August 15, 2014

Closing the Gender Gap when it comes to IT Jobs

6 min read

Supporting women to get IT Jobs

Traditionally the Tech Industry was a male dominated field, but in today’s world coding, computer engineering and java jobs are not restricted access for females. And as the technology sector continues it’s pace turning into the largest booming industry, you would think there would be an increasing amount of women entering the arena. The demand for filling vacant IT jobs is high, however finding skilled people (male or female) to fill these IT jobs is not as easy a task as some would think.

The number of women studying and working in IT jobs is still relatively small – the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries is a worldwide trend. IT lecturer Masha Mohaghegh thinks the reason behind this gender imbalance may differ from country to country, but believes “there is an overarching issue in the way computer science is perceived by young people, particularly girls”. It can be seen as a field which has limited space for creativity or design, and instead is associated with endless lines of code.

Candace Kinser, CEO of NZTech believes that although “the gender gap in the tech industry is apparent in its numbers, it is decidedly improving. Pitchbook reports that over the past few years the number of venture backed companies with at least one female founder has reached 13%, up from 6% in 2010. Software companies founded by women made up 10% of the funded deals in 2013. While these numbers are shockingly low, the good news is that they are on a rapid increase”.

Ms Mohaghegh affirms:


“There is no denying the benefits of having a mixed gender base in work environments and the tech sector is no different”.


Women bring a different perspective to men, and every industry, not just the tech sector would benefit from mixed gender staffing. This is further proven with research conducted by Zenger & Folkman which points out that two traits where women outscored men to the highest degree are taking initiative and driving for results. It has also been shown that women led private technology companies are more capital efficient, achieving 35% higher returns on investment in research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation.

Addressing occupational segregation

Efforts wordwide are addressing the gender gap when it comes to IT jobs to break the cycle of occupational segregation. Google is at the forefront of this initiative as seen with their Women Techmakers campaign. Last month Google also invested nearly $60 million to launch a new initiative ‘Made with Code’ aimed at closing the gender gap in the tech industry and getting young women excited about learning code and looking at IT jobs seriously.

Made with Code inspires women to get involved in the tech industry, and illustrates how they can combine their interests outside of technology with it to produce amazing work.

Recent research from the USA shows that women now comprise over 30% of the undergraduate degrees for STEM studies and over 40% of PhD qualifications. With these statistics, Ms Kinser believes there will be an “increasing amount of women founded software companies”.

Harvard University has studied this trend to find out what is holding women back when it comes to considering and pursuing IT jobs. Their studies found that even when women are motivated to climb ladders in these fields, current corporate environments prevent them from contributing their full potential at work.

Ms Kinser recalls:


“I cannot say that I have experienced a glass ceiling in my career, however I have had my share of sexist comments and come face to face with some shocking attitudes from men. When I was thinking of starting the Women’s Tech Exec Lunches, I remember having the conversation with a few male colleagues over drinks. One of them asked why can’t women just leave tech alone – we have already taken over law and medicine (and he referenced posters with women doctors in hospitals), so why not leave the tech and engineering to men. Of course I thought he was joking, but there was a edge of honest feelings in his comment”


New Zealand closing the gender gap

Efforts are also being made in New Zealand to encourage and inspire women into considering pursuing an IT job. Microsoft NZ had donated $1 million in cash, software and services investment to the High Teach Youth Network, designed to provide pathways for young Kiwis to start a career in the IT industry.

Unitec in Auckland ran a competition aimed at getting more Kiwi women IT jobs, Ms Mohaghegh has only 3 female students in a class of 100 and sees that ‘”not enough women are coming to this field in the future’”. Ms Mohaghegh organised a girls-only app competition, where the winning prize was an $18,000 scholarship to complete a bachelor of computer systems. It’s the institutes small way of trying to address a very real issue.

Another Auckland based group, Girl Geek Coffees, is a meet and greet discussion group for women in STEM industries. Girl Geek Coffees is sponsored by Google via the Google Coffee Club Ambassador program and can be found at universities in all major cities in New Zealand.

NZTech has a 100% female staff ratio (i.e. Candance Kinser). Ms Kinser confirmed “The reality is that we also contract in ONZL for support, and the staff that helps just happens to be all female. Our Board has a diversity policy and we are supportive of representation of women, minorities, all ages and backgrounds participating in our events and of course being part of the group”.

Women Tech Execs – as part of NZTech – also works closely with other organisations such as MIT (Manukau Institute of Technology) to create events like Shadow IT where young women from Manukau will ‘shadow’ a technology executive the day.


“We believe that the best way to encourage young women into the sector is to provide mentorship and to lead by example. Sending people in to speak in front of masses of kids at schools about how great a career in tech can be is one thing, but actually pulling out kids from their comfort zone and having them walk in the shoes of a person who actually works in the field is a totally different level. We are proud to be founding supporters of this initiative.”


Income Data

Recent research from Absolute IT shows that based on a sample of 9869 (from the last 24 months) salary entries into, men working in the NZ IT industry are only paid 1.9% more than women. There is a clear trend that shows women often earn equal or even more than men at lower and mid career stages, however at a management level we see a clear jump in what men earn compared to women.

In the management category men are earning 11% more than women, compared with BA (Business Analyst) where they earn equally and helpdesk support where women earn 3% more.

“As these are median base salaries, it is important to factor in the likelihood that many senior tech roles are held by men” said Absolute IT director Grant Burley. “This of course would push up the median for male salaries. However, that fact does not address the problem of how we get more women into management.”

Median base salary in tech

  • Male – $80K and 32% receive bonuses/commissions
  • Female – $78,500 28% receive bonuses/commissions

Median base rate/hour

  • Male $90/hr and 3% receive bonuses/commissions
  • Female $85/hr and 1% receive bonuses/commissions
Absolute IT
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