The topic of women in technology will be on the table in April as NZTech hosts a Women in Technology summit, with the aim of coming up with tangible outcomes rather than just providing a talk fest and networking opportunity.
Jen Rutherford, NZTech director of member and government relations, says the industry body aims to differentiate the event with a focus on trying to drive a policy outcome or tangible actions to advance women.
“We want to really work on the challenges and reasons and what can be done to get outcomes and change the situation,” Rutherford says.
The 2013 census indicates women make up only 23% of those employed in IT occupations and only 28% of all roles across the tech sector. The number of women planning to enter the sector is also declining with only 3% of 15 year olds considering a career in computing professions.
She says there is mounting evidence that increasing the number of women in technology companies directly correlates to economic improvements, with research showing companies with diverse teams gain access to the largest possible talent pool, allowing them to benefit from the complementary perspectives and leadership styles that women bring.
“This has been clearly shown to improve profitability and returns,” she says.
Multiple studies show companies with a balance of men and women in executive roles and director positions are more successful, more profitable and perform better.
“In most companies there are few females in senior executive roles, but in tech based companies this is even lower.
“This presents us with an enormous opportunity to improve the performance of our businesses and create economic growth.”
Rutherford says any company wanting to perform at its highest level needs to reflect the market it is working in.
“Whether we like it or not, women have different views, and different thinking,” she says. Those views can add diversity for companies and reflect the views of a large proportion of customers and clients as well.
Rutherford says she’s hoping the event will attract plenty of men, as well as women.
“If we’re looking for outcomes, we need everyone to be involved. It needs to be a collective offering.”
The April 2016 event will pull together leaders from the biggest users of technology, the government and industry – including the distribution and reseller channel.
Rutherford says resellers are ‘in a pretty interesting space’ at the moment.
“They’re seeing significant changes in the market and they really need to think about their strategies.”
Not having women on their teams, could potentially see resellers missing out on opportunities, she says.
“The vendors they represent are all interested in this topic,” Rutherford notes. “And every reseller I’m talking to is looking at cloud and the change in revenue streams and trying to work out their place in this changing environment.
“Diversity – and that includes having women on the team – is one element of the strategic thinking [they need to be doing currently],” she adds.
Rutherford says while the summit is targeted at those in the technology sector, attendees 'may not consider themselves technology companies'.
"It may be that they have technology as a part of their business," she says, citing the example of some government agencies for whom technology is a critical component.
The summit is expected to look at how to help with the advancement of women through the technology sector, as well as encouraging young girls to enter the sector in the first place.
The Women in Technology Summit will be held at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.