I recently joined the NZTech Women High Impact Team, with the honour of being the group’s first male representative. This has significantly improved the teams gender diversity to a proportion not far off the percentage of women in tech in New Zealand businesses!
A few months ago, I attended a NZTech Women event on Developing Diversity in Wellington. It was an insightful and inspiring event. However, what stood out most to me was the lack of men in the audience, only four of us amongst 100 women.
This ignited a passion in me about what we need to do to really make progress with gender diversity in tech, we need men to get involved! It feels counterintuitive and even somewhat risky to say this but my argument is simple. Many men are not even aware of a diversity gap let alone consider it a real issue. Many men are asleep at the wheel when it comes to improving gender diversity. It’s not that they are against diversity or don’t support it, but they are just blissfully unaware and uninvolved. We can redefine men’s role in taking action on gender diversity. A key first step, is raising men’s awareness and getting them involved in supporting change.
To live in a country where women make up over half the population, yet are so poorly represented in the businesses I have worked in and with, presents a real issue for me. We are missing out on the opportunity to build the best teams. Until we get this sorted, we are all missing out, as are the businesses we work in. There is so much research in support of the value and performance of diverse teams including age, background, culture, working styles and gender.
Aside from a genuine appreciation of diversity, I do have a personal motivator. My teenage daughter is showing an interesting in tech and I would love her to have the opportunity to work in this rewarding industry. It is an industry that attracts opportunities to travel, to innovate and is well remunerated. Naturally, I am keen to ensure that she and other young women see tech as a genuinely positive and realistic career path to pursue. Because of this, I am committed to making a difference, stepping up beside women to realise gender diversity.
Men can no longer just sit back and leave the problem to the women already working in tech to close the gender diversity gap. Men who currently occupy a majority of the senior tech roles can make diversity a priority and take positive action.
Great progress is being made by the Male Champions of Change initiative. Male Champions of Change use their individual and collective leadership to elevate gender equality as an issue of social and economic importance. I am encouraged by the senior executives in large organisations who are so actively involved and helping to create change. The strategy behind Male Champions of Change is men stepping up beside women to show that the promotion of gender equality is everyone’s business. They listen, learn and lead with action to achieve sustainable change.
Promoting change isn’t just reserved for senior leaders. Every man can make a difference, first by increasing their awareness. During my short time with NZTech Women I have already had my eyes opened, hearing stories of the challenges many New Zealand women still experience as a minority in the tech sector.
Instead of remaining unaware, apathetic or even in opposition to diversity, I encourage men to gain insight for better understanding. Speak to your mum, sister, daughter, wife or any woman you know well and listen to their experiences in the workplace. Really listen! Once you’ve done that, you will be awake at the wheel and motivated to help drive positive change too.
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