• May 25, 2018
Wendy Liu is excited about the tech industry's potential. Photo: Imogen Wells.
More women in New Zealand’s tech sector could help break stereotypes and remedy the industry’s worldwide gender imbalance in that sector.
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister, Clare Curran, spoke to nearly 200 secondary school girls taking part in TechWeek, hoping to inspire them to see the tech industry as something that is ‘not just for boys.’
“The sector employs more than 120,000 people but only 23 percent are women,” says Minister Curran. “I want that to change. It needs to be much higher.”
According to the latest Digital Skills Report, only three percent of 15 year old girls are looking to pursue a career in technology, which is posing serious hurdles in tackling the gender imbalance.
“I want young girls to see there’s a future for them in tech… New Zealand’s tech sector is the third largest contributor to our economy,” says Ms Curran.
Wendy Liu, a 16-year-old student in her final year of high school, is the only girl out of 15 students in her Computer Science class.
The Parnell College student started taking Computer Science classes without any prior knowledge of the subject, but now it is an industry she plans on working in.
“Com Sci was actually kind of scary to start off with, because I went in basically knowing just nothing. What attracted me was what (Computer Science) can lead to,” says Ms Liu.
“I like maths and physics, and then robotics is also a step from those in a way. And so, then that combined into ‘why not just try it out’.”
Ms Liu says the gender imbalances within the technology industry start well before people enter the workforce and it needs to be addressed much earlier.
“The bigger problem is getting girls in to Computer Science in the first place… There are a lot of girls (at my school) who are excellent at physics and maths - that should pave the way to computer science… but there just aren’t enough ways to get them interested.”
Someone trying to combat the lack of interest is Ali Andrews, founder and owner of Coding Ali – a website providing resources and information to help support, educate and inspire people on their coding journey.
The website focuses on the relationship between technology and women after Ms Andrews found there was a lack of resources for females in the tech industry.
“I felt there was a real need for a platform like this to help break through the current barriers and stigmas that so many women are facing in the industry today,” says Ms Liu.
Ms Andrews says the low interest rates younger women have of the tech industry are an ongoing battle, despite an increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) initiatives offered in schools.
In 2015, only 18% of Computer Science Degrees in the US were earnt by women.
“These statistics still show how whilst there may be more initiatives within schools we still live in a world where stereotypes and stigmas are all too prevalent.”.
Ms Andrews says she stands with the Broadcasting Minister and her comments on women and technology, applauding Ms Curran for helping to push the conversation forward.
From 2019, the Hangarau Matihiko curriculum will be introduced into schools, providing female students more exposure to technology from a younger age.
It’s also hoped the country’s fees-free scheme will encourage more girls to enrol in a technology based degree, as the government wants the tech sector to be the second largest GDP contributor by 2025.