More girl power for the IT industry
The IT industry is hungry for qualified labour, but many young women are hesitant about pursuing careers that involve number-crunching and technical skills. Therefore, Systematic recently invited a group of schoolgirls to come and visit the company for a day of IT.
There is a clamour of voices, and lots of arms pointing and gesticulating in various directions. Twenty teenage girls are gathered in smaller groups and, armed with sticky notes and magic markers, they are busy discussing how to test the login function on Instagram in the best possible way. It is Girls’ Day in Science 2022, and the girls have made the journey from Læssøesgades School in central Aarhus to Systematic to get an idea of the possibilities that exist within software technology and to meet some of the women who have broken the barriers and decided on a career in IT. It is an industry which has been short of labour for many years, and where women in particular stand out for being absent on the lists of job candidates. The hope is that the event will give the young women an insight into working with software development and inspire more of them to take the leap and embark on a technical career.
”Men and women hold just as much potential for excelling in the field of software technology, so it is a waste of talent if half of them fail to realise their potential because of misguided barriers,” says Nanna Ravn Rasmussen, Senior Business Intelligence Consultant at Systematic.
Several studies suggest that the gender imbalance is due in particular to the lack of female role models, so during the visit, Nanna told the schoolgirls about herself and her journey into the world of data.
“In popular culture, girls and boys are depicted in stereotypical ways in IT, so it’s important to take advantage of opportunities such as these to present a broader spectrum of people whom young people can relate to. This will hopefully remove the sense of moving into completely uncharted territory,” she says.
Not just ones and zeros
If role models occupy the place of alpha, then the day’s omega is specifying what software can be used for. The girls were therefore shown a handful of Systematic’s software systems and their functions: SitaWare gives soldiers a situational overview and the ability to share information, library books can be borrowed using Cicero, and Systematic’s electronic health record system Columna CIS helps healthcare professionals keep track of patients’ treatment.
After being introduced to the field of business intelligence, the girls discussed which problems data can help solve. The responses embraced everything from food waste to educational choices.
“It was really great to get a better idea of what it’s like working with software. I’ve always had this picture of a man sitting in front of a computer typing in strange characters, but it was actually really exciting to work with various solutions and to discover how they can be used to help others.”
– Maria, Year 9, Læssøesgades School
More women at the keyboards, please
Getting more women into IT is not just about growing the number of potential talents. Research generally indicates that diverse teams perform better than homogeneous teams. If you want to create solid software systems, it is therefore a good thing to have more women at the keyboards.
“When working with IT solutions, you will always be inspired by elements from your own daily life. Here, it is an advantage to work in diverse teams, because it provides a broader palette of thoughts and ideas,” explains Nanna.
Since many of those using the IT systems are women, it is particularly important that they are involved in the development phase.
When Systematic develops software for, for example, the healthcare system, the developers always consult some of the doctors, clinicians and porters who end up using the system to ensure that the solution matches their needs. Similarly, it is important that women are represented in the development process, because if an IT system is developed primarily by men, problems which are statistically most relevant to women may be overlooked and vice versa.
“Otherwise, you end up with the IT industry’s answer to seat belts that protect men significantly better than women, because the belts were only tested on men,” says Nanna, referring to an American study from 2019.
From a social perspective, there are therefore many good reasons why the IT industry could gain from having more women, and Nanna makes the point that the young women themselves can also benefit greatly from considering a career within software:
“It’s a fast-moving industry, and there is every opportunity to quickly embark on an exciting career. Young women must be aware that there is plenty of scope out there for them. They will be welcomed with open arms,” she says.
Girls’ Day in Science is an annual nationwide campaign day in Denmark designed to inspire girls in Years 4-10 and upper secondary school to pursue a future within science, technology, IT, and the trades. It is organised in collaboration with companies, organisations, and educational institutions, which on the day open their doors and invite the girls inside.
Here, they meet female role models who can answer questions, so the girls can learn more about their educational and job choices. The day also gives them an insight into everyday life in a workplace when working with practical and business-related tasks.