tech interview series, we sit down with Nirit Peled-Muntz, the Chief People Officer at HiBob, a pioneering human resources platform. Nirit’s not only rocking her role at HiBob but also making it her mission to tackle gender inequality and diversity in the workplace head-on.

At HiBob, Nirit is all about people. She ensures everyone on the team is appreciated and has their voice heard – that’s a big deal in any company! Recently, she took a big leap and kick-started a research project that digs deep into gender inequality in the workplace. This move wasn’t just a corporate decision; it stemmed from her personal passion for women empowerment and HiBob’s dedication to creating an equal playing field.

So, grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable – we’re about to dive into a thought-provoking conversation about the changing landscape of gender equality in tech, the importance of clear communication during economic downturns, and the steps we need to take towards building more equal workplaces. It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss!

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Hi Nirit, thanks for joining us today. As the chief people officer at HiBob, you commissioned research on gender equality issues in the workplace. Can you tell us more about the research, and what inspired you to conduct this study?

At HiBob, we are committed to empowering a nurturing and supportive work environment for everyone to be a part of. While the tech industry is very much still a male-dominated field, HiBob itself has strived to build a fair and equitable workforce with women making up half of our entire workforce and many in senior leadership positions. 

Women empowerment is always a cause close to my heart and as we celebrated International Women’s Day in March, it is a timely opportunity to remind every organisation that we can work together to bridge the gap for gender equality in the industry. So we decided to commission research to delve deeper into the sentiments of women and understand the type of struggles and challenges they are facing in the workplace by assessing various factors such as pay, job progression, leadership and job security.

We found that despite modest gains in representation over the last few years, women are still dramatically underrepresented in the corporate workplace and key leadership roles. In Australia, only 42% of women work full-time and just 19% of CEOs are women, 33% of management positions are filled by women, 33% of board members are women, and only 18% of board chairs are women.

The research found that only 22% of women received a promotion in 2022. Given your background in HR and talent management, what steps do you think organisations should take to ensure gender equality in promotion opportunities?

Women are less likely than men to ask for a promotion if they feel like they are not ticking all the boxes in a job description. Encouraging women to apply via talent reviews, mentoring programs and employee resource groups (ERGs) helps provide women with the extra push they need to move on to the next level.

Every organisation should also make it a point for all employees to have fair and equitable access to promotion opportunities. That means laying out policies and establishing transparent communications so that every employee is aware of when they are up for promotion, what the process is and evencrafting hiring practices so that organisations have a diverse group of employees.

HiBob’s research uncovers that over a third (33%) of respondents believe their companies are not making a visible commitment to developing more women. Ensuring diversity in senior leadership should be a priority for any organisation. This starts with ensuring that equity initiatives are in place to give everyone, regardless of background, equal opportunity to grow into senior leadership positions.

While the best candidate should always get the job, it is important that everyone is given equal opportunity to grow into positions of leadership.

Your experience includes over a decade of leadership roles in HR, including chief human resources officer at Lumos Global and senior director of human resources at IQIVA. How has your background and experience influenced your approach to addressing gender inequality in the workplace?

I started my career in a consulting firm where I saw first hand different management styles and what makes a company successful. Seeing with my own pair of eyes how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) helped to build great leaders and a positive working environment, I am a true believer in DEI and advocate for every organisation to promote DEI and see for themselves the benefits that come with it.

Fast forward, I was later working at Quintiles, which is now known as IQVIA, for over 10 years. The company had a high percentage of female leaders and staff. Being surrounded by these great minds, I was often in awe of how much wisdom, empathy, support and collaboration they brought to the table. Even then, despite having all these amazing female leaders, I was actually working to hire men because I believe that diversity is the best way to create a winning team and a healthy culture.

Through my years of experience, I also learned that the best way to increase the percentage of women in an organisation is to have other women in the workplace. So when I joined HiBob, beside making sure our adds are inclusive, I made sure women were part of the selection and interview processes, both so that female candidates would feel better and to also add a more rounded and balanced approach to the assessment.

For me, a balanced and diverse organisation is a huge factor when it comes to making a decision on your next job move.

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Your experience includes working with diverse companies ranging from startups to large companies. How can fast-growing companies ensure they are creating a culture of inclusivity and equity from the outset, rather than waiting until they have established a large workforce?

The workforce today is ever-more globalised and multi-generational. More companies are also moving towards hybrid work arrangements and operating from international locations. And so it has never been more important to build a collaborative and positive workplace culture from the onset.

I believe in giving employees the trust and flexibility to control their own time. This provides them with a chance to manage their own time and a sense of freedom and confidence to complete their tasks independently. Women are often the primary carers in the family and often have to adjust their schedules and make compromises for their families. With flexible hours, they are given the opportunity to work around their schedule and participate more in the workplace without feeling pressured.

Building a culture of inclusivity and equity as the company grows is key to making sure employees are engaged and their concerns are heard and addressed at any time. This all starts with management. As employees interact with their managers on a regular basis, managers are fundamental to your workforce’s strength. To keep employee morale high in a fast-paced environment, organisations need to make sure they are providing managers with the support and training they need to handle employees and the concerns they might have.

Technology offers a great way for organisations looking to build a culture of inclusivity and equity. Tools such as employee surveys, listening tools and real-time trends and insights play a pivotal role in understanding what employees are feeling. In fast-growing companies where things move and change rapidly, employees may be working with different groups of people on a daily basis, and so having regular pulse checks on how they are feeling while identifying red flags early is crucial for employee wellbeing and retention.

Nurturing a sense of belonging where employees are comfortable with bringing their authentic selves to work will give employees a purpose to work and be driven towards achieving greater goals. 

With 57% of women surveyed worried about being laid off amid the current economic downturn, how can employers balance the need for financial stability with the need to support and retain their female employees?

The economic downturn has kept many employees on their toes. To support and retain employees, employers should always communicate honestly with employees about the current state of the business. Unfortunately, when the economic outlook takes a downturn, leadership often gets tight-lipped about business performance and plans for the future.

It’s easy to understand why; during an economic downturn, businesses may often fall short of KPIs and quotas, and these are often not the easiest things to share. However, secrecy often results in employees overthinking, and becoming increasingly anxious about their job security, this, in turn, affects employee morale and lowers productivity. 

We never want employees to feel burdened about the company’s performance, so instead of staying silent about it, employers can be open with their people and let them know that they are falling short of expectations and have to find places to cut down on their budget to take steps to avoid layoffs.

This may be in terms of dropping some perks, instituting hiring freezes or withholding pay increments or promotions momentarily to ensure the retention of employees. While these are difficult choices to make, employees appreciate transparency and open communication regarding the challenges the company is currently facing. 

Explaining the company’s approach and supporting employees, such as providing a clear career and progression path, will allow employees to visualise their place in the company. During this period of time, employees need to know that it is okay to not be okay and that they can lean on their managers for support and share any struggles or worries they are having.

As a senior HR executive, what advice do you have for young women entering the tech industry, particularly those who may face gender inequality and discrimination?

While it might be challenging to enter an industry still heavily dominated by men, there are many things young women can do to establish themselves.

Before choosing a company, I’d recommend finding out more about the demographics of the company. Things that you should look out for include the percentage of women in the company and the women leaders in the organisation. It’s important to build your network and support system. Approach senior leaders you’d like to work with or learn from, see if they own any projects you can support, and then raise your hand to take on a role of responsibility. 

This will demonstrate your versatility and work ethic to someone who can help ensure your name is top of mind for future opportunities. I’d also advise young women to join mentorship programs and learn the ropes from distinguished leaders that match their aspirations and goals. These programs are the best way for young women in tech to learn from leaders who have similar backgrounds or experiences that are relevant to their goals and needs.

And remember, while women often feel they are underqualified or that they lack enough knowledge to enter the field, the reality is that everyone’s still learning. Having an inquisitive mindset and always looking for opportunities to learn will set you apart from your peers. So never be afraid to ask questions and build relationships and always dare to dream big — the world is your oyster.

Looking to the future, what do you think needs to be done to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for women in tech, and how can organisations work together to make this a reality?

Workplace gender equality is achieved when people have access to and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender. As we work towards achieving gender equality at work, it is imperative to take deliberate steps to close the gender gap. 

To make gender equality a reality, organisations need to take concise and proactive steps to promote and advocate for gender equality. This can be done by incorporating tools to identify and put an end to gender pay gaps and establishing employee resource groups (ERGs) to provide employees with a safe space to connect with like-minded people. 

It is also key for organisations to revisit hiring practices, put in place fair and transparent pay structures, create clear internal mobility and promotion processes for all roles, consider both men and women for senior leadership roles and importantly, encourage work-life balance and workplace flexibility.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.