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Hands-on plan to tip tech gender imbalance

By Avina Vidyadharan

September 13, 2023

In a world increasing tech-driven, half of the population make up only a third of the workers.

But a tech day for school girls is helping them see themselves in the digital opportunities around them.

Year 9-11 girls from Cambridge High and Te Awamutu College visited Rocketspark for ShadowTech day to get hands-on experience working in a digital company.

ShadowTech Day, delivered by TechWomen and supported by NZTech, saw nearly 50 organisations in Hamilton, Cambridge, Wellington, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin and Auckland offer opportunities to 600 girls across the country to spend a day shadowing tech experts.

Technology teacher at Cambridge High, Anna Voss, said the workshop was one way to break down some of the barriers for women in the “conventional male industry”.

The gender bias wasn’t intentional, but it had been marketed in that light at multiple levels, she said.

“That is just the way society has evolved.

“These women are seeing other women who have taken the path and know that it is available to them.”

Voss was the only female a third of her classes at university studying back-end programming in the 2000s.

“Most women in technology didn’t know about it till year 12, 13 or university.

“So we really wanted to capture these years nine and 10 students, when they’re younger to make them realise that this is a genuine life path for you.”

Nicole Bowkett, web developer at Rocket Space, ran the workshop. She was the only woman in a team of six web developers in her office.

Bowkett said she did not get this opportunity to learn about designing at high school and it was “really exciting to be able to watch them experience and learn a bit more about what there is before they have to make career decisions later in high school”.

She was one of the 13% of female students studying technology at the university who graduated in 2021.

It was a male-dominated field “in terms of numbers,” she said.

“But a lot more women are joining now, which is nice.

“You’re told, like, ‘yeah, you could be a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer or a firefighter or things like that’.

“Be a web developer, doesn’t come up in that.”

Executive director at TechWomen NZ Yvonne Gill said their purpose was to encourage more women into tech, keep them in the field and progress them into more senior roles.

“At the moment, women are under represented in tech.

“Our research shows only 29% of the tech workforce is female.

“And that kind of starts at the education level because at NCEA level there’s only 40% of girls taking those subjects and then going through into tertiary, but only 24% are graduating from IT degrees and courses.”

Gill said the gap was a “bit of a perception issue”.

“It takes a lot of time to change those kinds of ingrained perceptions and see that come through to the workforce.”

The aim of ShadowTech was to give students a bit of an experience, “if students see the work, then hopefully they can maybe see themselves doing that in the future”.

Source: Waikato Times

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.