It is beyond doubt for me that women in technical professions are needed in the same way as men in social ones. Diversity concerns us all. Our choice of profession, our career plans and the values we incorporate into our work determine whether our future will be worth living. It will undoubtedly be shaped by technology to even greater extent than we can imagine at the moment.
The past two decades showed, that technology is absolutely exponential. It doesn’t question, doubt, nor establishes ethical principles. This is where we humans are needed: Young and old, men and women, all cultures and nationalities. Because it’s up to us whether artificial intelligence also takes moral aspects into account when making decisions or whether we develop products that create more valuable environment. Technology has to also meet female needs. Otherwise, Crash Test Dummies would still only correspond to the male body and AI would still not recognize female faces or voices (I often have the feeling that Siri listens much better to my husband…). I would like to have a say and participate in the decision-making process when the criteria for Social Scoring are defined or when an AI decides whether I am a suitable applicant for a job. Therefore, first of all I plead for our humanity when we deal with Tech.
“Diverse teams are more satisfied and innovative”
The field of technology is so broad, that a lot of different skills are needed. Technical professions and industries need marketing and sales as much as product management and development. This goes far beyond pure software engineering, the opportunities are endless. Studies have shown that girls in the first years of school are certainly interested in STEM courses and do not perform worse than boys. In the following years, however, their home environment and social conditioning lead to a decline in interest and lack of possibility to expand the skills. How can we be responsible for the fact that untapped potential is not recognized and promoted?
Doubters ask: Are women more humane? I do not believe in the much-cited female leadership. At the same time, we have the great advantage that our historical imprint allows much more straightforward approach to emotions. This facilitates empathy, collaboration and team spirit. Finally, an advantage in the context of traditional roles and beliefs! We can use this strength and incorporate it into businesses and teams. Studies prove (and I have often observed it myself) that diverse teams are more satisfied, harmonious and innovative. The atmosphere is more relaxed and, at the same time, more productive. The different experiences and perspectives contribute to a better problem-solving environment, lower communication costs, better cooperation and ultimately better results.
“Women have the power and courage to change the future”
We may have to overcome obstacles, we may have to take the first steps, as strong women have done before us. But we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations will take choosing professions based on their own values and life goals for granted. The fear of ‘nerdy basement kids’ (which is not so common), of male egoism or rocky paths does not do justice to the women who have been working for Female Empowerment for decades or centuries. Nor do we leave a footprint for others to follow. It is also up to us to question existing female perceptions. And if we are honest, we carry all of them within us. A childless woman still bears a stigma far too often, as does a working mother with several children. Women should support women in pursuing individual careers and life paths.
Many times, women tell me that there are hardly any helpful offers available. However, I am discovering more and more companies that are not only committed to women for reasons of employer branding and employee acquisition. If we look closely, there are wonderful networks such as F10, mentors, coaches and educational opportunities that provide us with qualifications as well as with the strong mindset. This mindset is what counts. Women have the power and courage to change the future. Let us make our competence visible and take the step forward to encourage others to follow.
Sabrina von Nessen, Member of the Executive Board at afb Application Services AG
Sabrina von Nessen is a passionate leader with 20 years of experience in the finance and IT industry. She took on her first leadership role in the product management of a financial services provider with a strong focus on IT and change projects in her mid-20’s. From 2009, as Head of IT & Operations at Triodos Bank, she’s been responsible for building the team, structures and processes. Today she is a member of the Executive Board at afb Application Services AG with responsibility for Finance & Organisation. Recently her book ‘Female Empowerment – Women in Tech’ was published, which gathers 25 interviews with female experts and role models from the IT sector.