Girls, stick to what you're good at, says IT boss video

Dominico Zapata/ Stuff

Claudia Hill, owner of web software design business Room9, talks about women in IT and the opportunities available to them.

Most women aren't wired right to be software engineers says a IT company owner and people should be able to discuss it without being "verbally executed."

The comments from Claudia Hill, managing director of Hamilton's Room 9 come as tech giant Google fends off growing criticism over gender balance in the sector.

A senior male Google software engineer was sacked this week after publishing a memo questioning the company's quest for a diverse workforce in the traditionally male-dominated industry and claiming women don't make up 50 per cent of the company's tech and leadership positions not because of sexism but because of differences in their preferences and abilities.

Claudia Hill believes the female brain isn't wired to excel at software engineering.

Claudia Hill believes the female brain isn't wired to excel at software engineering.

The company has been in damage control after he suggested that women "prefer jobs in social and artistic areas" while more men "may like coding because it requires systemising" and that only an honest discussion would address a lack of equality.

*Claudia Hill: Here's why the tech industry doesn't need more female software engineers
*It's not sexism that stops women becoming leaders, says Google
*Google VP denounces employee memo's views on female workers

Hill agreed and spoke out saying the same debate needs to happen in New Zealand. 

"I believe men and women are different. When it comes to physical differences no one disagrees, as soon as you say we could potentially be mentally different you get verbally executed. I believe we have mental differences and that is from experience of being a female and being a software engineer."

Hill accepted some would see her stance as controversial but  having been in the tech sector for nearly two decades she's seen women struggle to become brilliant software engineers.

"There is a real push to get people into engineering, but I believe there is only a certain amount of people who are wired for [software] engineering. Not everyone can do it. It doesn't mean they are dumb or less fortunate they are just wired differently. They could be fantastic accountants," Hill said.

Hill believes that women are better at nurturing talent, managing people and communication - the sorts of skills needed in senior management and leadership roles in the tech sector.

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There is plenty of work available in these areas that pays as well if not better than engineering.

"I think that characteristics you need to be a brilliant engineer are the ones that can be found in males."

"When you work in an area that's not your strength you are constantly feeling that you are fighting against your own brain if you are working in an area that is your strength it's just an easy low and you will always excel at that."

Hill has a staff of 10, including four females and would like to see more in tech, but in the right roles.

She said people should be stripped of all labels like gender and ethnicity and judged purely on their talent.

Waikato University senior lecturer of Computer Science Dr Judy Bowen said the lack of women in IT had nothing to do with people's mental wiring but how women were encouraged into the sector and shown other options around software engineering.

"The whole thing that women's brains can't do hard things like writing code, there's so little to say on that as it's just nonsense.   Maybe  they're not interested in it as it's perceived as being socially isolated or there is this image of a lone geek in a dark room writing code and never speaking to anyone - so that may make it uninteresting to women."

Bowen said the skills Hill was highlighting were already key in software engineering. If someone couldn't communicate or listen to what was needed, they wouldn't get far.

Waikato University professor of political science and public policy Priya Kurian​ said that it was unfortunate when employers resorted to pseudo or pop science, about neurological differences between men and women to justify sexist hiring practices.

"It is convenient to fall back on gender stereotypes in making assumptions about the kinds of work men and women may be suitable for. But, in fact, the most recent and reliable science shows that there is no such thing as a 'male brain' or a 'female brain'. 

Minister for Women, Paula Bennett was not available for an interview but said in an email in response to Hill's points  - "That's one woman's opinion and it's not one I share."

 - Stuff


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