14th June, 2019
As with many other business sectors, New Zealand’s tech businesses need to work harder to foster and encourage female talent as revealed in the findings of the latest ‘Women in Tech report’.
Over 125 years ago, New Zealand led the world in becoming the first nation to give women the right to vote. But sadly, we’re still seeing the prevalence of gender bias at many levels of society today.
And that’s also true of the tech sector, with this issue sitting at the heart of a special Techweek event dubbed ‘Inspiring Women in Tech’, held at the end of May.
The event, which centred around the findings of MYOB’s latest Women in Tech report, hosted a panel of prominent female tech leaders, including MYOB country manager Ingrid Cronin-Knight, SheSharp founder Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh, OMGTech! Co-founder Zoe Timbrell, Deloitte platform engineer Amrit Kaur and OMGTech! board member Mikayla Stokes.
According to report, nearly half of the tech industry’s female leaders have personally experienced gender bias in the workplace.
Cronin-Knight said the research is concerning for NZ’s tech sector – given it’s one of the country’s fastest growing and most transformative industries.
“The local tech sector employs six percent of the Kiwi workforce, contributes more than $16 billion to GDP, and produces nine percent of exports,” she said.
“Where we go from here – and how we choose to educate young girls – will have a significant impact on the future workforce, and the future of communities and people across the country.”
Cronin-Knight said New Zealand must re-think how it educates its young people, and work to expose more women and young girls to the industry early on in the education cycle.
“It’s also important for every industry to promote and champion the female business leaders – both old and young – who are already striving for change and tackling the big issues within their own organisations,” she said.
The research, which surveyed more than 1,000 small business owners across New Zealand, including responses from more than 380 female business leaders and 220 technology businesses, is supported by other recent studies.
According to the Stats NZ Quarterly Employment Survey (Q1 2019), female employees in the information, media and telecommunications industry earn, on average, $7.88 less per hour than male employees from the same industry.
Those women in the professional, scientific and technical fields also earn less than their male counterparts – around $6.28 less every hour worked.
Despite making up around 43 percent of the workforce (Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurialism 2017), according to the 2013 census, just 23 percent of ICT employees in New Zealand are women.
“This lack of representation starts from early in their careers. Young women are less likely to study ICT, computer science and other STEM-related fields at university,” said Cronin-Knight.
According to NZTech, only 36 percent of computer science and information technology students were female in 2016.
Data from the Ministry of Education also highlights that 82 percent of engineering students were male in 2015.
And as women progress in the workforce in New Zealand, they increasingly face difficult choices when it comes to managing work and family life.
Nearly 25 percent of non-working women said the reason for leaving their last job was because of parental or other family responsibilities, while only four percent of men said the same (Stats NZ Household Labour Force survey 2018).
“To ensure a sustainable, profitable and more inclusive tech workplace for all New Zealanders – now and in the future – we need to take action,” said Cronin-Knight.
“If we can work together to promote the importance of diversity in the workplace and set achievable goals, we can build a technology sector worth celebrating on the world stage and set a precedent for communities everywhere.”