IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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IWD 2024: Women leading the way: Educating girls in technology
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

In the dynamic world of digital technology, the quest for gender equality remains an ongoing journey. With women representing just 23% of the tech workforce, two critical elements of this movement intersect to drive meaningful change at Digital Future Aotearoa: the engagement of girls and young people in digital technologies education and the crucial role of women in leading the charge toward digital excellence. As we navigate these realms, it has become evident that education and female leadership are complementary and indispensable pou (pillars) in dismantling barriers and fostering inclusivity within the tech industry.

With 150,000 NZ households still without internet access at home, education in schools and extracurricular settings stands as the cornerstone in achieving digital excellence for the next generation, in particular women and girls. The significance of integrating authentic and engaging digital technology education opportunities cannot be overstated. By providing young girls with access to quality digital technologies education, we begin equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to have a range of opportunities in our highly digital world and the opportunity to pursue fulfilling careers in technology. This is an issue of not just equity but of need in the tech sector, with the 2020 Digital Skills Forum predicting a shortfall of over 10,000 skilled ICT workers in New Zealand by 2025. 

One of the most pressing challenges lies in addressing the current gaps in access to digital technologies, education, and resources within New Zealand. Despite the Digital Technologies Curriculum being introduced in 2020, kiwi kaiako (teachers) received limited support and professional development upskilling to be able to effectively teach foundational computational thinking or digital design skills. This lack of confidence and capability impacts children in classrooms each year as the curriculum slowly matures, and disparity in the quality of education children receive continues to grow. This further impacts girls and other minority groups, as due to the lack of representation and gender stereotypes, many don't see tech careers as appealing or as a good fit for them. This perpetuates a cycle of inequality, depriving the industry of diverse perspectives and innovative solutions and young women of opportunities.

Focused efforts are needed to expand access to digital technologies education and create engaging learning opportunities that foster inclusivity and diversity for tamariki (children). Educational programmes aimed at igniting girls' interest in digital technologies and STEM during primary school years are highly effective tools in challenging the status quo. Hands-on and fun activation workshops, regular Code Club attendance and in-school outreach initiatives can play a crucial role in exposing the next generation to the tech world and empowering them to participate fully. Nurturing a passion for innovation and problem-solving in women and girls is key if we hope to work towards a more equitable and inclusive tech landscape.

In parallel, the leadership of women in driving the movement towards digital excellence emerges as a powerful catalyst for change. Female-led organisations, such as Digital Future Aotearoa, Tōnui Collab, Te Ao Matihiko and Tagata Moana Trust, follow the ethos of collaboration rather than competition and work to exemplify the transformative potential of inclusive leadership. With a culture of building on collective strengths and amplifying the voices of marginalised groups, we are working on rewriting the current narratives of inequality, challenging traditional norms, and fostering a culture of empowerment to move toward a more digitally equitable landscape. 

Being a female leader means often facing barriers such as imposter syndrome, bias and a lack of representation at decision-making levels. However, these obstacles can serve as opportunities to rethink standard practice and to do things differently, more authentic to our mission and purpose. As advocates for diversity and inclusion, it is upon us to recognise the pivotal role of women, Māori, Pasifika, migrants, neurodivergent and other excluded groups in driving progress within the tech industry and equity spaces. 

By opening the doors to digital technologies education, championing diversity in leadership and fostering collaboration, we can begin creating pathways for marginalised voices to thrive and contribute in innovative ways and ultimately have greater equity and opportunity for all. 

Join us in providing engaging and equitable digital technologies education opportunities for tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) through our mahi (work) at Digital Future Aotearoa.