“Don’t drop maths” was one of the messages sent to 66 Auckland Girls’ Grammar school students invited to experience a day of working in technology last week.
In a joint effort aimed at countering plummeting tertiary ICT enrolments, particularly among young women, Women in Technology (WIT), Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Vodafone and Accelerating Auckland invited the girls to the Viaduct Harbour offices of the technology companies as part of their “Go Girl — Go IT” initiative.
The students were divided into groups and experienced six different career sessions, led by young role models, most of them female, according to Nicola Ferguson, OEM director of Microsoft New Zealand and one of the organisers of the event.
“The number of students enrolling in tertiary ICT courses is really low, and the number of female students is even lower,” says Cheryl Horo, general manager of WIT.
While the number of ICT jobs is increasing, the number of graduates is decreasing, says Judith Speight, Accelerating Auckland’s programme leader and also director of ICT consultancy firm ITT WRKZ.
There are three places to look for people to fill that gap — among women, among Maori and Pacific groups and internationally, she says.
Last week’s event was the pilot of a programme which aims to open students’ eyes to the career opportunities in ICT and to change the perception of what it is like working in the industry, says Horo.
Role models from companies such as Shoko, Sandfield, HP, Vodafone, Microsoft, IBM and Shift, and WIT, talked about their jobs and how they got where they are today. A lot of the questions from the students were around what the role models had studied in Year Seven and what choices they had made, says Horo.
The message from the role models to the girls was: make opportunities happen; make your own luck; believe in yourself and do what you are passionate about and, most of all, don’t drop maths.
“We need more role models in ICT,” says Speight.
The initiative has already borne fruit, with Ferguson saying a couple of girls had contacted her, asking about doing their work experience with Microsoft. Some of the role models have also got emails with questions and feedback from the girls, says Horo.
Epsom Girls Grammar will be the next school to visit the companies, and the group plans to get more schools involved.