Could you tell us a bit about your background and what motivated you to take on your new role as executive director of Techwomen.nz?
I’m originally from the UK, but have been in New Zealand for over 15 years now and am proud to call this country home.
For the past year and a half I was [F1] working at NZTech as Strategic Programmes Director, overseeing all our events and conferences and key strategic programmes aimed at encouraging more people into tech. At NZTech our goal is a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous Aotearoa New Zealand underpinned by good tech. TechWomen, one of the associations within the NZTech Alliance, aims to boost numbers of women in tech, so when the executive directorship came up I jumped at the chance for a more active role.
Prior to joining NZTech, I had over 15 years’ experience in events, marketing and project management within various sectors: business and technology, publishing, and IT market research.
In 2018 I completed a master’s in technological futures at Tech Futures Lab in Auckland. It was certainly my busiest year to date, balancing a full-time job while studying and also having a baby (not recommended, but totally achievable!).
I also have a keen interest in women’s sport and play community soccer for Western Springs AFC. With the FIFA Women’s World Cup and last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, it feels like women’s sport has finally reached a tipping point, with a move towards professional contracts. When I was at school, girls weren’t allowed to play soccer or rugby, but now I’m attending sold-out games at Eden Park. It makes me hopeful we can reach a similar tipping point in tech, and that in the future it is no longer seen as a male industry.
What is TechWomen.NZ?
TechWomen is a group of passionate tech, digital and ICT focused individuals from leading organisations that work together, with the support of NZTech, to address one of the major challenges for the successful growth of technology in New Zealand: a shortage of women in tech roles.
We help inspire girls into technology, support the professional development of women in tech roles, and help develop policy and actions for improving diversity in the tech workplace.
What are you most excited about as you step into this leadership role?
The opportunity to connect with the wonderful TechWomen community and foster a more diverse and inclusive tech industry. Half of the New Zealand population is female, but a recent NZTech survey found that women make up only 29 per cent of the country’s digital IT workforce. This diversity challenge begins in education, with females making up only 40 per cent of NCEA technology students and 24 per cent of IT graduates. Lifting these participation numbers is a key focus for TechWomen and I’m excited about helping to achieve this.
Encouraging young girls to pursue careers in STEM fields is crucial for bridging the gender gap in tech. How areTechWomen.nz inspiring the next generation of female tech leaders?
We run a programme called ShadowTech Day. It enables girls in years 9–11 to find out what working in the tech sector is like, and encourages them onto education pathways that lead into tech sector roles. The students are paired with a local tech organisation and taken through a “day in the life” experience that has them sitting in on meetings, witnessing the communication and interaction between peers, and more.
We also run Mentoring Circles, bringing people together to make new connections in their community. We facilitate groups of six mentees and two mentors to meet on a regular basis, in a safe and supportive environment, to discuss professional aspirations and challenges.
Throughout the year we run regular events, in person and online, enabling members to network, workshop, and hear from other successful women tech leaders. We also host two keystone events each year to coincide with Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day.
Why should girls or women consider a career in tech, and what advice would you give them?
Tech isn’t just for boys or geeks. Today every company is a tech company. There are so many different roles in tech, from non-technical roles in marketing, sales and HR to technical roles in software development and cyber security. Tech is the fastest-growing industry in New Zealand and offers above-average salaries. Technology is also helping to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.
From AI to healthtech, from SaaS to space, New Zealand is building world-class tech that’s good for business, good for people, and good for the planet, and we need a more diverse workforce to help the industry thrive.
Entering or re-entering the workforce at any age or stage of life is a challenge, and there’s no perfect path. That’s why we created a content series called ‘Return to Tech’, to offer connection, aspiration, opportunity and access. We have different sections for people at various career stages:
- Career Beginners is for those entering the technology sector, returning after an overseas experience or considering technology as a new career path.
- Career Developers is for those with between four and eight years’ work experience. They’re accustomed to the workplace and focused on developing their expertise, discovering their areas of impact and progressing their career.
- Career Establishers suits those with nine or more years’ work experience. They’re focused on establishing their profile as a leading expert internally and externally, and honing their leadership style.
- To learn more and get involved visit TechWomen.NZ, or NZTECH.org.nz.