Accounting software provider MYOB is calling on the local tech sector – and wider business community – to do more for women working in tech and young girls in STEM-related fields of study.

In the latest MYOB Women in Tech report – released at a special Techweek event on Thursday 23 May – the company said there is still work to be done among the local tech sector if New Zealand is to live up to its reputation as a society that recognises, promotes and enjoys the full benefits of equal representation of women.

According to report, nearly half of the tech industry’s female leaders have personally experienced gender bias in the workplace. The report also says just 25% of local technology businesses have equal representation in their leadership teams (41% to 60% of their leaders are female), while only one in ten tech businesses work to actively address discrimination. Less than half pay their female employees the same as men in the same role.

MYOB country manager Ingrid Cronin-Knight said the research was concerning for the local tech sector – given it’s one of the country’s fastest growing industries with a reach that will increasingly transform the entire economy.

“The local tech sector employs 6% of the Kiwi workforce, contributes more than $16 billion to GDP, and produces 9% of exports,” she said.

“Where we go from here – and how we choose to educate young girls – will have a significant impact on the future workforce, and the future of communities and people across the country.”

Ms Cronin-Knight said New Zealand must re-think how it educates its young people, and work to expose more women and young girls to the industry early on in the education cycle.

“It’s also important for every industry to promote and champion the female business leaders – both old and young – who are already striving for change and tackling the big issues within their own organisations,” she said.

The concerning findings of MYOB’s latest research, which surveyed more than 1,000 small business owners across New Zealand, including responses from more than 380 female business leaders and 220 technology businesses, is supported by a range of other recent data.

According to the Stats NZ Quarterly Employment Survey (Q1 2019), female employees in the information, media and telecommunications industry earn, on average, $7.88 less per hour than male employees from the same industry. Those in the professional, scientific and technical fields also earn less than their male counterparts – around $6.28 less every hour worked.

Despite making up around 43% of the workforce (Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurialism 2017), according to the 2013 census, just 23% of ICT employees in New Zealand are women.

“This lack of representation starts from early in their careers. Young women are less likely to study ICT, computer science and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) -related fields at university,” said Ms Cronin-Knight.

According to NZTech, only 36% of computer science and information technology students were female in 2016. Data from the Ministry of Education also highlights that 82% of engineering students were male in 2015.

And as women progress in the workforce in New Zealand, they increasingly face difficult choices when it comes to managing work and family life. Nearly 25% of non-working women said the reason for leaving their last job was because of parental or other family responsibilities, while only 4% of men said the same (Stats NZ Household Labour Force survey 2018).

“To ensure a sustainable, profitable and more inclusive tech workplace for all New Zealanders – now and in the future – we need to take action. We need to look deeply into the data, understand the reasons why women are being underpaid, under-represented and discriminated against. And, as an industry, it is not enough just to ask the question, we must work to find the answers,” said Ms Cronin-Knight.

“It’s a massive undertaking – one that will require the cooperation and support of industry, education, government and community. However, if we can work together to promote the importance of diversity in the workplace and set achievable goals, we can build a technology sector worth celebrating on the world stage and set a precedent for communities everywhere.”

  • 46% of women in the tech sector have experienced gender bias
  • Just 25% of local tech businesses have equal representation of women in leadership
  • One in ten tech companies do not have policies to assist in building gender diversity
  • Half (48%) of all tech companies provide equal pay for men and women in same role