Haunani Pao
By Haunani Pao
Senior Lead Designer

Making connections for wāhine in tech

WITW Meetup

I learned, if you make a meetup group, they will sign up and show up…as 28 women came to our first Wāhine in Tech meeting.

So how did we start this?

Rabid Technologies is committed to building a culture that respects and embraces diversity, inclusion, and equity for everyone, regardless of gender, gender expression, culture, age or ability. We have a monthly wāhine meeting, for the women and non-binary colleagues, to discuss work issues and offer each other support. It allows a forum for us to switch roles and practice meeting leadership in a safe environment. We use this time to problem solve and offer suggestions to any work issues. And in turn, we share our suggestions with the wider organisation.

I belong to Auckland’s Women in Tech, as a member and advisor. Women in Tech NZ was born from a conversation among women and men at Gather 2014 and then founded by Tanya Johnson to create a networking and community space for women, non-binary and other marginalised groups.

Through this organisation, I have met some incredible women. We talk about the career challenges and work issues we face on the daily. We give each other support with kindness, pragmatic strategies and friendship. I have made “Women in Leadership besties“ with women who are in leadership positions within their organisations, from managers to directors and vice presidents. We share our stories and solutions, but mostly, these women help me grow my leadership and people skills. With their advice, I strive to improve my professionalism as a team member on client projects, the leader of Rabid’s designers and member of the Leadership Team.

Because of these two influences in my daily life, I used the power of meetup to create a Wāhine in Tech group for Wellington, thinking I had just reserved the name on the Meetup site. But no, I had created a real thing as I found out within hours; when you make it, people will sign up! Once I told my colleagues at Rabid what happened, the responses I received were: “good…go make it happen, we will support you.“

And so, with help, we did, and that’s our origin story.

"No apologies!"

That was the last suggestion for the “Rules We Live By“, a list of rules for "Wāhine in Tech – Wellington" meeting on 15 May, 2018. In this first activity, the attendees discussed the foundation of expectations and guiding principles for this new tech industry group for women and gender minorities.

WITW

This first meetup was a little bit of “meet and greet“ over nibbles and drinks for women from different tech companies within the Wellington area. Attendees originated from all over the globe as well as local Kiwis. Many have careers as software developers, health researchers, security, managers, business analysts and designers. I met really cool women that I want to build relationships with as we grow and encourage participation with WITW and their own professional careers.

A week before the meetup event, I tweeted out an invite to my favourite women MPs and the Honourable Clare Curran (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, and Minister of Government Digital Services) answered the call. She attended the last part of the event and graciously answered some questions from the room about where NZ is as a worldwide tech leader. She charged us to come up with some group goals and invite her back.

WITW

The Minister left us with some things to think about:

Today’s New Zealand’s tech sector employs 6% of the country’s workforce. It is the fastest growing segment of our economy, generating 8% of our GDP and 9% of our exports. Women who are in STEM areas, and particularly those in the computer science area, earn $16,000 NZD less, on average, than their male counterparts. So we have work to do!

Dot Voting

We used design techniques to gather information about the type of events and topics we should discuss within the next few months.

A few other “rules“ discussed:

What happens here, stays here – basically Chatham House rules or FrieNDA. When you get a group of people together, we share stories, make connections and it is possible that we will hear something that resonates, that helps us through insights on a tough situation. Unless we ask for permission, it’s best to be respectful with other people’s stories and keep them confidential.https://www.chathamhouse.org/chatham-house-rule

Respect each other’s perspective, hold your negativity in check – We have good days and bad days, and sometimes it gets the best of us. Someone may say something you disagree with, but you don’t have to be disagreeable.

No Tall Poppy Syndrome or "if it’s not from here, it’s not for here" attitude – There were many immigrant women, who have relevant industry experience in other countries. I can speak from personal experience and say that at times my suggestions or point of view have been dismissed because I am an immigrant. The main gist of this rule is to be open minded to other people’s experiences and don’t cut the conversation off because its origin story is not from New Zealand.

What are we hoping to accomplish with WiTW?

  • We want to promote events that encourage women to contribute and share their stories just by showing up and being their fabulous selves in person or on our social media channels.
  • We want to make friendships, share information, coach and mentor each other, support each other with kindness and empathy.
  • We want promote inclusivity via transparency and participation. We will have a platform to encourage you to let your mana shine.
  • We want to collaborate with other like minded groups on activities and events.
  • We want to help other organisations to value the voices of wāhine and start their own wāhine support groups.
  • Start locally and go globally, I am sure we will come up with a few goals and plans to see where we take this. I don’t know know where that is yet, but I look forward to working with others to find out.
WITW Meetup Logo

You can find us on Twitter as @WITWelly #WahineInTech #WomenInTech #BringAFriend

Wāhine in Tech is a series of monthly events sponsored by Rabid Tech. The events range from presentations and panel discussions to networking events with Happy Hours or Coffee Catchups. we’re 168 members and counting.

If you want to know more about WITW, please feel free to contact me at haunani.pao@ackama.com