As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I can’t help but reflect on how many women across so many generations before me had to be brave, speak up, and stand up for their right to be treated as equal. Today we are celebrating women, many of them unknown, who fought for what too many of us take for granted.
Almost two decades into the 21st century, gender equality is still for many, a distant dream. While in developed countries we are far removed from atrocities like child marriage, female genital mutilation or sexual violence during war, we are still far behind on this path towards equality.
Women are still largely underpaid when compared to men in the same position. Many suffer silently from sexual harassment and violence in their workplaces or, worse, in their homes. States and governments need to step up and regulate and establish female quotas in politics and promote and regulate workplace gender equality. For as long as we need to regulate equality, the fact remains that the fight for equality is far from over.
As the mother to two teenage girls and the CEO of an IT company, I am especially concerned about the foundation we are building for the generations to come and am committed to empowering these girls to believe in themselves and continue the fight for their place in society.
So, what can we do?
Break the myth that some jobs are meant for men
There are still several misconceptions when it comes to how parents and educators perceive and talk about what engineering is and what engineers actually do. Still today, engineering is typically stereotyped for white males highly prepared in math and science. But there has never been greater opportunity for girls in engineering than as there are today! It’s our responsibility to change the dialog – talk about our jobs to young generations, at home, in their schools, to their friends, ensuring everyone will follow their calling regardless of social status, gender or race.
Be involved and involve other women
Coming together, talking about our experiences, sharing our female success stories and how we overcome hurdles along the way – we can help women feel less alone in the field, and encourage them to invest in building a career in technology. Join a female-focused interest group in your area or, if you can’t find one, be the force to start a new one! In Portugal, I am personally part of IAMCP WIT, and frequently support the Geek Girls Portugal community. Worldwide you can find several other movements like Girls in Tech, Chick Tech, Girls Who Code, and many more. Be involved.
“When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” – Maya Angelou
Encourage all children in your community from an early age
Parents and educators play an influential role in building a child’s vision of their future self – both boys and girls. Let’s not build walls for girls but make sure we are ready to encourage all children to pursue a future in technology if they so desire. Creating local tech workshops for children is a great way to show them that technology can be fun! I lead a monthly tech group called CoderDojo Vila do Conde, for children from 7 to 17, and I am happy to say we have had sessions with more girls than boys attending.:)
Help promote workplace equality
Finally, if you are a decision-maker, make sure to hire people for their skills and accomplishments, not their gender. Teams, projects and ultimately companies have a lot to gain by promoting equality and building diverse workplaces. Benefits like increased productivity, leading innovation, flaw reduction, stronger employee commitment, increased company reputation, have proven to occur in diverse companies. We need both men and women insights and creativity to face the challenges of the future.
Be the change you want to see in the World.