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Losing the stereotypes!

Ella Mitchell —

Helping young women into IT careers

“There is a very unfair stereotype that to be an IT person you have to be a geek who can’t talk to people, who sits in a dark room and hacks all day, and doesn’t like anyone. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

That’s the message that Tauranga Girls’ College Computer Science students received from Tauranga City Council Scrum Master Tamsin Oliver at a recent event to experience pathways for women in the tech industry.

Straight 2 the Source involved 50 students visiting local businesses including Tauranga City Council, LawVu, Datacom, Trustpower, the University of Waikato and Toi Ohomai to meet with women working in IT positions and explore future career opportunities.

The event was part of a wider pilot programme offered by Bay of Plenty tech company ii and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation to encourage young women to take up careers in the digital technology industry.

Jay Tihema, Community Manager for ii, says it’s important to have diversity in the digital technology sector, including women, who are currently underrepresented.

“We’re taking a collaborative approach with our wider community to support women in tech and raise awareness about the numerous opportunities available. Everyone involved recognises the value of investing in our younger generation and have all been really proactive in communicating their potential future in the tech space."

Students heard from Tauranga City Council Scrum Master Tamsin Oliver, Cyber Security Engineer Jaimee Pasig, Team Leader: Digital Capability Espie West and Digital Programmes Specialist Shannon Pawhau about the different careers digital technology can lead to.

“Many students assume IT workers are a certain type of person and that they don’t fit that mould,” says Tauranga Girls’ College Digital Technology teacher Grace Jensen.

“The purpose of this project has been to smash those stereotypes and make connections between what students learn in the classroom and the real world.”

Year 10 Computer Science student Aahana Narang says meeting IT professionals in the workplace has inspired her to get involved in IT.

“What interests me about this career is that there are various jobs in IT. You talk to people constantly, you can communicate with people, share your ideas and are always ready to learn and grow.”

With the recent growth of the tech industry, it has never been more important to support young women into IT roles.

“Straight 2 the Source has been part of a pilot effort to explore how we can create pathways for the next generation into digital technology through a community-led approach. There’s been a lot of interest in ensuring this continues in some form towards building diversity in the industry, so it’d be great to see that happen,” says Jay Tihema.

Some final words of wisdom from Scrum Master Tamsin Oliver: “Lose the stereotype. Don’t think that a role in IT or studying IT makes you a geek; it doesn’t. It makes you smart. Stick with it!”