How do we get more women into tech in NZ?

women in tech

I was recently reading an article on the 10 Highest-rated tech company CEOs and wondered where the women were? Marissa Mayer was the only female to make the top 50!

We all can agree that there are more men in tech jobs than women, and it's safe to assume that there are even fewer female leaders in technology positions. In a recent CompTIA article about Women and technology (US), they stated that “Women make up nearly half the overall workforce, but just 28 percent have core IT occupations”. LinkedIn performed a similar study and found that women comprised of only 30% of the entire workforce in the technology industry and only 15% of software engineers were women.

So what’s holding women back from working in tech and holding leadership positions?

Are we just not as clever when it comes to working in technology, or have many of us missed the IT career boat? I’m going with the latter, as personally I think I would’ve quite enjoyed working in IT and could’ve been a great developer.

At last week’s Cisco Empowered Women’s Network lunch in Melbourne it was agreed that they should promote careers in computer science earlier on in schools and showcase female role models and mentors. They even went as far as to suggest that Australia should have formal quotas that guarantee women in top technology positions. While I do not believe enforcing quotas is necessarily the right approach; you need the right person in a role and that should be irrespective of sex. If more women choose careers in tech, then surely organically more will take on senior positions. I do however see the benefit in promoting careers in technology and having strong role models who can influence students to take up a career in tech.

The question is who can be our New Zealand women role models?

Top of mind are two Kiwi technology entrepreneurs: Leanne Graham who is CEO at GeoOP and Director of Cloud Rainmakers Ltd, and Victoria Ransom who is the founder and CEO of Wildfire. Whom would you suggest as an influential woman in technology who can inspire more New Zealand women to grow their careers in technology?

Research shows - for most countries - that there aren’t many women in technology management roles; in Europe only 19.2% women are in management roles compared to 45.2% in other sectors (European Commission for Digital). A blog post by the business Harvard review believes the reasons why women are not in as many senior leadership roles is that women don’t sound or act like males, and perhaps don’t have the same senior-level support as men do. Whether they are right or wrong, globally there seems to be a general movement towards supporting and encouraging women in the technology sector, with many groups being created specifically for women.

Two groups that have had a lot of publicity recently are:

  • Women who Code meet-ups started in San Fran and has spread all over the world with the latest new group in London. They focus on networking, career training and inspiring women.
  • Girls who code is a New York based group whose mission is to inspire, educate and equip girls with computing skills.

There are a couple of groups in New Zealand for women in technology including the Women Tech Execs’ luncheon held by the NZ Technology Industry Association, and Auckland Girl Geek Dinners, which is a community support network. However, I believe there is still both a gap and an opportunity to create a ‘New Zealand Women who Code’ group, where current technology professionals could network on a more frequent basis, share information and inspire other women to work in the technology industry. If there were a group such as this in New Zealand for Women, would you join?

Finally, if you are a woman working in technology who holds a leadership position, what enabled you to get there?