Is NZ’s gender gap in tech as bad as we think?

29 July 2015 · Absolute IT

It’s hardly a secret that IT jobs, and the wider STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries, are male dominated. In fact we’ve talked about it before in our article “Closing The Gender Gap”. A recent survey of more than 26,000 programmers found that 92% of software developers are men, and last year Apple and Google revealed that 70% 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 ITSalaries.co.nz show currently 79% 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% improvement on 2013 figures.

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

Here in New Zealand, data pulled from ITSalaries.co.nz shows there are pay discrepancies between men and women. 7.2% difference nationally, with less in specific skills areas that are clearly suited to/favoured by women like; consultancy at 0% difference, business analyst at 2.4% and management at 5.5%.

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

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

This dip isn’t isolated to the tech 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.

Family Caregiver NZ research shows that, overwhelmingly, women will alter their work life to address family care issues. Here are some fast facts:

  • 33% of working women decreased work hours
  • 29% passed up a job promotion, training or assignment
  • 22% took a leave of absence
  • 20% switched from full-time to part-time employment
  • 16% quit their jobs
  • 13% 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.

Women studying for IT jobs

The number of women studying computer science and IT is seen to be dropping, with 1 in 5 IT students identifying as female. Absolute IT Director Grant 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. 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. And having some IT skills that go beyond Microsoft Word and Powerpoint are vital to working in this industry. 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 Jobs

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, so developers who have an awareness of design and designers who have an awareness of development are attractive qualities valued by potential employers.

Inspiring NZ women in tech

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 NZ and Catalyst, who make guest appearances at these events.

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

PledgeMe

PledgeMe founder Anna Guenther is leading the charge when it comes to female entrepreneurship on the NZ tech scene. Anna kicked off the business when she was in the midst of a Master’s thesis on crowdfunding. Three years on it’s one of the most successful crowd sourced funding platforms to be in operation in Aotearoa.

co.ofwomen

Co.ofwomen, a NZ hub of entrepreneurial women, was founded by IT industry expert Tara Lorigan. Tara has worked for the likes of Apple, Sun , IBM and 3Com. After moving back to NZ 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. Through co.ofwomen she helps to mentor those in the IT industry, and help better connect women across various industries in NZ, including IT.

NZ’s flourishing tech sector growing IT jobs

The IT sector is growing, with ICT contributing 5% to New Zealand’s GDP, and employing 3.2% of New Zealand’s workforce. The demand for IT skills is growing and employers are reporting some difficulty in finding the right talent.

With new ICT technologies growing and diversifying the tech world, 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. ICT is only going to get bigger as the business world needs faster and smarter ICT solutions.

key reasons for hiring it jobs in 2015

Women in demand in tech

The top 3 skillsets in demand for ICT employers this year are:

  1. Business Analysts
  2. Project Manager
  3. Software Developer

resource planning for it industry

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

Attracting female tech experts to New Zealand’s IT jobs

 

Our Employer Insight Survey found that major challenges for IT employers was 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.

IT employers business challenges

Apple has made a commitment to addressing inequality across its workforce, openly sharing the makeup of its workforce and Intel has put $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 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.

Vodafone NZ have implemented a global policy for compulsory 16 weeks fully-paid maternity leave in a bid to retain their female tech talent.

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.

Gather are focused on growing the professional community of web makers in New Zealand, hosting workshops and conferences for secondary students and teachers to help them prepare for roles in tech. They have a great enrolment rate, with steady streams of both girls and boys.

More generally, employers are becoming more comfortable with offering flexible working options.

flexible working options for it jobs

New documentary about the gender gap in tech

Filmmaker Robin Hauser Reynolds just premiered her film Code: Debugging the Gender Gap at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary focuses on computer science and the small proportion of women in the field. Reynolds says that she focused “specifically on coding and programming because that’s where the biggest discrepancy is, with the gender issue the most pronounced”. Code considers varying explanations for the discrepancy, including; the difficulty of proving sexism in the workplace, cultural conditioning, and the general lack of encouragement steering women toward tech careers.

Find an IT job that’s right for you

If you’re looking for greater flexibility in your work life, or perhaps thinking of returning to a career in IT then get in touch with one of Absolute IT’s recruitment specialists today.

Further reading