IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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IWD 2024: Breaking barriers: Paving the way for women in tech
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

Despite progress and international efforts in diversity and inclusion, the technology industry remains a male-dominated space. We still see imbalances from graduate intakes, through to seasoned executives, and it’s a trend that’s yet to significantly shift. With only 27% of the New Zealand tech industry made up of women, it’s apparent that more needs to be done to attract and retain female talent in the industry.

For women who do choose to pursue a career in the tech industry - they may be up against a range of problematic challenges: from pay inequity and a lack of representation, to gender bias and the inevitable act of balancing a career with family. And sadly, for a lot of working women - some of these challenges span far beyond just the tech sector.

While some steps toward closing the gap have been made - truly meaningful progress is happening at a glacial pace. According to The World Economic Forum, it will take more than 150 years to close the global economic gender gap. The world is currently losing out on approximately USD $12 trillion of global GDP, and frankly - we cannot afford to wait over a century to close the economic gender gaps while still calling on more women to join the tech force. 

It’s crucial the tech industry takes on more responsibility to foster an inclusive culture where women and other underrepresented talent are supported and empowered.

Strategies for taking control and driving progress

It’s not just enough for women to consider what’s in their best interests, we need to be a part of an industry which does the same. The progressive nature of the tech industry has meant that progress has already been made to enable a more inclusive environment, but there’s still plenty of room to grow. Company culture plays a big part in this. As a global player in the fintech industry, our team feels not only a responsibility - but also a desire - to ensure our workplace is doing all we can to close any gaps or address any barriers. 

It’s important for employers to not settle for standard practice, they need to break barriers and go beyond traditional norms to foster an inclusive environment. For example, a workplace which values employees should be going beyond the Government’s minimum wage parental leave policy and offer something more substantial. We offer 18 fully paid weeks of gender-inclusive parental leave for birth or adoption. We also offer 3 paid ‘me days’ a year, for staff who just need a dedicated few days for life admin. 

But fostering an inclusive culture comes down to more than just leave entitlements. Work is a big part of our lives, yet work-life balance remains a key challenge for many people, but especially women, who often take on more child-care responsibilities. Having worked in a flexible working model for many years now, I’ve seen first hand the value it brings to helping women balance personal and professional responsibilities, and also improving wellbeing and productivity across the board. 69% of New Zealanders consider themselves ‘hybrid workers’, almost double the global average of 37%, which is a really positive step in the right direction. 

It’s also no secret that women are still largely under-represented in executive-level roles. Our Board consists of 44% women and 45% of the Leads in the organisation being women - but not all tech companies would be able to say the same. That’s why we’re passionate about initiatives that work to directly uplift and upskill women - to continue the trajectory we’ve established thus far.  Wise Women Code is a good example of this; where each year, we welcome women, non-binary folks and trans women to our offices for 3 days of knowledge sharing, side-by-side coding sessions and networking to provide a glimpse into the fintech industry. It’s just one example of how we’re trying to encourage more women into the industry. 

It’s also crucial for businesses to review data on their own gender pay gap so they can tackle the issue head-on and roll out tactics to reduce it.

Fostering Diversity: Women Drive Innovation and Growth in the Tech Sector

As a Chief People Officer, I know that businesses simply can’t achieve the things they want to do without their people. The tech industry is renowned for being progressive, innovative and future-focused — but this is generally viewed through a product, not a people lens. Diverse teams design for diverse customers best, and everyone - including women - has a role to play in building a stronger, more resilient and diverse industry. 

The economy benefits from diversity. Having women in the workforce not only supplies new or untapped labour sources, but it brings in fresh perspectives, valuable skill sets and helps companies grow exponentially.

The industry is changing for the better, and there has been strong progress over the past few years, but we mustn't mistake progress for success. We’re in 2024 and still talking about women in the workplace. The time is ripe for change. Only then will the tech industry truly be able to excel.