Our CEO, Vera Led takes a very refreshing glance at the intensively discussed topic of women share in the technology in the monthly blog of BFC Business Women Center.


Where are we coming from – where are we heading?

“Oh God” was the reaction of a great-aunt when she finally understood decades ago that I wanted to study “something with technology”. She completely ignored the fact that it was “just” IT and thus only half the fun, without overalls and grease on the hands.

Many years later the picture is no longer as sharp-edged, but we still live in an Austrian world in which only the noun ‘technology’ is takes feminine gender in the German language. Where does it come from that in the minds of many people “technology is not for women” and where does the path we are taking lead us as a society?

First of all, my answer to the second question (spoiler alert!): in the right direction but too slowly.

Back to the starting point of the current situation. I consciously wrote the “Austrian World”. The employment rate of women or the proportion of women in full-time jobs is higher in the Scandinavian as well as the ex-communist countries than here. Why? In Scandinavia, childcare offers are extensive and good not only in the urban areas; the state and childcare facilities also actively promote the involvement of fathers. In the former communist countries, long parental leave breaks have always been unusual. In addition, their economic conditions make long breaks from work hardly “affordable”.

Austrian society does not seem to me – also because of the long history and tradition that we have as a nation and descendants of the monarchy – to be extremely willing to change. We are not a classic first mover, neither in the school system, nor in topics of e-government or labor law. Hence, it was always the case that men operated the heavy machinery and women operated the stove. Maybe it was 50 years ago. Does it always have to stay that way? No, not at all.

Why are there women already in technology today?

We are a team of over 100 people in our company; the proportion of women is over 30%. That’s quite a bit for the IT industry! I asked around among my female colleagues and friends working in technology. Each one has its own exciting story. But what we all have in common is that at a young age there was hardly anyone who said “This is not for you!”, “Girls don’t do that!”. Many were not encouraged to venture into mathematical or technical areas. Rather, they were simply NOT STOPPED OR DISCOURAGED. It is my deep conviction that the set of values, the implicit bias (unconscious bias) must not be passed onto the children without reflection and with all its inconsistencies. So – note to myself: Don’t stop a girl’s curiosity. Buy Lego technic for the female godchild; clothes in all the colors of the rainbow and for goodness’ sake – not only in pink. Go dancing with the sons and go to the laboratories with the girls so that the children can develop according to their inclinations and interests whatever their gender.

The optimist in me assumes that in generation after generation fewer girls and women will be suppressing their affinity for technology, that the number of female technicians will keep increasing. Does that bring more value or more stress?

The blunt and short answer is: According to many studies, mixed teams achieve better economic results, therefore, very clearly: MORE VALUE.

What would happen, if …

Of course, there is more, much more. Especially in times when we are discussing so intensely UI (user interface, the machine face, so to speak, with which the human user interacts), UX (user experience, the feeling that triggers the interaction with this user interface) and customer journey (how is the customer supported in his request until it is dealt with). It is not only about improving the numbers at the bottom of the balance sheet. It is also the products that create the values and about the processes with which the values are created.

We also want to create value by automating repetitive work. Even decisions and drawing conclusions based on a wealth of basic data can easily be outsourced to AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems. Such systems have to be trained, practically taught, almost like children growing up. The systems are fed with data, the accuracy of the results is checked and adjustments are made until the system is as mature as we want it to be. If we train the system with biased data, which are historical and unbalanced and we do not readjust an AI system then it does not work in line with our social values. A striking and [almost] out of thin air example: 30 years ago only white men were granted loans. (Read also from Caroline Criado-Perez: Invisible women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.)

If we now know from countless studies that children need female and male caregivers and role models, isn’t it an imperative that mixed teams train AI systems?

If we design gadgets and technology that are to benefit a broad section of the population, then that calls for a diverse team of input providers and reference users.

If we have a huge need for workers in technical areas, then it is simply negligent to forego the potential of female “nerds and geeks”. See the striking video of the AMS, available at https://youtu.be/O- hG43tBaz4.

If we admit that it is no longer just women who want flexible working time models and that in times of remote, hybrid and new work the only existing restrictions are in labor law and in the mind, then anyone with the right skills can take on the tasks. Their gender, age and sexual orientation are irrelevant.

If we only question all of our entrenched thinking patterns from time to time, throw gender-specific stereotypes overboard, trust people and distribute tasks depending on potential and not only on experience or gender, then we will quickly achieve a task distribution in technology that is significantly closer to our demographic distribution of today.

If we only finally realize that the German noun DIGITALIZATION is perhaps not feminine gender for nothing, then we will all reach more quickly our goal of exploiting the added value of women in technology!

About the author: Vera Led

Nerd, applied IT graduate, management at UNiQUARE Software Development GmbH, BFC board member, member of the supervisory board of Würth-Hochenburger GmbH

Mother of two school-age sons

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