Future proofing equality - Edwina Mistry from Manukau Institute of Technology to join Ali Mau today

Future proofing equality - Edwina Mistry, Industry and Community Engagement Manager, Manukau Institute of Technology.

With the successful settlement of the claim by age care workers and new research on the gender pay gap, New Zealand is making significant progress towards better understanding and addressing inequality.

But we need to consider how these advancements will be preserved when so much about the shape of the future economy is uncertain?

A recent World Economic Forum study of fifteen countries found that new technology could strip out more than seven million jobs from those economies by 2021.

The silver lining is an estimate that just over two million new positions will also be created in fields like computing and engineering.

However, because these are sectors in which women are traditionally underrepresented we will feel the weight of change more than men. It’s predicted that for every five jobs lost by women in this transition only one new opportunity will be created.

The fact only 3% of our 15 year old girls say they are intending to pursue a future in computing only serves to underline the urgency of the situation.

Efforts to address inequality in the present should be applauded but while slow progress is being made, the goalposts are moving rapidly away from us.

So what can we do as parents and teachers to address this gap?

In short, we need to put tech futures in front of our girls in a meaningful way as much as possible. It might be a male-dominated field right now, but they will have a big say in what the workplace of tomorrow looks like.

One key initiative is Shadow Tech Days which take groups of 14 to 16 year old school students and allow them to go inside technology companies following a female IT professional for a day.

It’s a great opportunity to break down perceptions that these jobs are only for boys or boring. Once on the inside they get to see how IT skills open up a huge range of options that are paid on average double the median income.

It’s just one of a myriad of such initiatives including DigiGirlz, a programme designed to introduce Māori and Pasifika girls to coding and robotics.

Here at MIT we’ve been committed to growing a diverse IT workforce for a long time with our programming challenge for girls now in its tenth year.

When I started my own career more than thirty years ago I was one of only a few females in a technical role. But that choice has allowed me good work-life balance and flexible hours which help when you are bringing up a family.

Techweek is a great time to have these discussions with our daughters about what they want to be in the future and how technology can help get them there.