Across the European Union, just 24 out of every 1,000 women in higher education are studying programmes related to information and communication technology (ICT). Of those 24, just 6 actually end up working in the digital sector. According to a report carried out by the European Commission entitled Women in the Digital Age, increased female participation in the digital sector would prompt an annual increase in GDP of around 16 billion euros. Aside from being a pressing social concern, the cost of inequality affects both businesses’ and the economy’s productivity.
In Spain, we are lucky to have female directors and CEOs in the technological sphere such as Helena Herrero at HP, Marta Martínez at IBM and María Jesús Almanzor at Telefónica España. The same situation can be found in start-ups, such as the one run by Loly Garrido, founder of Gudog, a company that helps dog owners choose from over 14,000 qualified dog-sitters, which is now a huge success in European countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Loly Garrido – Gudog
She believes a good way of stimulating female presence in the digital world would be to “insist that event organisers stop inviting the same four men every year to give talks and presentations. It’s important to recognise the women we know are the best in their field and who have so much to share and teach us”. In Garrdido’s words, “new generations need more female role models who they can learn from and who offer a more egalitarian vision”.
Role models such as the first female programmer in history, mathematician Ada Lovelace; the first person to be awarded two Nobel Prizes in different specialities, Marie Curie, or the North American chemist who conceived the only effective treatment against leprosy until the invention of antibiotics in 1940, Alice Ball. These are just three of the many female scientists who have made life-changing contributions to society, even though it sometimes seems as if history has tried to keep them on the side-lines.
At this point, nobody can deny that economic and social advancement is heavily dependent on the transformation of businesses, society and governments to guarantee equal access to degree programmes and jobs. Today, just 12% of cloud computing professionals are women, a figure which rises by only a fraction to 15% of engineers, and 26% of professionals working in data and artificial intelligence.
In view of these figures, Loly Garrido explains that “in order to eradicate this imbalance, we need to go back in time and start at the roots; in schools. We should stop assigning certain subjects and professions either to boys or girls, and instead try to facilitate access to technological training for women, something which some platforms are already offering. We need to subsidise women’s entry into technological training until we achieve equality in the classroom”.
Under the slogan ‘Tech has no gender’, Ironhack aims to boost female presence through initiatives such as The Algorithm is Female, which helps women gain access to our web development or data analysis bootcamps, thus opening the door to leading national and international tech companies with a positive gender perspective.
Vodafone’s Scrum Master and Graphic Facilitator, Susana Sánchez, underlines the importance of working together to achieve a shift in perspective. “It’s necessary and in fact crucial that each and every one of us stand behind this campaign”, she says, highlighting recent proposals such as a call to eliminate names and photographs from CVs, a measure that is becoming increasingly prevalent in an attempt to evaluate nothing else but a candidate’s education and professional experience.
Susana Sánchez – Vodafone
Susana’s reminder helps us understand the professional reality many women still face today. “When I became a mother, people asked me questions that I now realise I wasn’t obliged to answer. I stared back at many of them when they took an unusual interest in my then only son, asking me questions like was he often unwell, how old was he, how did I cope when he was sick, if I had thought about having another baby, and so on. The interviewers focused more on how I organised my day-to-day life and what my future plans were, than on my CV. My husband, who is the father of the very same children, has never been asked such things in an interview. This is what we should be making a stand against and penalising companies for this kind of malpractice”. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that there’s no more room for excuses. The future of technology has to be female.