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Hitting the road to encourage more women to pursue tech careers

It’s an unfortunate reality that the world of computer programming is incredibly patriarchal. But NZTech is hoping to change that – and is hitting the road across Aotearoa to do something about it.

Computer programming jobs have previously struggled to attract women, but new technologies are providing substantial opportunities for a growing number of young girls seeking tech jobs, NZTech government relations director Andrea Hancox says.

Research has shown that tech firms with a balance of men and women make more money and, because there are less women than men in the sector, many firms are actively developing their businesses and roles to make them more attractive for women.

To help encourage more women to go into tech jobs and challenge patriarchal norms, NZTech is helping organise ShadowTech Days. Taking place all over New Zealand from May 31 through June 22, the idea is to help companies give young women a peek at what a career in tech could be like.

The ShadowTech Days will take place in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Produced with the support of the Ministry of Youth Development, Shadow Tech Day is a collaboration between NZTech and the Manukau Institute of Technology to bring together tech firms and other tertiary institutes throughout New Zealand.

Hancox explains that the tech sector is growing faster than any other part of the New Zealand economy and it is creating lots of new and interesting jobs.

Only three percent of 15-year-old New Zealand schoolgirls usually consider an IT career. Furthermore, women make up just 23 percent of the IT workforce – even though the tech sector has the highest paid and highest-qualified employees of any industry.

Hancox adds that with more than 28,000 companies employing around 100,000 people, the tech sector has a growing number of opportunities, from traditional software development roles to creatives, designers, business analysts, managers and engineers. “Tech roles are not just limited to the tech sector,” she explains. “With more and more industries deploying technologies Shadow Tech Day is helping to expose future career opportunities for young girls in technology within airlines, banks, schools and almost all sectors. The tech sector is growing at a pace that means new talent is in demand. This has resulted in the tech sector having some of the highest salaries around without the same costs of education as jobs such as law and medicine.”

New technologies mean new jobs are being created all the time, Hancox says – but she stresses it’s important that those jobs don’t become dominated by only men, continuing the cycle of inequality and oppression. “The sector growth also means job prospects are high with exciting new companies and tech roles emerging every year. Jobs like drone engineers or artificial intelligence designers didn’t exist a couple of years ago, so we expect to see new job opportunities continuing to emerge that we can’t even envisage.”

ShadowTech Day connects young women in years 9 -11 with women working in the tech sector, who act as a mentors.  Secondary school students get to spend a day with the woman in tech, experiencing a day in the life of an IT professional. Students also have the option to partner with a tertiary student, who can provide mentoring and advice on study options.

ShadowTech was founded by MIT, and is delivered in partnership with NZTech. The program was first run in 2014 under the name Shadow IT, and changed to ShadowTech in 2016.