TechWomen

#PressforProgress for more diversity in tech

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This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #PressForProgress and with good reason. Unfortunately, data shows that the gender gap is widening across the globe, instead of taking 170 years to close the gap at the current rate of progress, it is estimated that gender parity across the world will take over two centuries.

New Zealand has a lot to be proud of in leading the world in gender representation as for the second time in history the three highest positions of authority in our country are held by women including Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias. Historically we also have Kate Sheppard who 125 years ago lead New Zealand women to be first in the world to have the right to vote.

On the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report New Zealand ranks 9th overall when we include, education, health and political empowerment, but this does not mean we don’t still have work to do, especially in promoting more gender diversity in Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM).

Globally women tend to be under represented in STEM, the recently released 2018 Stack Overflow Developers Survey results had only 6.8% female respondents, with interesting insights on things people prioritise when considering roles, where female survey respondents rank the following as the most important considerations for a new role:

  1. the office environment or company culture.
  2. opportunities for professional development.
  3. the languages, frameworks, and other technologies I’d be working with.

Meanwhile, male respondents listed the following as their most important considerations:

  1. the compensation and benefits offered.
  2. the languages, frameworks, and other technologies I’d be working with.
  3. opportunities for professional development.

In New Zealand, the Decoding Diversity Report from the Ministry for Women states there are less women studying ICT than men, citing figures from 2015 where out of 1600 people in New Zealand who earned ICT degrees only 350 of these were awarded to women. A recent MYOB report on Women in Tech highlights that in New Zealand, just 23% of tech roles are filled by women and men are twice as likely to study IT than women. The MYOB report also highlights need to make IT an inviting career choice for young women as according to this report only 3% of 15 year old girls surveyed would consider an IT career. This is why TechWomen is focussed on inspiring girls into technology to support the growth of women in tech roles and to help develop policy and actions for improving diversity in the tech workplace.

Each year on 8 March, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day and in many countries March is also recognised as Women’s History Month. This year TechWomen wanted to do something new by running three simultaneous lunchtime events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to celebrate diversity. Our events featured female and male speakers and over 250 people attend all three events where speakers shared their personal perspectives on ‘When Diversity Counts’.

At the Auckland event our speakers stories had a depth to them that was both inspiring and insightful. BNZ’s Emma Oettli shared how her background in accounting enabled her to bring a new perspective to the analytical teams she leads as Head of Lean Analytics at BNZ, where there is not only a focus on diversity in skills, but also gender balance. Emma shared her journey of bringing people with multi discipline skills and experience together in dedicated co-located cross functional teams including data scientists, data engineers, insights analyst, customer experience design leads and scrum masters in a purpose built space known as The Bridge. This focus on diversity has enabled her team to drive value by moving ‘data to insight – to action – at pace’ within their first year as a team.

Vaughan Rowsell of Vend, shared a personal story of how his mother inspired him to always do more and be more. From the time when she invested in his future, buying him his first computer, to how for the last ten years he has set himself personal challenges which have seen him cycle the length of New Zealand and then Around the World in 80 days. Vaughan shared his inspiration for founding the charity OMGTech! which provides kids with opportunities to learn about technology. He explained how they promote gender balance with each OMGTech! student intake, where they have had almost 5000 kiwi children through the program and half of those students have been girls. They ensure each event has a 50/50 gender balance, by opening only 50 percent of the spaces to boys then keeping the remaining 50 percent for girls.

Sarah Jennings of Stretch Sense shared her journey from being employee number 6 (and the first female employee) making and designing custom sensors at Stretch Sense to where she is now, the Chief Operating Officer of the high tech mechatronics organisation that is committed to keeping manufacturing in New Zealand. Sarah explained how the 120 person company has a 50 percent gender balance overall, with a key to achieving this being the focus on identifying what people can do and focussing on career progression for women in the company, actively reflecting on how a team works as a whole where different backgrounds enable more innovation.

TechWomen’s newly appointed Executive Director Edwina Mistry also shared some of TechWomen’s 2018 initiatives; including ShadowTech, Return to IT, Mentoring Circles and the 100 TechWomen project.

Meanwhile in Christchurch and Wellington, Helen Shorthouse and Eva Sherwood introduced the day’s speakers; Sue Suckling, Dene Lynch, Kevin Rowland, Greg Sheehan Tui Te Hau and Nicole Ferguson. Each shared their stories of diversity and personal journeys.

Kat Kolich
TechWomen Executive

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TechWomen TechWomen is a group of passionate New Zealand tech, digital and ICT focused individuals from leading organisations that work together, with the support of NZTech, to help address the shortage of women in tech roles.