Could you please elaborate on the Women in Tech (WiT) mission as a global movement?
Women in Tech is an international organization with a double mission: to close the gender gap and to help women embrace technology. We want to empower 5 million women and girls by 2030, meeting 5 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal#5 is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. SDG#4 is Quality Education. SDG#8, which is Entrepreneurialism, provides for Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG#9 speaks of Science and Innovation, while SDG#10 for Social Inclusion aims to Reduce Inequalities.
Our aim is to educate, equip and empower women and girls with the necessary skills, confidence and opportunities to succeed in the STEM career fields. Our community is global with over 30 thousand members coming from all corners of the world, and today we have15 official chapters in France, Portugal, UK, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Russia, Australia, Thailand, Brazil, USA, Peru, Israel, UAE, Angola, South Africa.
What is the rationale for the movement and what led you to start Women in Tech?
Women are Tech’s most untapped resource. The figures speak for themselves. According to Eurostat, just 17% of people in STEM roles across Europe are female, and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women. Not only is creating diverse teams ethical, and will drive more economic growth, but future proofing the job opportunities of women will ensure sustainable communities worldwide.
On a more personal level, I have many different “why’s” that led me to found Women in Tech almost 3 years ago. Ever since I was a teenager, I have experienced gender discrimination at school, in sport, in university…and I learned very early in my life the importance of taking action and not remaining a victim in any circumstance. For instance, I founded, together with 3 friends of mine, our schools first girls rowing team and we were so motivated that we won the South African championships that same year. Along with my teammates, I also experienced the power of sisterhood for the first time. They were my sisters – we had each other’s backs. We trusted each other and we empowered each other.
My second “why” is that technology literally changed my life a few years ago. I was living the perfect life as it had been sold to me – I had a high-powered career, a beautiful house, two amazing children, even my dogs looked like they came out of a fairy tale. But I wasn’t happy. In fact, I wasn’t living the life I wanted to. I had to rethink my personal life and my career.
My dream was to travel, to spend more time with my children, to do something creative and to be independent. How did I start to live my dreams and act? I learned how to code by myself so that I could build websites, I worked on social media campaigns and I created my own digital agency. I realized that the digital skills gave me the freedom I was looking for. I was financially independent and I could make my own choices. So, 10 years later, I felt the need to give back. I wanted to help move the needle towards gender equality in tech by creating this global movement that was not only a network, but that would make impact by taking concrete actions.
WiT doesn’t have a chapter in India. Are you planning to open one?
Definitely yes! This is one of our main goals for the beginning of 2021. We are currently in the process of recruitment, interviewing different women who have shown interest in starting a chapter in India. As the country is very big, we will need various community leaders that will help us federate a community and accomplish our mission locally.
What is the situation in India with women empowerment in the technology sector. Could you compare it with other countries?
India is quite successful in having female graduates in STEM. According to the 2018 UNESCO Institute for Statistics’ report on women in STEM, 44% of bachelor students and 41% of doctoral students in India are female, but the country has difficulties in making them enter the workforce. According to the United Nations, women represent merely 15% of the scientists, engineers and technologists in research development institutions in India.
India remains a very patriarchal society where women face bias when choosing a career, facing discrimination both at work as well as in society – a high dropout rate from the tech industry, large gender pay gap and stereotypes affecting all family-caring responsibilities.
The figures show similarities with countries in the Middle East, like the UAE for example. Although in the U.A.E. 70% of university students are female, only 43% of STEM graduates are women. This number drops even further when they enter the workforce, as women represent 15% of STEM occupations in the UAE.
Do you think that India can play an important role in removing the gender gap in the technology sector?
Of course. India is projected to surpass China to become the world’s most populated country by 2024. The population is also very young, with more than 50% below the age of 25. With this in mind, there is a great opportunity to educate and accompany young women to STEM career fields now. We have to start creating awareness, conducting programmes and supporting women in India in a massive way as soon as possible so as to have a considerable impact in the coming years. India could become a leading country for women empowerment in STEM if we manage to successfully align academia, industry and government together.
Women in Tech organizes awards every year. Could you tell us more about this and plans for this year edition?
This year will be the 3rd edition of the Women in Tech Global awards. Ever since 2018, we have been holding the awards in Lisbon, during the Web Summit. A hybrid event, the Women in Tech Global Awards ceremony will take place on December 2, both in Lisbon and online. It will reward incredible figures in a range of 7 categories: Global Leadership Woman in Tech Award; Most Disruptive Woman in Tech Award; Women in Tech Allie Award; Women in Tech Lifetime Achievement Award; Aspiring Teen Award; Woman in Tech Start-Up Award and the Most impactful Initiative for gender balance in STEM Award. Our international jury of experts will be recognizing women who are making an impact in Tech with brilliance and success. It is our way to help bridge the gender gap in the technology industry by celebrating the remarkable women from around the world who innovate, inspire, and transform the sector as we know it.
Do you have a platform to showcase Women in Tech activities?
We are launching the Women in Tech platform in a few weeks’ time. It will allow members to create profiles, and for us to host programs, events, and networking activities all in one space. With all our needs met in one tool, this platform will be the cornerstone of Women in Tech’s growing global ecosystem. We also wanted to empower women into tech by creating a talent marketplace, showcasing female professionals and putting them in contact with committed companies. Our Talent Marketplace will help women to enter, remain and grow in the tech industry, while helping companies attract and hire a more diverse and skilled workforce.