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Promoting Women in IT

Media Release
Wednesday 20 August

Promoting Women in IT

Dr Sally Jo Cunningham has been selected as one of two NZ representatives to attend an APEC training programme in Korea intended to foster women’s involvement in IT.

A Senior Lecturer at Waikato University’s Department of Computer Science, Dr Cunningham will be attending the ‘Training for Women’s IT Capacity Building’ programme along with representatives from 21 other APEC-member economies.

The programme, which is hosted by the Korean Ministry of Gender Equality, is part of promoting women’s economic activities in the APEC region. It will specifically focus on narrowing the digital divide and supporting women in enhancing IT competitiveness and expanding their respective roles. It also aims to build a global digital network and economic development in the Asia-Pacific area.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Royal Society of New Zealand and Waikato University, Dr Cunningham will be attending the programme from 25 August to 5 September 2003. She will take part in a packed schedule of lectures, field visits, group discussions and web-site designing practice, along with the opportunity to experience Korean traditional culture.

Dr Cunningham said she hoped to gain a better understanding of what trends were emerging worldwide with women in IT professions.

“IT and Computer Science are areas that don’t traditionally attract many women, even though there is a really high demand in industry and research for them.”

“The programme will focus on what can be done to help more women into the IT area, and I am most interested to find out what is happening in other countries,” said Dr Cunningham.

In particular, she is interested to speak with the representatives from Eastern countries about what they are doing differently.

“Most research on women in IT has been done in Western/European countries. I would like to find out if there is variation in the Eastern cultures and whether any of their ideas would work here.”

She was also pleased that part of the programme included scope to support developing countries in the APEC region to implement initiatives for women.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade selected Dr Cunningham’s application after the Korean government asked them to locate two women to represent New Zealand at the programme. Applications were called for from around the country. The other New Zealander selected to attend is Dr Catherine Sneyd, Manager, Information Security and IS Policy for Telecom New Zealand.

On Dr Cunningham’s return she will be writing about her experiences in the Royal Society Alert weekly newsletter, as well as passing on some valuable information and expertise to staff and students at Waikato University and further afield.

“One of our aims in the Computer Science department at Waikato is to encourage more females into the IT area, and it is a subject of personal interest to me as well,” said Dr Cunningham.

“This is a great opportunity to further develop my own knowledge of women’s role in the digital society, as well as taking what I learn back to New Zealand and putting it into practice,”


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