To futureproof our sector, we need to seriously assess why so few women are working in ICT
MYOB calls on New Zealand’s tech sector to do more to build a more inclusive industry.
It warns the number of women working in the tech sector is likely to decline over the coming years unless significant, industry-wide action is taken to improve gender diversity.
In the MYOB Women in Tech report, the online accounting software provider outlines steps to improve gender diversity in the workplace.
MYOB general manager Carolyn Luey says the report shows just how far behind the tech sector is compared to the rest of the country.
“In recent years, New Zealand has made some significant strides in closing the gender gap – particularly in regard to health, education, the economy and politics,” says Luey.
“In fact, today there are 85 working women to every 100 working men, and almost half of all business leaders are female.”
However, Luey says the same cannot be says for the local tech sector – whose workforce is predominantly male.
“Just 23 per cent of the New Zealand workforce is female,” says Luey.
“While we fare better than many other countries, we’re a long way away from complete gender parity," says Luey.
“If New Zealand is closing the gender gap, why has the tech sector been left behind? What makes ICT different to other industries and business communities? And what can we do to catch up?”
The MYOB Women in Tech report also shows that men are twice as likely to study ICT at a tertiary level, and almost five times more likely to study engineering and related technologies.
Recent data from the Ministry of Education covered in the report reveals a similar trend. In 2015, there were only 1,445 females studying ICT, compared to 3,160 males, and only 1,675 female engineering students compared to 7,580 male students.
If NZ is closing the gender gap, why has the tech sector been left behind? What makes ICT different to other industries and business communities?
“This is a major problem for our tech sector – particularly while the country faces a major skills shortage,” warns Luey.
“To set ourselves up for the future, we need to ensure we have the people and the resources to build a progressive ICT sector that contributes to the wider New Zealand economy.”
The MYOB report interviews women leaders who are working to balance the gender scales in the tech sector.
Zoe Timbrell, founder and general manager of OMGTech!, says the gender imbalance is changing in NZ ICT- but only on the surface.
“If you look at the positions women hold in tech firms, you’ll find the majority are in marketing or HR,” says Timbrell. OMGTech! works with a national network of volunteers to run workshops, events and holiday programmes around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).
“Women are still missing from the engineering and coding divisions- and that is a problem because these jobs can lead to exciting and rewarding careers, which often pay more too.”
Women are still missing from the engineering and coding divisions - and that is a problem because these jobs can lead to exciting and rewarding careers, which often pay more too.
Timbrell says shifting the entire industry is a massive task but possible. “If we don’t focus on closing the gender gap soon we’re going to become truly divided, even more than we are now.
Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh, AUT lecturer and founder of networking and events programme She Sharp, is one such women leading change but says New Zealand lacks female role-models in its tech sector.
“You can’t be who you can’t see,” she says.
“If you can’t see yourself in your role-model, you’re never going to try to be like them.”
According to Mohaghegh, this is partly due to a perception issue – a deeply ingrained cultural view of what the industry is, who works for it and who should study to be a part of it.
“The fact that just 3 per cent of fifteen-year-old girls want to pursue a tech-related career in New Zealand shows us that we need to be targeting young females at an earlier age.
“We have to be teaching computer science, engineering, problem-solving and computational thinking from primary school,” says Mohaghegh.
We have to be teaching computer science, engineering, problem-solving and computational thinking from primary school
Confronting a national problem
The MYOB Women in Tech report reveals how New Zealanders can help to solve the industry-wide problem.
Luey says to increase the number of women working in New Zealand’s tech sector and build a balanced industry, “We need to rethink how we educate our young people, expose more women to the industry early on, recognise and promote female leaders, and support the game-changers who are already enforcing positive change.”
Luey says MYOB is raising awareness of gender equality within its own organisation and its network of tech influencers by starting conversations, addressing unconscious bias, hosting events and building partnerships.
“Internally, we’ve accelerated the representation of women in junior and management roles – and today, more than 40 per cent of our entry-level engineering roles are held by women.
“If we balance the gender scales today, we can set the next generation of tech leaders – male and female – up for unprecedented success."
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