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AI provides window to get women into tech

Auckland – Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the next wave of technology and New Zealand must present a fresh window to help encourage women into tech roles.

Big corporations across every industry, from retail to agriculture, are trying to integrate machine learning into their products and the global thirst for AI is fuelling a heated race to climb aboard the new revolution.

The issue of getting more women into tech is never more poignant with tomorrow being international women’s day.

AI Forum New Zealand board member Koren O’Brien says computer programming traditionally leaned very heavily toward men as the tech industry evolved and developed. Consequently, even in this modern day, only 23 percent of employees in tech firms are female.

“We have this great new opportunity to make sure that as this next wave of technology, AI, heads toward mainstream, that it is a place where women want to be and can excel.

“The great thing about artificial intelligence is that the range of skills needed really suits women well. While some roles will be very data focused and analytical, others will need strengths in empathy and communication.

“Some recent international research found there are only about 22,000 AI experts in the world of which only 85 identify as being located in New Zealand, so if we start the right way now we can avoid having this conversation in five years’ time about why only 20 percent of people involved in AI are female.

“The upcoming AI Day event in Auckland on March 28 will be a fantastic chance for women to find out more about the many exciting opportunities that AI is bringing.

“New Zealand firms and organisations should urge their female staff to attend and consider developing an interest in this area before the AI skills shortage gets too big.

“We know technology is creative and practical, and increasingly relevant in our lives – perhaps even more so with the emergence of AI. There is a place in this landscape for an array of skills, thinking styles and knowledge bases. This is the opportunity for women.

“With the emergence of AI it’s going to be essential to prioritise diversity and find ways to leverage more women to get involved in the industry.

“We can complain that firms are not employing enough women, but it’s a bigger issue than that as young girls also needing to be inspired by the opportunities.

Last year’s Digital Skills report found that, in New Zealand, only 36 percent of computer science students are female and a 2015 OECD survey found that only three percent of 15-year-old girls in New Zealand showed an interest in a tech career.


For further information contact Koren O’Brien on 021 1786243 or Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

Photo: Koren O’Brien

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