Women in Tech: Changing the Game

WIS met for our annual breakfast in conjunction with the NZ Esri User Conference at SkyCity Conference Centre, on the 13th of August 2019. The breakfast was sponsored by Eagle Technology and more than 60 people attended.

Dil Khosa is co-chair of NZ TechWomen, and loves working with technology and business. Dil has been involved in operations in start-ups, is co-chair of NZ TechWomen, an ambassador for Startup Genome NZ and an advisor for Empower Youth.

Dil’s work with startups began with Parrot Analytics – a start-up that tracks what people are watching online and via social media. They analyse trillions of data points per day to gain a better understanding of popular media content. She left Parrot this year after feeling burnt out by spending her energy ‘building someone else’s dream’. As Dil said: “When one door closes, another one opens”, and she was given the opportunity to co-Chair NZ TechWomen and become an ambassador for Genome NZ – a data-based start-up.

Dil posed the question – why we are still talking about ‘Women in Tech’ in 2019? Unfortunately, it is estimated that it will be 2095 before we can stop talking about it as an issue. Women are rated better than men on leadership capabilities according to the Harvard Business Review 2019, but this does not yet translate to equality in the workplace. There are still fewer female CEOs (only 4%), fewer women in tech (only 25%), and fewer female led start-ups (only 15%).

She spoke about the NZ start-up and innovation ecosystem. On the start-up ‘genome’ scale (which looks at start-ups globally), NZ is still in the ‘activation’ stage – i.e. still in early phases of maturity. Start ups are vital for the digital economy NZ is striving for – Dil states that for us to be accelerating this, we should be getting more women involved in the field that aren’t currently. 

How can we do this? Dil had some suggestions, including:

  • Telling our stories – promoting what we do, writing blogs (tick!)
  • Mentoring – with our peers, growing our networks, and mentoring young people
  • Starting girls young – through initiatives such as GirlBoss and Shadowtech, to remove biases early.
  • Equal opportunities – Supporting things like ‘returnships’- bringing women back into the workforce after leave, as well as helping to better recognise and manage biases.

Dil then spoke a little about the future of tech – based on the predictions of Yuval Noah Harai in “Homo Deus”. She talked about:

  • Mental Health Tech – suicide kills more people than war, and we need better ways to address this.
  • Upgraded human beings – Tech such as organ generation, AI and Machine learning. But this begs the question of “where do we draw the line?” E.g. CRISPR, which modifies genes.
  • Transhumanism vs Data-ism – which speaks to the fear of AI taking over. Will we work ‘with’ data, or will data take over our work?

Dil suggested that women have an important role to play in this data future. Women can build more empathetic content; 50% of tech users are women, they can have a valuable role in user experience development. She suggested women may have diverse and valuable perspectives on the ethics of new tech. She suggested that as the way we work changes and the way humanity works with data advances, so our diversity of thought and creativity may play a more important role.

“The future of technology has to be female, diverse, and inclusive…”

Dil was asked what the biggest challenge in her career has been. She said that she didn’t realise when she was at university, but the workforce is very male-dominated. She was frequently one of the only females at work. She saw this as an advantage –  what she identified as important in people growth was different to her male colleagues. Another challenge she faced was burning out – the tech industry is one where being ‘busy’ is rewarded. You are expected to be online at all times. It took her a while to realise that she didn’t need to do that, and that being busy and always available isn’t a badge of honour.

 

After Dil’s presentation, Dale Harris from Abley spoke briefly on the Women in Urbanism Aotearoa’ group. It was formed in 2017 in Auckland and comprises women in urban planning, transport, Engineering and Advocacy – and others. She said that women use spaces in different ways and feel differently about urban spaces with issues such as safety being much more of a concern. This group is about developing more inclusive urban spaces. For example, the Auckland branch recently ran a campaign on harassment in public places.

Women in Urbanism Aotearoa currently have 1,500 members across Facebook and other groups. However, they don’t have many members in data/GIS roles. They’d love volunteers to join them to support mapping projects. If anyone is interested, check out their website at: womeninurbanism.org.nz

Thanks again to Dil and Dale for speaking, and Eagle Technology for sponsoring the breakfast.

 

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