Women in Tech- Alexia Hilbertidou | Creating mass change in Tech

By: Trudi 28 Aug, 2018

It’s three weeks until we head to The Canterbury Tech Summit and we can’t wait! We wanted to continue our conversation around women in tech, so we caught up with Alexia Hilbertidou, Director of GirlBoss New Zealand, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to empower women in leadership, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It was great chatting with the young entrepreneur to find out about her mission to get more young females into tech and how she envisions New Zealand’s tech industry in the future.

As the Founder of GirlBoss, can you tell us about what you do & what you’re mission is? 

The idea for GirlBoss came as a result of years of my own experiences. At 14 I was the only girl in my school’s tech team.  At 16 I was the only girl in my Digital Technology class and at 17 I was the only girl taking Advanced Physics at my school. I felt isolated, unusual and out of my depth. This lead me to question why young women were under-represented in STEM fields. Using statistical data I found that there were three reasons: 1) Lack of community 2) Misconceptions of difficulty and 3) Lack of women role models. GirlBoss combats all of these problems: We collaborate with women in the STEM industry to prove that STEM is a viable career path and we have created a community where young women can come together and no longer feel alone. I love technology, and I believe GirlBoss has the potential to create mass change.

How do you propose young women prepare for the ‘technological revolution’? 

The rate of change in IT is rapid and the educational system just isn’t keeping up. So many of my friends say that they don’t want to work in IT- but the thing is they won’t have a choice.The rise of automation will mean that almost all of us will need to work competently with technology. This will unfortunately hit women from low socio-economic background the hardest as many of the jobs that will be taken over by automation will be in low wage, caring and service industries. This is why I ensure that GirlBoss is not a prerogative of the privileged and why currently 30% of the high schools GirlBoss is involved with are decile 5 or below. My goal is to make that 50%. Every high school aged student needs to be aware of the impact IT will have on their career path and should ensure that their career is future focused. IT will impact every industry. For example, I was talking to a mechanic the other day and he said that in the space of a few years the car repair industry has completely changed. Not even considering Electric cars, the average new car this day has up to 5 computers in it and finding mechanics with the tech skills to fix these cars has reached a critical point. In my current in-school workshops I am seeing a shift, and girls are starting to see that they can fulfill their passions and make an impact in tech. We now need to ensure that the support is there to take them from inspiration to execution.

What’s your vision for NZ’s tech industry going forward?

My focus is on working to ensure a diverse tech workforce. Women are currently over represented in fields such as administration and retail which, according to the World Economic Forum report, are set to experience a reduction in their workforce. In addition, women are a minority in entrepreneurship, engineering and technology, which are set to grow. The impact of this going forward will be growing social and economic inequality. Everyday I am dedicated to rewriting this future. My vision is that all youth within NZ can be equipped with the skills and attitudes they need to thrive in the future of work.

 

Check out our other Women in Tech blog post with Helen ShorthouseStrategic Tech Leader for Christchurch NZ  where she also discusses gender equality within the tech space.