Digital world – Let’s get innovative

I’m a woman working in the tech world, but wouldn’t think about it if I wasn’t tailoring this digital column for a feature on women.

A quick google on ‘NZ women in tech’ returned a thread on a Women in Innovation Summit via a National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, via the Ministry for Women. All of which I didn’t know existed. Turns out New Zealand needs to recruit and train more women in innovative in-demand industries such as engineering, ICT, software development and computer science.

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are critical to innovation. It seems that in both primary and secondary schools there is an even split of genders studying science, except at the secondary level, girls are more likely to choose biology subjects and boys physics and calculus. At the tertiary level, women make up 64 per cent of Bachelor of Science enrolments.

However, they are over-represented in the health sciences and under-represented in engineering and technology. Women make up less than a quarter of those studying for a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and just over a third of those studying for a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

Women make up only 13 per cent of engineers and seven per cent of chartered professional engineers. So why does it matter? One reason given by Xero chief executive Rod Drury is that ideally the gender balance of a company should reflect its customer base. Given that women make 80 per cent of all household technology purchases, more women employed in the design and development process could help companies meet customers’ needs.

I don’t know what it is like for young females these days. I presume it’s better than when I was at school, before the internet even, and I was told to take shorthand and typing. It turned out that both proved handy for my career in journalism and digital media, but thankfully I had a father interested in tech who believed I could do anything.

Today there are more role models and women leaders to speak out with confidence about their success in tech, including Nanogirl (aka Dr Michelle Dickinson) and Lillian Grace, founder of Wiki NZ.