International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020: Raising up voices
February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, where worldwide, equality efforts are celebrated. Let us raise up the voices of some of our favorite women in tech and see what inspirational advice they have for other women, what challenges they have faced in their careers, who their current role models are, and what initially sparked their lifelong interest in tech.
On February 11th, the United Nations observes the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrating efforts towards equal access to STEM fields for women around the globe. Women on Twitter are using the hashtag #WomenInScience to discuss their journey and help include other women in the conversation.
According to UNESCO’s research, today 35% of all students enrolled in STEM fields are women.
Our future will be marked by scientific and technological progress, which can only be achieved when women and girls are creators, owners, and leaders of science, technology and innovation. Bridging the gender gap in STEM is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and for creating infrastructure, services and solutions that work for all people.
On 11 February, we’re celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science and calling on everyone to smash stereotypes, defy gender biases and defeat discrimination that hold women and girls back in STEM fields.
Happy #WomenInScience Day! 👩🔬👩🚀 Let’s smash stereotypes, defy gender bias and defeat discrimination that holds women and girls back in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math. pic.twitter.com/JwuAqtUT4F
— UN Women (@UN_Women) February 11, 2020
Our Women in Tech series highlights just some of the incredible women in the tech and STEM sectors. We explore their stories, influences, and advice they have for other women in the field or looking to get into tech.
Let’s have a look at some of the great minds we met.
For many, having a role model from a similar background as yourself is an important part of reaching your goals. Here are some of the aspirational people that women in tech look up to:
Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut in space, is a role model I look up to and admire greatly. Her inspiring story shows how she overcame the stereotype of both her gender and her race to follow her dreams and travel to space! Mae has not only completed a successful space mission for NASA but has founded several foundations and non-profit organisations with the aim of advocating science education and getting minority students interested in science.
Grace Jansen, Developer Advocate at IBM
Also, I am happy to say that after speaking at some conferences I got exposed to more inspiring professionals in tech. This way I learned about Katrina Clokie and Charity Majors who are great role models for my interest fields.
Lina Zubyte, QA Consultant at ThoughtWorks
Megan Rapinoe has been impressing me lately. She can put herself in the limelight well, has political and social integrity, and can play fantastic football. Christine Nöstlinger was a great writer and woman, and raised me next to my mom. Simone de Beauvoir taught me at an early age that economic freedom is fundamental to personal freedom.
Birgit Krenn, Head of Manufacturing Science and Technology at the VTU Group
Becoming interested in technology
What sparks a lifelong interest in technology? Many women have fond memories of computer science at a young age, but some entered the field later in life. Whether it’s falling in love in front of an Amiga 1000 or enrolling in a coding bootcamp to jumpstart a new career path, the catalyst for a career in tech sets the stage.
As a child of the 1980’s, the advent of the desktop PC was a real revelation for me. When they became more affordable, I pushed my parents until they saw reason and bought a computer. With it I found my way onto the internet, back when using the classic dial-up modem meant hours of blocking the telephone line – a real controversial topic, because it was also my parents’ business number…
Stefanie Langner, co-founder of Leankoala
In college in the early 1980’s, our math professors built 3 computers from kits and taught a BASIC programming class. I was hooked!
Julie Lerman, independent consultant
In high school I had to take a required computer class. One of our first projects was to code a little turtle that moved around the screen drawing things based on the path it traveled. We were meant to code 7 letters of the alphabet…I coded all 26. It was fun for me! But for some reason, I thought that was a fluke. That it didn’t count as real coding.
Laurie Barth, Staff Software Engineer on the GatsbyJS Learning Team
The path is not often an easy one; what gender-based obstacles do women in tech face?
Discrimination, sexual harassment, and bias. I’ve experienced all of them at different points in my career. Talking about it and acknowledging it is important to change, and I want to do my part so that the next generation of women in tech don’t face these same obstacles.
Alyssa Simpson Rochwerger, VP of Product at Figure Eight
An obstacle I had to overcome was having to prove myself more than men within the sector when you first meet people. I found that when meeting other people for the first time there is a stigma behind being female – that you will not know as much as a male counterpart. I have also found the stereotype of “a ditzy blonde” hard to overcome, as this is ingrained in people’s minds.
Rebecca Simmonds, Senior Software Engineer at Red Hat
As a woman, I am constantly challenged on my technical knowledge. As a woman of color, I have been treated as a member of the cleaning staff instead of the CEO of a tech company. Many times I have had men talk over me in a meeting or just yell at me for speaking. All these obstacles made me stronger and more aware of the importance of mentoring other women in tech.
Khallai Taylor, Fintech Product Evangelist
Advice for women in tech
Our women in tech interviews often mention helping raising other women up, seeking out mentors, and what advice new women in the field should listen to. Here’s some words of wisdom from women in STEM to give you a boost of confidence.
My biggest piece of advice is that it is never too late to start a career in tech. You will eventually become better if you go at your own pace.
Irene Lopez, software engineer at New Relic
Every time a minority joins the workforce, it paves a path for more minorities to join in. I hope to see diversity gain traction in the coming decade.
Swarali Karkhani, software engineer intern at Exoscale
I encourage women to apply for the job they want. Even if you don’t get it the first time, you can learn from the experience and set goals for yourself so you are successful the next time. You can’t be afraid of failure. If you don’t try, you will never succeed.
Tammy Fox, Director of Technical Documentation at CloudBees
Do you have any women in STEM role models that you would like to highlight?