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New tech charity to boost diversity and inclusion

Peter Griffin, Contributor. 20 August 2020, 9:45 am
New tech charity to boost diversity and inclusion


A group of New Zealand's tech leaders have launched a charitable foundation to boost diversity in the tech sector and have an ambitious goal in mind - to raise $25 million by 2025.

The Hi-Tech Foundation is aimed at changing the predominantly white and male make-up of the tech sector, which employs over 114,000 Kiwis and is now our second-largest sector by revenue. Only 6 per cent of them are females and women represent just 22 per cent of the artificial intelligence workforce.

When it comes to Māori and Pacific Islanders, the numbers are in the single digits - less than five per cent representation. The new endowment fund and scholarships to try and correct that imbalance. 

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Erin Wansburgh, Chair of NZ Hi-Tech Trust

"The Hi-Tech Trust was established to celebrate success and in that goal it's been very successful but now is the time to do even more," said  
Erin Wansburgh, Chair of NZ Hi-Tech Trust, which runs the annual Hi-Tech Awards, held virtually last week as a result of Auckland's return to Covid-19 lockdown.

"Our core purpose is to encourage diversity and inclusion, with strong Māori and Pasifika involvement, including application forms in te reo Māori - and in building diversity and encouraging participation there is real opportunity for all New Zealanders to contribute to the valuable hi-tech sector if they wish," said NZTE general manager and NZ Hi-Tech founding trustee David Downs.

$5,000 scholarships

The Hi-Tech Foundation's 'He Whetū Mārama Ngā Karahipi / Leading Light Scholarship Programme starts fairly modestly - each year five successful applicants with be awarded up to $5,000 to cover tuition and living costs to support for career development and advancement of New Zealand technology students.

Applicants will need to be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, illustrate financial need and be a graduating high school senior from high school or a current student enrolled in higher education.

The Foundation hopes to grow the endowment to reach its $25 million goal through "donations, subsidies, grants, endowments, gifts, legacies, and bequests of support". The endowment will be managed by Perpetual Guardian, which successfully pioneered the four-day work week and whose chief executive, Andrew Barnes, recently bought the Givealittle charitable platform from Spark.

The Hi-Tech Foundation, which filed its paperwork with the New Zealand Charities Services last month, hasn't announced how much money the endowment is starting with. But a video promoting the foundation features some big names with deep pockets, including The Warehouse founder and tech investor Sir Stephen Tindall.

"There are a lot of people who look like me," admits Soul Machines chief executive and co-founder Greg Cross in the video. 

Vend co-founder Vaughn Rowsell chipped in with similar sentiments, including via Twitter.

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Turning the tide so that the tech sector better reflects the make-up of New Zealand is a big task, but there are numerous other great initiatives also underway with the same goal in mind.

Here is a list of just some of them:

Tech Women

Ministry for Women - science and tech

Pasifika in IT

Tupu Toa

Summer of Tech

Applications for the 2020 Hi-Tech Foundation scholarships close on 31 October 2020.


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