The Tech Life Project
By Chris Tacon, Executive Director of Global Office
As a man with a lifelong passion for technology, I have very few complaints about living out my dream in the fastest growing industry in the world.
However, while my industry offers an amazing range of careers for all types of people, there is a disturbing stereotype that working in digital technology is only suited to a specific type of person – young, male and obsessed with all things tech. It prevents parents from supporting their daughters to take up a career in technology, and contributes to much less diversity of thought, gender, ethnicity and age, in an industry whose advancements affect us all.
Since founding my own software development company Global Office 23 years ago, I have been lucky to work with a fantastic team who are passionate about their jobs. However, one of the biggest things I have struggled with when recruiting new staff, is not seeing the diversity that should be present in the applicant pool.
Earlier this year, my team and I decided to do something about it, by creating The Tech Life Project - an initiative to encourage young women to follow their passion in digital technology and discover the world of opportunities available to them. Just about everyone in our nearly all male team has a daughter, so this project is highly personal to us. We have just employed our first female intern and want to see our project increasing the number of young women that apply to work with us, as well as all the other tech companies in New Zealand.
Through The Tech Life Project, we are offering five year-six primary school girls from Christchurch, who are passionate about digital technology, the opportunity to take part in an all-expenses paid trip to Wellington to visit Trade Me and Xero. They will see how things work ‘on the ground’ in our field, meet and interact with female role models from Trade Me and Xero, and learn more about the areas of technology they are passionate about. With the support of digital technology teacher Mandy Dempsey, who has played a key role in The Tech Life Project, they will record their experiences and share them with their school friends and hopefully other young women interested in tech.
The Ministry for Women has recently reported that only 23 percent of Kiwis employed in the digital technology industry are female. Our industry continues to experience a high growth rate and ongoing demand for employees. As the number and variety of roles in tech continues to increase, we have to ensure that young women want to participate.
Among the women who have made their mark in digital technology are Ada Lovelace, who is widely recognised as the first computer programmer; Katherine Johnson - a pioneer in calculating flight paths for NASA; and Grace Hopper who developed the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). Through their skills and creativity, these women changed the world. We also have a number of modern female heroes in the sector, who have achieved incredible milestones. This includes the likes of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg.