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Tech Expert
Tech Expert 6 May 2022
Categories B2B, B2C, Technology

International Girls in ICT Day: Technology Leaders Offer Their Thoughts

International Girls in ICT Day 2022 was a day to reflect on how we can empower more young women to pursue careers in STEM and to highlight the great things that women have achieved in related industries. Below, top executives from global technology businesses share what the day means to them and how we can encourage more girls to enter the world of STEM.

Elisa Caballero, Global Head of Engineering Strategy and Operations, Glovo

“Throughout my career, there have been countless moments when I have been the only woman in the room; despite the many years, I still haven’t got used to it. This needs to change, and it must happen now. 

“International Girls in ICT Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on what we are all doing to inspire the next generation of women in STEM. And we must inspire through action, by supporting mentorship schemes, creating community programmes and building more diverse workforces made up of the role models that young women need to feel empowered to enter STEM careers. 

“Although there is plenty more progress to be made, a lot is being done at Glovo to accelerate change both within and outside of the organisation. We have begun to set the wheels in motion through community initiatives that drive conversation. For example, we aim to arrange meetings between over 750 girls in the local school system and our tech teams, so that they are aware of the opportunities within our ecosystem and how to best access them. This year, we’re also facilitating bootcamps for 230 women to provide training in data, engineering and product, so they can pursue a career within tech.

“When we offer insight into the endless number of opportunities that are available and break down the biases that are built around these careers, we encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects. Achieving gender equality is not just a matter of fairness and balance, but has been proven to drive business success and generate more positive results. Women will feel empowered in a workforce where they are supported, mentored and accompanied, and it’s in our hands to make that a reality.”

Catarina Figueiredo, Engineering Manager, Healx

“The theme for this year’s International Girls in ICT Day is Access & Safety – two topics that are both close to my heart when it comes to women in STEM. With regard to access in particular, it’s promising to see that we are making progress, but women are still forced to overcome a huge number of obstacles when they step into the world of technology. From being told which toys to play with as children, to feeling out of place in male-dominated working environments, women are consistently told – both consciously and unconsciously – that the industry isn’t for them. And that’s simply not true; so, we need to shift the perception.  

“To encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers, I believe that we, as women in the industry, must act as role models to inspire younger generations. I am therefore a huge supporter of mentoring schemes, such as the ‘Meet a Mentor’ programme, which I have been a part of since 2020. The initiative connected me with a female mentor, who was not only a great inspiration but a huge help in pushing me to become more confident in myself as I began my career in leadership. I have recently enrolled to become a mentor in the same programme and am very much looking forward to mentoring other young women breaking into the industry.

“Society also needs to normalise having more women in technology (through more visibility and leadership roles), so that every girl views a STEM career as something achievable. If we don’t, we risk losing out on huge waves of talent that could make an enormous impact in shaping the society we live in.”

Cindi Howson, Chief Data Strategy Officer, ThoughtSpot

“Getting more girls into ICT is important for the whole of society - and there’s data to prove it. Opening up to diversity has solid business benefits: 38% more revenues from innovative products and services, according to Boston Consulting Group and the University of Munich. Top quartile gender diverse teams are 21% more likely to have above average profitability, says McKinsey. Companies are 45% more likely to capture new markets with diverse leadership, according to the Center for Talent and Innovation.

“But even when girls, women, join the workforce many in tech leave within the first three to five years because of non inclusive workplaces rife with microaggressions and unconscious bias. Bringing more girls into tech is of critical importance as we enter the defining decade of data and pervasive AI.

“With diverse voices building AI, there’s a bigger societal benefit - reducing the risk of bias at scale. Without diverse experiences and voices, starting with the experiences of 50% of the population, we can’t make technologies and services that meet the needs of a growing and increasingly fragile world. But with inclusion, access, and psychological safety for girls in ICT as a start, the ability to improve the world for all, is in our hands. Further, the World Economic Forum sees jobs in data and AI as the top three in demand, outpacing supply of talent. Girls who pursue this field have a path to a more equitable world, financially.”

Tanya Channing, Chief People and Culture Officer, Pipedrive

“The opportunities in the technology sector are vast, and so is the opportunity for girls to grow into and help shape its future. Offering the right access, reaching out and inspiring girls in education is key, but so is retaining them throughout education and then into the workforce, where female participation tends to drop off too soon. Issues of access and safety are key, not only for individual girls in ICT, but also for females creating and using technology, because we have a social, cultural challenge to ensure that technology’s benefits are used for socially constructive ends.

“Because technology is such a powerful social force, businesses have an important opportunity to include a diversity of opinion within emerging technologies from the ground up, including women, and to help shape levels of access and safety for the better. It’s also just good business sense to better fit products and services to the needs of all users, resulting in better experiences. It all starts with listening to female needs and showing girls that technology is a rewarding sector where their voices are needed.”

Chitra Balasubramanian, CFO at CircleCI

“As a mentor, I see that women don’t want to “fake it till they make it,” they want to really know the subject or challenge before they take it on. Or they let fear prevent them from taking risks. We often create our own barriers. 

As women in STEM, we have to eliminate our imposter syndrome, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and challenge ourselves to take on the hard stuff to reach new heights. We also have to be vocal about what we want and ask questions so that we are continuously learning. 

It’s also important to seek out opportunities for mentorship and be specific about your goals. Remote work may have separated us physically, but it has also broken down barriers and enabled us to be more connected than ever. Mentorship can take many forms, including short-term aid for a job search, long-run career advancement, and even ongoing, informal ‘phone a friend’ support, so it’s important to align on your goals for the relationship at the outset.”

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