Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran says New Zealand\u2019s ICT sector needs more young women to help break down stereotypes and redress gender imbalance in the industry. \n\u201cRight now there\u2019s 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,\u201d says Curran, who spoke to nearly 200 secondary school girls taking part in ShadowTech as part of TechWeek 2018 (May 19 to 27).\n\u201cThe median salary in New Zealand is $48,800 whereas the median salary for a worker identified as \u2018digital technology skilled\u2019 is $82,000, according to the Digital Skills Report,\u201d she points out.\n\u201cA career in tech will not only pay young women well but will also help close the gender pay gap in New Zealand.\u201d \nShe also expresses concern that just 3 per cent of 15-year-old girls are considering a career in technology.\n\u201cSorting the gender imbalance can only be good for the sector and the country.\u201d \n \u201cI want young girls to see there\u2019s a future for them in tech and I hope ShadowTech Day encourages and inspires them to study and work in this field,\u201d says Curran.\n\u201cTechnology is part of every industry and most careers and New Zealand\u2019s tech sector is the third largest contributor to our economy. By 2025 this government wants it to be the second largest contributor to GDP. \n\u201cTo get there, we\u2019ll need many more skilled workers. That\u2019s why we\u2019ve introduced the Hangarau Matihiko curriculum, which starts in schools next year, from which we\u2019ll build the workforce of tomorrow.\n"Exposure to technology from a young age will help address some of the stereotyping issues that tech isn\u2019t for girls.\n \u201cOur 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. \n\u201cShadowTech 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\u2019s dynamic technology sector and that they tell their friends all about it.\u201d \n\nShadowTech 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). \nEdwina Mistry, ShadowTech executive director, says 600 girls are participating in six cities with over 300 mentors from 100-plus organisations.\n\u201cIt 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. \u201cWe are certain that opportunities like this make a difference in addressing the current gender imbalance in ICT.\u201d\nChris Gosling, chief executive at Weltec and Whitireia, says polytechnics can help ease the IT skills shortage experienced by many companies.\n\u201cCreative tech, ICT and engineering tech companies need skilled employees,\u201d says Goslling. \u201cWelTec 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.\u201dGame designer and academic Dr Hazel Bradshaw, meanwhile, says she only entered the sector later in her career. Her initial degree was in fine arts. \u201cI want to encourage each one of you to pursue your goals,\u201d she tells the secondary students at the ShadowTech event in Wellington. \u201cWomen are underrepresented in STEM, but there are so many opportunities available to you.\u201d\nStudents 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.