Progress, Opportunities Still Abound in Tech
Women in Tech Stockholm sold out in under two minutes this year. 1,500 tickets. Full capacity. Under two minutes.
Now, WIT Sthlm is not a massive event, but the simple fact that this sold out so quickly -- and also that I managed to get a ticket, of course -- definitely excites me. Last year the same event sold out in seven minutes. But from seven minutes to less than two? That's progress, plain and simple.
Do you know why this excites me? Because it means many of you are already aware of the huge opportunity in technology, and you are cognizant of the fact that there are so many diverse fields and so many opportunities to create your brand and build expertise in technology. You also already understand that the time is now to be bold and grab those opportunities, however they present themselves. Soldier on, my friends.
Even with all the negativity around being a woman in tech today, I still think we are making progress and see abundant opportunity. We can still do more to foster diversity, not just in gender, nationality or ethnicity, but also in educational background, past experience and age, among the other unique "features" that make up this diverse planet -- and now is a great time to do it.
WIT Sthlm this year opened the show with a 22-year-old phenom named Joy Buolamwini. Joy, who aptly goes by the moniker Poet of Code, is a MIT PhD candidate and TedX speaker, among many other things, who is challenging the status quo in machine learning for facial recognition technology. Now, I could go on about Joy and her exceptional presentation for several more paragraphs, but I suggest you check it out for yourself here.
Joy was followed by a number of other trail-blazing leaders and technical powerhouses: Mouna Esmaeilzadeh, a medical doctor, neuroscientist, visionary entrepreneur and TV personality; Annie Lööf, Leader of the Centre Party in Sweden; and Danica Kragic, a professor of robotics at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, to name just a few.
After listening to these accomplished scientists/engineers/TV personalities/politicians/women, I realized something -- I have attended many Women in Tech events recently, and WIT Sthlm did a great job of providing inspiration, with speakers from a variety of educational backgrounds. You don't need to be a computer science student or engineering M.Sc. to take advantage of the immense range of opportunities within the "tech realm." You don't even need to code, although that is necessary, of course, with many of the roles, and it's pretty cool too.
Diversity in past experience and educational background brings new viewpoints unfettered by the technology sector's status quo. As a non-technical student myself, I didn't even think that a career in technology was a possibility until I became part of it.
The opportunities, however, will go to those who seize them. One of the panelists in the #Metoo and #Teknisktfel session at WIT Sthlm was Anna Wikland, the Country Director for Sweden at Google, who shared a somewhat distressing story about a recent recruitment process. Not only did Google accept incoming applications for the role, it also performed its own search. The company identified a multitude of talented professionals, the majority of whom were female. They then began the process of reaching out to these identified individuals to have a short discussion and gauge their interest in applying for the vacancy.
Now, here's the distressing part: Despite the fact that Google contacted more women than men, significantly fewer women than men were interested in the opportunity. Why? Many women, regardless of the fact that Google had specifically identified them as a great potential candidate, did not think they could make the move -- they had not "finished their missions" in their current role, or it was not the most perfect time to make a change. They were not willing to take the risk -- take the leap. It's also important to note that every single man who was identified said yes to moving forward with the opportunity without hesitation, Anna reported.
It's clear we still have some work to do. We should not be content and stop progressing, and we could all probably learn to be a bit bolder and more self-assured. But, we can be satisfied that we have definitely taken some small steps forward.
I will be so fulfilled if this inspires just one more person to take the leap and chase an opportunity. Better still would be if you, in turn, inspire someone else to take the leap into technology, be they an adroit engineer, an ambitious student, a marketing whiz or whoever! We are making progress on the equality front in so many ways -- don't forget that and let that fuel your fire to continue making a difference.
— Kaela Loffler, VP Channels & Marketing, Netrounds