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  • Writer's pictureSofia Ng

Help women stay in tech

As I was trying to come up with what to write about I started thinking about what made me start Ava Tech. The reasons are complex and simple at the same time but one thing that really powers me on is creating a space where women and other minorities in tech can be themselves and contribute the diversity that they bring.


Encouraging diverse people and thoughts into a mold minimises the diversity and the benefit is not realised. So what can we do to keep women in tech?




Wearxena.com wrote an article about why women leave engineering, what if we take these notes and flip them. The headings of:

  1. Women are paid less than men

  2. Lack of advancement opportunities

  3. Lack of role models

  4. Harassment

  5. Stereotyping

If we flip these into action points we will have a starting point of what we as a community can do.


The gender pay gap

If women are paid less then men, and there are clear statistics showing that women are paid less in technical roles and if you are Pasifica this divide is even greater. Diversity Works NZ is a great resource - this article highlights the issue well. If a women is asking a lower starting wage than a man, bump it up, if her colleagues are paid more, don't take this opportunity to save money!

Pay transparency would benefit all parties here and put onus on management to pay equal pay for equal work.


The lack of advancement

The bias on the subject of advancement is seen across industries and for this particular subject there is so research that as a society we have a default of "think manager, think male". So what can we do? We need to check ourselves, we should be taking a pause and analyse our thoughts, are we making this decision from a place of potential bias, do I feel that this person is more like me and therefore can do the job? We need to promote more women and not just mentor but sponsor the women around us. Mentoring is really beneficial and has its place, but women (and minorities) also need sponsors, people who will push them forward and advocate for them in senior places.


Lack of role models

This flows on from the previous section that we need to start promoting women and letting them take up space. While taking space they also need the support to be themselves, if they are pushed into mimicking the status quo hose women in more junior positions may not see this person as an ally. It also has to be said that one woman does not diversity make, start there and keep going!


Harassment

That we need to mention this is to me quite sad. There are only 3 words needed here: STOP DOING IT! And don't condone it as "boys will be boys", it is quite simple, the standard you walk past is the standard you tolerate.


Stereotyping

This one is a goody, unfortunately all women in a male dominated industry is likely to have been asked to fetch the coffee for the meeting, tidy up after etc. etc. Either all your staff should be asked to tidy and do tasks such as dishwasher sorting etc. or none. Set up some basic rules in terms of meeting etiquette. Notes such as "your mother doesn't work here" I find quite appalling, this reinforces the stereotype that women still have the job to clean up after.


Additionally

Supporting initiatives such as return to work schemes and supporting women into tech through summer of tech help women at the most vulnerable time where they are more likely to drop out of the industry.

While these points have focused on changes to how we treat women there is one point which we need to also highlight. As a society and as managers we need to support and encourage men who want to take time out or work part-time to care for their children. Allowing men to be carers as well is beneficial for all.


Recap

To recap:

  • Pay women the same

  • Promote women

  • Support and sponsor women in your team and company

  • Zero tolerance of harassment

  • Women do not have a 'cleaning' gene


And if your company really wants to help support women and you are just starting out, why not look across the industry and connect them with other technical women. Having support is really important.


Reading list



And a big Thank you to Dr Suze Wilson - lecturer at Massey for your support and knowledge while I was studying for my MBA. It has really helped me challenge and understand the landscape better.





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