Women in IT:
Moving the dial. One girl at a time

We’ve heard it before – “We need more women in technology.”

There is no denying that the IT gender gap is a big problem around the world at time of unprecedented global digital transformation.

For instance, look at New Zealand where, one in three IT grads are women, but they make up only 21% of IT employees, government figures show.

So, what are we, the industry, doing to change this?

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft NZ hosted nine Year 12 girls from Auckland Girls’ Grammar School at our head office as part of Workchoice Day organized by The Skills Organization.

Workchoice Day is a full one-day program, which connects local companies and employers with young people, so they can get real experience of the modern workplace. Microsoft was fortunate enough to be one of the employers to open its doors to the next generation.

We started the day with an introduction to Microsoft and a career story by our very own Sarah Bowden, Small to Medium Sized Business Lead for Microsoft NZ, who has had a career full of changes.

We then asked each girl what had brought them to Microsoft for Workchoice Day.

We had hoped they’d be “super-excited” about us as a company.

But their responses turned out to be bluntly refreshing, to say the least. One by one they timidly told us: “I just came because my mum told me I had to”; “It was compulsory”; and “Microsoft wasn’t my first pick.”

When asked if they were considering a career in technology, most admitted they haven’t yet decided. It’s not uncommon for teenagers not to know the answer to this question. Heck, some of us still don’t know when we’re adults!

We quickly reassured them that it’s OK not to know and that’s why they were here today – to make more informed choices about their careers. When we asked how much they knew about Microsoft, they gave two responses: “Word” and “Excel”. The room broke out into laughter.

“She came in unsure, but was leaving knowing there are far more options for her beyond being an accountant and lawyer.”

We moved on to a panel made up of our grads and interns. The women on the panel all stressed how they wish they had learned to code, or had done an engineering/computer-science degree at university because it would have opened more opportunities in the workforce.

It’s a growing trend, companies are calling for more technically skilled employees, yet the workforce is not keeping up, particularly women. As the panel went on, the girls began to open-up. What is coding? What is the cloud? Do you have internships? They were surprised to find out that Xbox and Minecraft are both owned by us!

In the afternoon, we took them on an office tour. It’s fair to say that the modern way of working is not what they had imagined. They couldn’t believe we could work from home or at the café if we wanted to because technology made it possible and flexible to do so.

We ended the day with a Microsoft HoloLens demo by one of our interns. This is known as Mixed Reality. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it then learn more here:

The girls were walked through a few demos but the one that caught their attention the most was the Solar System Education Demo by Pearson. This demo let them walk, listen, as well as see and interact with 3D holograms. The crowd goes wild! The girls were woah-ing and pulling out their camera phones to take videos and photos as they watched the live-stream of each girl demonstrating the HoloLens.

One girl came up to us and told us how her mum kept pressuring her to decide what she wants to do. She said she came in unsure, but was leaving knowing there are far more options out there beyond being an accountant and lawyer.

The girls walked out of our offices very different to how they had walked in. They were excited, engaged, and enthused about the possibilities of a career in technology. It doesn’t matter whether you engage with one girl or a hundred girls at a time – every girl counts.

  • Written by Anna Lim and Anurati Mathur, two young women working in IT in New Zealand.





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