by CIO New Zealand

We need more young women in ICT: Minister Clare Curran

May 21, 2018
CareersDigital Transformation

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran says New Zealand’s ICT sector needs more young women to help break down stereotypes and redress gender imbalance in the industry.

“Right now there’s a gender imbalance in the tech industry. The sector employs more than 120,000 people, but only 23 per cent are women. I want that to change. It needs to be much higher,” says Curran, who spoke to nearly 200 secondary school girls taking part in ShadowTech as part of TechWeek 2018 (May 19 to 27).

“The median salary in New Zealand is $48,800 whereas the median salary for a worker identified as ‘digital technology skilled’ is $82,000, according to the Digital Skills Report,” she points out.

“A career in tech will not only pay young women well but will also help close the gender pay gap in New Zealand.”

She also expresses concern that just 3 per cent of 15-year-old girls are considering a career in technology.

“Sorting the gender imbalance can only be good for the sector and the country.”

“I want young girls to see there’s a future for them in tech and I hope ShadowTech Day encourages and inspires them to study and work in this field,” says Curran.

“Technology is part of every industry and most careers and New Zealand’s tech sector is the third largest contributor to our economy. By 2025 this government wants it to be the second largest contributor to GDP.

“To get there, we’ll need many more skilled workers. That’s why we’ve introduced the Hangarau Matihiko curriculum, which starts in schools next year, from which we’ll build the workforce of tomorrow.

“Exposure to technology from a young age will help address some of the stereotyping issues that tech isn’t for girls.

“Our tertiary fees-free initiative will benefit tens of thousands of students next year and even more when it expands by 2024 to provide access to three years tertiary study fees free.

“ShadowTech is about understanding what a career in tech can hold and breaking down stereotypes. I hope the students taking up this Shadow Tech opportunity today really enjoy the experience, discover the opportunities waiting in New Zealand’s dynamic technology sector and that they tell their friends all about it.”

ShadowTech gives secondary school girls the chance to experience the real world of ICT for a day. ShadowTech will also be held in Christchurch (May 22), Auckland (May 23), Palmerston North (May 25), Hamilton (June 7) and Dunedin (June 26).

Edwina Mistry, ShadowTech executive director, says 600 girls are participating in six cities with over 300 mentors from 100-plus organisations.

“It is great to see the number of participants grow each year from when ShadowTech which first started in South Auckland in 2014 when there were 42 girls and 10 organisations with 20 mentors, says Mistry, who is director of NZTech TechWomen. “We are certain that opportunities like this make a difference in addressing the current gender imbalance in ICT.”

Chris Gosling, chief executive at Weltec and Whitireia, says polytechnics can help ease the IT skills shortage experienced by many companies.

“Creative tech, ICT and engineering tech companies need skilled employees,” says Goslling. “WelTec and Whitireia are ideally placed to meet this demand. Wellington is a natural centre for the creative tech and IT sectors and there are many opportunities for young people to engage with industry.” Game designer and academic Dr Hazel Bradshaw, meanwhile, says she only entered the sector later in her career. Her initial degree was in fine arts. “I want to encourage each one of you to pursue your goals,” she tells the secondary students at the ShadowTech event in Wellington. “Women are underrepresented in STEM, but there are so many opportunities available to you.”

Students joining ShadowTech day in Wellington converged at Te Auaha New Zealand Institute of Creativity, where they heard about study options in IT and creative technologies, and met academics teaching in these fields.