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MIT: Encouraging NZ's female students to get into tech

By Catherine Knowles, Thu 27 Aug 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

In order to encourage young New Zealand women to consider a career in IT, the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) is holding an event titled 'Shadow IT' on September 3 2015.

At the event, Year 10 and 11 girls will be introduced to the field and gain hands-on IT experience.

They will be matched with female IT mentors from high profile companies such as Xero, Air New Zealand, Microsoft, HP, Sovereign, Wynyard Group, Orion Health, Dimension Data and Propellerhead, and experience a day-in-the-life of an IT professional.

At present men outnumber women in the IT industry three to one, and this unbalance needs to be addressed before it becomes more pronounced, according to MIT.

Since 2006, the percentage of females in the New Zealand IT industry has dropped from 28% to 25% in 2013. Likewise, women receiving degrees in computer science are down from 16% to 14%, and information systems fell from 28% to 19%.

Edwina Mistry, the organiser of Shadow IT at MIT, says the only way to fix the gender balance is to give girls exposure to the IT industry.

“The IT industry is male dominated, and there still aren’t enough girls seriously considering IT as a career option. With Shadow IT, we’re trying to change that,” she says.

“A day shadowing professional IT women will make the difference.

“The girls can actually see life in the IT industry for themselves, rather than just hearing about how great it is.

“There’s a myth that IT is just for geeks sitting behind computers; we want to show them there are so many career options within the industry - for example, as business analysts or software architects,” Mistry says.

Rebecca Hill, a graduate developer at Xero, began her career in development after working in project management for years. She says she hadn’t considered it as an option while she was in school.

“In my experience, and the experience of many other female developers I know, we fell into the industry by chance.

“If I’d had the opportunity to learn it while I was young, I could’ve been doing something I’m really passionate about much earlier,” she says.

She’s volunteered as a mentor for Shadow IT, to ensure other young females are shown the possibilities and different roles available in the industry.

“The IT industry is always changing, and there’s always something new to learn. As a career, it’s rewarding and exciting, and there are amazing job opportunities,” she says.

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