The statistics around women in tech are well publicised: only 25% of jobs in computing are held by women. But as of 2016, 20% of all tech start-ups globally are being launched by women. With International Women’s Day on 8 March, we thought it would be a good time to shine a spotlight on some women changing the game in Ed Tech.
Girls in Tech
Susan Brown is the MD of the Australian chapter of Girls in Tech, a global, non-profit organisation, as well as the Director @ The Experience Centre, a part of PwC’s Digital Services. She spoke to School Stream about her motivation to support other women in the tech space.
‘My father is in tech and he taught me to program at an early age – I found it to be very exciting and with his encouragement I went into this field at Uni.’
‘Girls in Tech is a global organisation. I am fortunate enough to run the Australia Chapter. We support women in start-ups, innovation and technology. I love that we can create an environment where we can support and encourage women in this sector. My team and I are all volunteers and give our weekends and evenings over to a cause we really believe in. Less than 15% of the industry are women and as a result it can be a hard industry to get into and to thrive in. The more women feel supported, the more we will develop.’
‘Let girls understand what is actually available in this industry. It’s an exciting place that includes roles in graphic, media, design, development, analysis, marketing and product management. I am concerned that not enough girls in schools are exposed to the vast number of careers available and the great and exciting opportunities that exist. There are so many groups advocating, supporting and training women in this field. I believe we would all welcome any support from educators and be happy to help them bring this field to life in their own schools.’
Edwina Mistry – Executive Director Tech Women at Tech NZ, Founder of CreateOps
Edwina Mistry is something of a powerhouse in the New Zealand tech sector. The Executive Director of Tech Women NZ is a long-time, passionate advocate of girls in tech. Edwina’s approach is grounded in a strong belief connecting people with opportunities in the tech sector, and she partners with firms like Microsoft to put on events like DigiGirlz.
Her latest venture, CreateOps “is about giving back to the community” and with the support of Datacom has setup Y-Tech2K18 “to break down barriers and myths that many of our youth have about technology”.
Edwina shared some of her thoughts on educating secondary school girls on tech with School Stream:
‘You need mentors from the time you are in school. My advice to the kids is, “look at parents’ friends, look around”. If you have a plan, ask “Could I have 30 minutes of your time?” People will always say yes.’
On the value of real-world experience
“It is important (for young people) to understand what a career in technology is all about. For them to go into industry and connect to real life experience. That is why I am very proud of the program I built at MIT that placed 430 students in internships.… to see the reality of maths, computers and sciences. Anyone can do it!’
On building confidence in girls
‘Girls are creative, intuitive, and have good organisational skills. We make great product managers, business analysts. It is important that women build confidence and are accepted for what they bring to the table. We can be ourselves and do not need to be treated differently, just because we are girls.’
School Stream will share more of our conversation with Edwina Mistry in a future post.
Melissa Bridson – Founder, School Stream
Entrepreneurial by nature, Melissa Bridson launched School Stream in response to her experiences as a parent and working on websites for schools. Melissa knew, that as a parent, the thing she really cared about was communication from school and was frustrated by the problems she was experiencing through missing information. She knew School Stream had the capacity to solve the problem of an ad hoc approach to communication, save admin teams time through great functionality, keep parents in the loop, and all this while reflecting positively on the school, resulting in attracting more student enrolments. Melissa shares her advice on launching a start-up and being a woman in a male-dominated sector.
‘The most critical thing is to make sure your idea is solving a real problem. You need to be passionate and tenacious. It’s a huge commitment and a big journey to get your idea making money. You need a great deal of optimism, not just for yourself, but for everyone you bring on the journey with you: your team, investors and clients.’
‘In relation to School Stream, while we are in a tech space, most of the staff at the schools we are dealing with, and the parents who use it, are women. Mums tend to manage the children and make decisions for the household. We are communicators, networkers. And so, from that perspective, I understand the dynamics.’
Thank you to everybody who shared their insights.
What are your thoughts? Are there any other trailblazing women in tech we should know about?