People like all of us: Hi-Tech Endowment Fund encourages diversity

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Fiona Fraser

The tide is turning in tech, with a new scholarship programme aimed at encouraging diversity and inclusion through training opportunities and overseas learning. We take a look at the details.

An endowment fund created to support the growth of capability and capacity within our country’s hi-tech sector has launched, and the industry is buzzing. Applications are now open for those wishing to apply to the newly established Hi-Tech Foundation’s He Whetū Mārama Ngā Karahipi /Leading Light Scholarship Programme, which – in its initial stages – aims to grant five Kiwis from diverse backgrounds a sum of $5,000 each to assist with the costs associated with studying towards a career in tech.

But it’s just the beginning, says the Hi-Tech Foundation, who launched the endowment fund with a video which, deliberately, demonstrates just how white and male the sector’s leaders generally are.

“The New Zealand hi-tech sector is booming” Sir Stephen Tindall begins in the clip. “Tech is now New Zealand’s second largest export earner,” continues intellectual property lawyer Simon Martin. “But can you see the problem?” asks tech leader Evan Blackman. “There are a lot of people who look like me,” says Flying Kiwi’s Greg Cross.

In fact, Technology Investment Network stats show that fewer than 20% of those working in tech in New Zealand are women, and under 5% are Maori.

“Diversity brings strength,” says Erin Wansbrough, chair of the Hi-Tech Trust. She says the scholarships are aimed at “people who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity” to study. And her point on inclusion is cleverly illustrated in the second half of the video, which brings in a selection of the more diverse faces in the tech and science sector – Tech Futures Lab’s Frances Valintine, Mike Jenkins of The Instillery and ‘Nanogirl’ Dr Michelle Dickinson.

Now, the Hi-Tech Endowment Fund – which is independent, non-profit and non-partisan –  is reaching out to find more donors to secure financial commitments (through donations, bequests, grants or other means) totalling $25m by 2025.

Funds raised will be used in multiple ways, with the overarching goal being to open the door to those Kiwis who would otherwise struggle to find their path in tech, and to support growth and governance in the sector.

The endowment will be managed by Perpetual Guardian.

For more, and to apply, go to the Hi-Tech Foundation website.

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Fiona Fraser

Fiona Fraser spent 18 years as a journalist and editor before founding Contentment Agency, her content and public relations business. From first getting behind a radio sound desk as a teenager, to thrashing podcasts as an adult, she appreciates the myriad ways tech can enhance communication and connection.

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