INSIGHT: Women in Tech - NZ uncovered…

It’s hardly a secret that IT jobs are male dominated.

It’s hardly a secret that IT jobs, and the wider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries, are male dominated.

A recent survey of more than 26,000 programmers found that 92 percent of software developers are men, and last year Apple and Google revealed that 70 percent of their global workforces were male, respectively.

But these statistics largely apply to the US IT sector, and aren’t necessarily reflective of New Zealand’s bourgeoning tech sector.

So just how is New Zealand’s tech industry for women?

Figures from show currently 79 percent of the New Zealand tech workforce is male. While this isn’t the 50/50 split many would love to see, it is a 2 percent improvement on 2013 figures.

Who’s making the money in IT jobs: men or women?

Here in New Zealand, data pulled from shows there are pay discrepancies between men and women.

At present, there is a 7.2 percent difference nationally, with less in specific skills areas that are clearly suited to/favoured by women such as, perhaps, consultancy (0 percent difference), business analyst (2.4 percent) and management (5.5 percent).

“What however is more relevant and important to highlight is at what point in a tech professionals career these gaps are appearing,” says Grant Burley, Director, Absolute IT.

“When we look at IT salaries earned over time relative to years experience, up until around 10 years experience women in the tech sector are matching men dollar for dollar in the salary base department.”

So what happens after this?

“We can see a slight downturn in women’s salaries after 10 years,” Burley explains.

“The biggest difference between men and women can been seen around 11-15 years experience at 9 percent, but by 16-20 years experience the gap has significantly reduced to 3.5 percent.”

According to Burley, this dip isn’t isolated to the technology industry and is felt across the board, with many women choosing to take time out for their families.

“Women are more likely to take time off work to have babies, raise a family, or look after elderly family members than men,” Burley claims.

Family Caregiver NZ research shows that, overwhelmingly, women will alter their work life to address family care issues.

Here are some fast facts:

• 33 percent of working women decreased work hours

• 29 percent passed up a job promotion, training or assignment

• 22 percent took a leave of absence

• 20 percent switched from full-time to part-time employment

• 16 percent quit their jobs

• 13 percent retired early

“Taking time out of any profession is going to affect any future career prospects, and for women it seems this circumstance is more likely than for men,” Burley adds.

Women studying for IT jobs

In 2015, the number of women studying computer science and IT is seen to be dropping, with 1 in 5 IT students identifying as female.

Burley says that despite the low numbers of women studying IT, there are plenty of IT jobs out there for women.

“We are finding placements for women, and men, across the board,” he adds. “More often than not women are better communicators and technically skilled, a great asset to any workplace.

“IT also offers great salaries compared to other industries. What we’re labelling ‘tech jobs’ and ‘IT jobs’ these days isn’t just limited to computer science and programming.

“Working in the digital space offers many unique tech opportunities that the traditional IT and technology sphere never did, and many of these growing areas are filling up with women.

“Particularly those that focus on relationship building and good communication skills.”

Digital Marketing & Communications

Marketing and communications used to be about filming television ads and writing print media for the local rag. But with the growth of digital advertising and social media networks, the two roles now go hand in hand, according to Burley.

“And having some IT skills that go beyond Microsoft Word and Powerpoint are vital to working in this industry,” he adds.

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“Managing large customer databases, SEO and designing better UX for web visitors are part and parcel of this hybrid digital world.”

Graphics Design & Web Development

For Burley, these distinct professions now go hand in hand.

Developing a site with the end user experience in mind is now a key part of any web build and design project, he explains.

“So developers who have an awareness of design and designers who have an awareness of development are attractive qualities valued by potential employers,” he claims.

Inspiring NZ women in tech

Going forward, Burley believes New Zealand is working toward closing the gender gap in IT thanks to a number of women in tech groups and support networks.

The New Zealand Technology Industry Association regularly facilitate Women’s Tech Exec Lunches and Girl Geek Dinners New Zealand have meet ups throughout the country with a focus on connecting supporting and motivating women working in, or passionate about, technology.

The Auckland chapter have branded themselves Refactor and their regular dinners provide a space for women in tech to network and interact with industry players like Microsoft New Zealand and Catalyst, who make guest appearances at these events.

“The startup scene in New Zealand is thriving,” Burley adds. “And many New Zealand based companies are exporting their products and services abroad.”

In this space, PledgeMe founder Anna Guenther is leading the charge when it comes to female entrepreneurship on the New Zealand tech scene.

“Anna kicked off the business when she was in the midst of a Master’s thesis on crowdfunding,” Burley adds.

“Three years on it’s one of the most successful crowd sourced funding platforms to be in operation in Aotearoa.”

Furthermore, Co.ofwomen, a New Zealand hub of entrepreneurial women, was founded by IT industry expert Tara Lorigan.

Lorigan has worked for the likes of Apple, Sun, IBM and 3Com.

“After moving back to New Zealand from London she worked with a range of small businesses before running the AUT Innovation Park where she helped to developed the Rapid Growth Programme,” Burley explains.

“Through co.ofwomen she helps to mentor those in the IT industry, and help better connect women across various industries in New Zealand, including IT.”

According to Burley, the IT sector is growing, with ICT contributing 5 percent to New Zealand’s GDP, and employing 3.2 percent of New Zealand’s workforce.

“The demand for IT skills is growing and employers are reporting some difficulty in finding the right talent,” he adds.

With new ICT technologies growing and diversifying the tech world, Burley also believes that employers are looking to source workers that can adopt these new technologies and pick up the skills necessary to deliver them.

“Overwhelmingly employers are reporting that the number one reasons for hiring in 2015 is new projects,” he adds.

“ICT is only going to get bigger as the business world needs faster and smarter ICT solutions.”

Women in demand in tech

Burley says the top 3 skillsets in demand for ICT employers this year are:

• Business Analysts

• Project Manager

• Software Developer

“The business analysts space is one area women are taking charge, with more women in these roles than any other area of IT in New Zealand,” Burley says.

“The role of a Business Analyst requires a broad skill-set; problem solving, critical thinking, and great communication and documentation skills.

“For one reason or another, women seem to juggle these skills often better than men.”

Absolute IT’s Employer Insight Survey finds that major challenges for IT employers centre around attracting and retaining the right staff, and creating a positive workplace culture.

“Addressing the gender wage gap and the gender imbalance in IT is just one way IT companies can overcome these challenges,” Burley adds.

Globally speaking, Apple has made a commitment to addressing inequality across its workforce, openly sharing the makeup of its workforce and Intel has put US$300 million toward addressing their diversity problem.

Initiatives include a new partnership with the International Game Developers Association, a nonprofit that will send 20 US female college students to a game developer conference with Intel’s support.

“Here in New Zealand,” observes Burley, “tech start ups, along with the bigger firms, are making workplace culture a priority, creating diverse workspaces that cater to a range of employee needs.”

As an example, Vodafone New Zealand has implemented a global policy for compulsory 16 weeks fully-paid maternity leave in a bid to retain their female tech talent.

In addition, ANZ Bank in partnership with the Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) are encouraging more women to study IT by offering a graduate award and an internship programme to its students.