The global quest to attract women into the technology field continues to struggle, and closer to home New Zealand’s efforts are not going unnoticed.
The Ministry for Women has released a new guide called Decoding Diversity, which seeks to encourage girls and women into the education.
The guide lists a number of ways people can attract and retain women to technology, and also includes real-life stories from students about some of the issues they face.
“My parents tried to talk me out of it [tech] because they haven’t used it [tech] in their job, but when they realised I was doing stuff I could actually use, such as building websites, and they realised digital technology paid a lot, they were supportive,” one statement says.
NZTech national director of government relations Andrea Hancox says that attracting and retaining women in technology is a major issue, but she is passionate about the task.
“Studies show more diverse organisations deliver better revenue and profitability, a clear sign tech is a great career for women,” she says.
The guide also hints that stereotypes and stigma are still an issue for students: “A stereotype still exists that jobs in digital technology are unsuitable for women.”
“A guest speaker at high school started talking about race car suspension, but then changed his example to baby bouncers because ‘he was at a girls’ school’,” another example says.
NZTech, the Ministry for Women and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will soon launch a further initiative to encourage women to become part of the tech workforce.
“The business case for greater gender balance is strong. Tech firms that have equal number of women and men are up to 40 percent more profitable. Women make up 51 percent of the population,” Hancox says.
NZTech chief Graeme Muller agrees that bringing women into tech isn’t just about New Zealand’s future, it’s about exciting and inspiring women at the same time.
“The first challenge is to inspire and excite more students, parents, teachers and principals about digital technology and the opportunities it creates for fulfilling careers,” he explains.
Hancox adds that tech businesses also have responsibilities to show their capabilities.
“Tech companies often don’t reflect the customers they are trying to sell to and therefore under-represent their reach and capabilities,” she says.
She is asking businesses, schools and families to encourage women into technology, and says it will bring positive economic benefits for New Zealand.
“Feedback from a lot of young women I have spoken to, say there are often only a few other females in their tech class. They are often assigned the less technical tasks by their male students making them feel less valued. This must change. If tech is what young women want to study then go it. It will be a fantastic and highly-paid career.
Decoding Diversity is aimed at school teachers, university lecturers, industry professionals, employers, recruiters, students, parents, code club volunteers, community group leaders and career advisors.
“We need to look at parents, teachers, principals, career guidance counsellors and caregivers what advice are they giving young women today on their career choices when they leave school. What do they know about the technology sector and why it’s so important to encourage students to consider a career in tech,” Hancox concludes.