This was the Stay in Tech conference

The “Stay in tech! – Policies and practices for attracting and retaining female tech talent” conference took place at the Digital Technologies Institute in Berlin on 14 May. We were thrilled to see such a dynamic group of professionals and allies coming together to share knowledge, network, and inspire one another. From inspiring keynotes to fireside chats to audience members joining the panels in the ‘hot seat’, everyone made their voice heard, and everyone had interesting contributions to make.

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Here is a small recap with a few of the many thoughts and takeaways:

Session 1: Present realities

  • Daniela Brönstrup, from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, outlined the key initiatives and priorities of the German government and expressed the importance of “starting right from the beginning. The aim should be more women leaving university. The aim should be more girls going to university. What we need is compulsory computer science in all schools.”
  • Byron Nicolaides, Founder and CEO of PeopleCert Group, pointed out that “achieving gender parity in tech professions is not a moral imperative but a strategic advantage”.
  • Sabine Otholt from SAP and Selcan Ipek-Ugay from Berlin University of Applied Sciences discussed the challenges that women face in reaching and staying in the top jobs. Sabine emphasised the importance of mentoring as well as the importance of women reaching out to managers asking for feedback, promotion possibilities and other aspects of work. Selcan, herself a mother of 4, expressed encouragement to mothers with careers, advising them to set boundaries between work and private life.

Session 2: Problems and solutions

  • Gillian Arnold from CEPIS DiversIT Charter,  Lisa Ihde from Google, and Barbara Schwarze from Competence Centre Technology-Diversity-Equal Opportunities discussed reasons why women leave tech careers, such as ‘bro’ culture, constant demands to prove yourself time and time again, and more general career obstacles that women face in all sectors, not just tech – lack of flexibility for care responsibilities etc.
  • The panel “Keeping the Talent: Best Practices for Retaining Women in Tech Jobs” suggested several practicable steps. Here are a few:
    • “Clear goals are important – you can’t manage what you can’t measure”, advised Bernd Holthaus from Intel Magdeburg.
    • According to Robert Baker from Potentia Talent Consulting, “the best thing a man could do would be to join a board of a women’s network – being in the minority is a very valuable experience and helps develop empathy”.
    • Petra Kotuliakova from Aj Ty v IT (You, too, in IT) warned that “too often companies publicly commit to equality principles, but in reality not much is being done”, and suggested that certifications such as the CEPIS DiversIT Charter could play a vital role in demonstrating that a company actually puts its money where its mouth is.
    • Edna Kropp from LivePerson advised everyone to be better listeners – “don’t interrupt colleagues (be they men or women), show that you respect and value their opinions”.

Session 3: Exploring the future

  • Nikolaus von Peter from the European Commission listed several key initiatives and strategic priorities that the Commission has in this regard, such as the Gender Equality Plan requirement for all applicants to Horizon EU funding, the upcoming funding call for Girls and Women in IT, the planned improved Women in Digital Scoreboard, and the importance of increasing the number of women in tech if Europe wants to meet its Digital Decade targets.
  • The panel “Elevating Diversity: Bridging the Gender Gap in Tech Hiring” highlighted several important points:
    • “Men should not see the increased number of women in tech as competition. The “cake” can be made bigger, not just divided differently”, said Begonia Merayo-Vazquez from Why Consult.
    • Anjuli Mauer of People Pace advised companies to make sure their hiring practices are inclusive throughout the entire process, form the text of job ads to blind hiring to diverse interview panels.
    • Christian Berg from AllBright Stiftung pointed out that companies compete for female tech talent, and often rely on headhunters to find them. He advised companies to ensure that there is a large pool of female managers at all levels, so that top leadership positions could be filled also with internal candidates.
    • Ruth Asan of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft recommended the implementation of unconscious bias trainings as well as diversity trainings for all employees regardless of seniority or department.
  • Sarah Needham of Womxn for Climate Tech and Innovation closed the day with an inspiring keynote, asking everyone to stand up (literally as well as figuratively!) and contribute, in whatever way they can, to plugging the gap of women in tech, because only then we can achieve a sustainable future for everyone.

There were also several info stands at the conference, showcasing relevant initiatives and interesting research: PeopleCert, _EQT – Gender Equality Toolkit for Working Women and Friends, GI: Allianz für informatische Bildung, EIT Deep Tech Talent Initiative, and Competence Center for Technology-Diversity-Equal Opportunities (Kompetenzz).

If you’d like to read more, feel free to have a look at the coverage of the conference on Sifted by Financial Times. This conference focused on speaker/participant engagement, so there were no presentations.

You can have a look at all the conference photos here (c) Mike Auerbach / Gesellschaft fur Informatik e.V.

Stay in touch!

To receive more information and invites to future events, feel free to engage with the organisers:

CEPIS/DiversIT Charter:
LinkedIn
Newsletter (free)

Gesellschaft für Informatik (German Informatics Society):
LinkedIn
Newsletter (in German; 6 free issues for non-members)

#SheTransformsIT:
LinkedIn
Newsletter (free)

Fraunhofer ICT Group:
LinkedIn

If you are a company/organization interested in getting certified with the CEPIS DiversIT Charter, or are interested in becoming an Allied member, please contact Erika Gutmane.

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