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Increasing the presence of women in technology roles

By UCOL on Wednesday, 02 August 2017

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UCOL recently partnered with NZTech to give female secondary students a taste of what it’s like to work in the technology sector, and the educational pathways that lead them into the information technology, and related, sectors.

NZTech held their ShadowTech Day in Palmerston North, which saw Year 9 to 13 female students partnered up with female mentors to learn about their jobs and experience a day in the life of an IT professional. 

The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of females who choose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related subjects at secondary and tertiary level, and pursue careers in these areas. 

30 students from Awatapu College and Palmerston North Girls’ High School were matched up with 13 mentors from Nodero, Spark New Zealand, Massey University, Thomson Reuters, EziBuy, Fonterra, Black Sheep Design, Horizons Regional Council, and New Era. 

This was the first time NZTech has run a ShadowTech Day in Palmerston North, having run the initiative in Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington in recent years.

After the success of the programme in the larger cities, NZTech wanted to expand it to reach students in the smaller cities around the country. 

NZTech approached UCOL earlier this year with an opportunity to partner for ShadowTech. Since then, UCOL has initially worked with two schools, and with industry partners to find interested students and match them with appropriate mentors.

UCOL Head of the School of Business and ICT, Dr Aaron Steele, says it was great to bring ShadowTech to Palmerston North, giving female students insight into the daily roles of women in tech and encouraging them to pursue careers in the field. 

“The idea is about high school students getting experience in the tech sector and inspiring young women into the industry.”

After the success of the event this year, UCOL now plans to make this an annual event with ShadowTech and to work with more schools in the region in the planning for next year’s event.  

NZTech National Director Member and Government Relations Andrea Hancox says there seems to be a misconception that the tech industry is suited to a specific type of person who stares at a computer all day.  

“One of the key objectives of ShadowTech is to open the eyes of these young women to show them how varied and widespread technology roles are and breakdown stereotypical images. In addition to the traditional ‘ICT’ industry category, we had women mentors from twelve other sectors, ranging from advertising through to engineering, healthcare and banking.”

Palmerston North Girls’ High School student Maddie Morris-Rickard, who spent ShadowTech Day at Fonterra, said the experience opened her eyes to what kind of jobs exist in the dairy industry. 

“I learnt a lot about the dairy industry, especially to do with testing milk products and the health and safety around that. I thought it would be a lot about milking cows, but we learnt about the scientists and chemists involved.”

“I hadn’t really thought about working in the dairy industry, but there are so many job opportunities when it comes to the science side of it.” 
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