By Sofie Kerremans, 21 April 2021
We all know the cliché about the tech industry being a “man’s world”. But is this still the case? Especially when it comes to web development, we see that most of these jobs are filled by men. Besides that, many schools report low interest from girls in technology-related subjects.
When we dive into the numbers, according to the Flemish Department of Education only 19,4% of the students who are currently studying an IT-education, are female. In 2019, 82% of the Belgian IT-specialists were men. The figures speak for themselves, but why do we need more woman in IT?
One of the most important reasons for more women in tech is to provide active role models for future generations. By celebrating female tech leaders, it will hopefully encourage more girls to pursue their careers in tech. Since little attention is paid to technology or computer science during secondary school. Students must develop these interests themselves. In addition, boys are also much more active in the gaming world. A stimulus from education that also makes girls enthusiastic about IT is therefore welcome.
Girls should show interest in technology subjects because it is one of the most innovative and exciting industries to work in. There are many career paths to take if you hold a technology-based degree. These include subjects like Software Engineering, IT-Management, Web Development and more. There’s the chance you could make a difference in the world. The technology industry leads the world in innovation.
In addition, IT used to be very technical but that is no longer the case. If you look at IT today, it is much more accessible and offers many more possibilities. As a result, it is becoming more appealing to women. And we can all benefit from having a more inclusive workforce. By having more women in tech, we’ll see an increase in creativity, problem-solving and team performance.
With a more diverse development team, a larger group is reached. Besides, there is a lot of employment potential here. Many companies do not get their vacancies filled, so why not appeal to other groups? Diversity is not only important for more equality at work, but it also ensures better products and solutions.
We spoke with Dewi Van De Vyver, CEO at Flow Pilots (a company that assists in digital innovation projects) and ICT Woman of the Year 2020 in Belgium. She talks about why she’s so passionate about this industry, what a year full of recognition means, and how we can overcome this cliché.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working in ICT as a woman?
“There is still the stereotypical image of computer geeks coding at night in front of their computers. That image urgently needs to be updated. The tech industry has many more aspects than just coding. Think about content creation, graphic design, the more creative angles,... It is much more diverse than you might think. Too little attention is paid to this.”
Do you feel like you add different values to the job, compared to men?
“No, not at all. The values are the same. We are equivalent to each other, but we are not the same. Men have a different perception of the world. Men and women have a completely different way of looking at things, of approaching things. We think differently. But precisely because we are so complementary, it works well to have a mixed team.”
How does it feel to be an inspiration? How do you strive to make a difference?
"It's wonderful, because you notice that you can help people. You get the chance to take a different look at the current situation. I try to make a difference by looking at the tech industry from a different point of view. That is certainly my biggest contribution, that I position the tech industry differently in the media and try to highlight the less well-known aspects.”
Are we paying enough attention to women in IT and the industry in general?
“No. There is still too much focus on the digital and technical aspects. Whereas, in this sector, you are involved in solving and preventing problems. Far too little attention is paid to the problem-solving side. That is a pity because to me that is one of the most important reasons why I love doing this work. It is not only about a digital product. It is about what you can do with it, what it solves and what the results are.”
What can be done to attract more women to IT jobs?
“First of all, the vacancies should be written in a different language. Nowadays, you mainly see people listing all the skills, the expected knowledge and the range of tasks; by focusing on that, you are less likely to convince women. You need to speak their language. You must talk about what you can contribute to the team as a colleague, how the team works, what the reasons are behind the function, and so on."
"You approach women in a completely different way than men. That is still too often forgotten. Secondly, the workplace still does not sufficiently meet the requirements or wishes of a woman. As a result, they do not feel at home, and they quit more quickly. By adapting the workplace and making it more attractive, you can achieve many things.”
Did you know right away that you wanted to go in this direction?
“It happened very spontaneously. I have always had a great interest in technology. From a very young age, I would take apart telephones and look for the whys and wherefores of digital solutions. I have always been very interested in the why. IT is also the red thread through my work. With Flow Pilots I can continue this passion. I believe that technology can make people’s daily lives better and that’s our motivation.”
What advice do you give to women who want to choose a career in IT?
“That you should absolutely go for it. You should not be afraid to take the step, nor should you be ashamed of your choice. Follow your passion.”
Is the IT world still a man's world? Or can that cliché be dismissed?
“It certainly cannot be dismissed yet. It is still very much a man's world. The difference lies in the fact that in the past few years, many women have been active in the tech industry. Men continue to dominate but the number of women is rising. That is certainly a positive evolution and hopefully it will continue in the right direction. We must continue to work on it.”
We also talked to Nele Debrouwer, one of our own female .NET developers. She shares some insights about her experience as a woman in IT:
“I personally do not experience it as man’s world because I never thought of it that way. I experience it like any other job. Programming is something I wanted to learn and love to do. As soon as I started my internship and afterwards my current job, I always felt welcome. I work with women and men and don’t notice any difference between them. Everything depends on the character of the person, not if you’re a man or a woman.”
“If you’re a woman who wants to pursuit a career in the tech industry, simply just go for it. You should do what you love’, Nele concludes.
Ultimately, both men and women are suited to work in IT. Not only because of their technical skills, but also when it comes to achieving good customer relationships. Given the soft skills, the added value of diversity and the lack of employees, the tech industry benefits from a female touch in several ways.
We are curious to hear your opinion on this subject. Let’s start a conversation on LinkedIn!