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ICT Trends: The Gender Gulf

Garry Roberton. 19 August 2014, 11:57 am
ICT Trends: The Gender Gulf

Finding ways to bring more women into one of the world's fastest growing sectors continues to challenge governments and ICT alike to create initiatives and programmes that will help address the gender imbalance.

ICT Industry Diversity (or a lack thereof)

A headline in an IDG Connect article published last month reads "Women engineers are still a rarity". Tech companies in the US have recently released workforce information indicating that the average male to female ratio at the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest is approximately 2:1. However, a further breakdown of actual tech roles within each company reveals much lower female participation rates of somewhere between 10 per cent (Twitter) and 20 per cent (Pinterest).

Government and the ICT industry in NZ have recently released plans to help address the issue of gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and STEM-related industries.

Industry Initiative

The New Zealand Technology Industry Association is supporting the "Shadow IT" programme, a Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) initiative to attract more school leavers into the sector. The programme has been designed to inspire young female students by presenting career avenues in the IT field. High school female students are provided with an opportunity to literally shadow IT professionals to get a better understanding of the workplace and career choices available to them.

In building community partnerships between schools and businesses the programme aims to encourage more females to consider the IT field as a career choice.

Government Initiative

A Nation of Curious Minds (He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara) is a national strategic plan for science in society. The plan recognises the importance of scientific knowledge and innovation in creating and defining New Zealand's future, economically, socially and environmentally. One of its main goals is to encourage more students to become science and technology competent learners, and to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related career pathways.

MYOB NZ Director and Product Development Manager, Trevor Leybourne, has welcomed the initiative as a great step towards tackling the ICT skills shortage in NZ. The plan to review the role of Digital Technologies in the school curriculum, as well as the steps to encourage more girls into science and technology careers, will (potentially) help to address the ongoing skills shortage in NZ's ICT industry.

ICT Tertiary Enrolments

Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the current participation rates, based on gender, in ICT tertiary diploma and degree programmes. The low ratio of female to male in equivalent full time study (EFTS) for Levels 5 to 7 ICT programmes highlights the gender imbalance issue.

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Fig 1 IT/ICT Diploma EFTS Enrolments - Male/Female Ratio, 2013

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Fig 2 IT/ICT Degree EFTS Enrolments - Male/Female Ratio, 2013

Youth Unemployment

The NEET rate for youth (15 to 24 years) for all regions in the year to the December 2013 quarter was 11.9 per cent. An IITP TechBlog Article announcement that the 2020 Trust has received a $1.4 million lottery grant boost to provide basic computer skills to unemployed Kiwis is welcome news. Any opportunity to address this vexing issue of youth unemployment, a worldwide problem, is to be applauded.

Job Adverts

The Seek ICT Job advert increase of 3.5 percent on the July statistic (Fig.3) supports the current positive employment outlook posted in the DoL Quarterly Labour Market Scorecard for August 2014.

The August figure of 2643 is 7 percent up on the same period in 2013 when ICT job ads were starting their typical downward trend.

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Fig.3 Seek ICT Job Adverts Monthly Trends 2010 -2014 (August)

The Trademe IT job adverts increased 2 percent on last month's figure of 1,254 (Fig.4), with a significant increase on August 2013 of 19 per cent.

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Fig.4 Seek ICT & Trademe IT Job Advert Trends to July 2014

Figure 5 illustrates a further increase in Seek ICT job adverts for this month with Auckland once again leading the growth for the three main regions, up 5.5 percent. The figure of 1602 ads represents an increase of 9.6 per cent on August 2013.

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 Fig.5 Seek ICT Job Advert Trends - Monthly Change for August 2014

Figure 6 provides a detailed record of the Seek ICT job advert trends by region for the year to August 2014. Overall, the total number of jobs has increased by 62 per cent since the beginning of the year. 

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Fig.6 Seek ICT Job Advert Monthly Trends to August 2014


Government and industry initiatives to encourage female participation in STEM-related careers and, in particular ICT, are to be commended. The results of past efforts to increase female tertiary enrolments into ICT-related programmes appears to have made little difference so far, with the female-to-male ratio intractably stuck at 20:80.

ICT industry and businesses leaders are very concerned about the continuing skill shortages and are now making a concerted effort to work with schools and other government and professional agencies to help address the problem. Let's hope that the combined efforts bear fruit. Watch this space.



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