How Equal Gender Representation Contributes to IT Projects?

How Equal Gender Representation Contributes to IT Projects?

Michał Grela

Relationship Manager at Future Processing

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Gemma Rubio Rodrigo

Marketing strategy, Online Communications & Customer Experience at Define The Fine

Technology has a profound impact on our daily lives. Often you can hear voices that it would be beneficial if more women could contribute in this area.

Technology has a profound impact on our daily lives. Often you can hear voices that it would be beneficial if more women could contribute in this area.

In this episode of IT Leadership Insights, Michał Grela talks with Gemma Rubio Rodrigo, selected Role Model of Women in Tech. They cover topics such as: what are the reasons of the gender gap, why closing it matters and what are the benefits of having women in your IT project team.


Michal Grela:

In a rapidly changing world where technology plays the bigger and bigger part in everyday life, more and more often we can hear the voice that girls and women should and could contribute more into these areas. And then organizations such as Women in Tech and all the other similar organizations fighting for the rights of women and closing the gender gap helped raise awareness and prove that women are underrepresented and that closing this gap could be beneficial to the whole market. And my guest today is Gemma, who’s a selected role model in Women in Tech 2019, and we’re going to talk about that topic in a second. But before we start, could you please tell us something more about yourself and your background, please?

Gemma Rubio Rodrigo: Yes, of course. Hello, my name is Gemma Rubio. I am from Spain but I live in the Netherlands since six years ago. And I work in communication and marketing mostly for technological companies. So I started working on diversity and inclusion because I was doing projects with companies and most of the time it was all men and me. I realized that it was not working right, and there was needed change. So also because I just start working in a different country, I need to create a community for myself, and I thought that the best way was creating a community and working with people that have the same goals like me. So I started collaborating with associations, with women to increase the awareness, to say to women that they can also do it. It’s possible for everyone and also to help men because sometimes it’s not women doing it.

MG: You have the initiative in yourself and it looks like you’re very proactive and very vivid and energetic, definitely. I guess that helps you in the role. And so, how did you become the role model of Women in Tech?

GRR: Well, I was collaborating with, well, I am still collaborating with other association called Female Venture. They organize events where the organizers are woman in the speakers are a woman, but everyone is welcome to attend. And it’s to show other women that they have to start working in really diverse and manly works like robotics or space. So usually you think about this space work or the cyber security, you think about a man. There are really good womens doing the job too. So they are the speakers, that they tell their story about how they did it. And they show that it’s not that difficult. You only have to work for it. It is different at the beginning because they are all man. And you have to fight a little more to be there, but you can do it. So I worked there and when the Women in Tech start in the Netherlands, the organizer contact me to see if I wanted to go to the event. So they create a huge event. They were almost 300 or 400 people, big quantity of attendees. And the speaker started talking about how difficult it is, because at workplace there are mainly men. And with the higher the position, the bigger it is the quantity of men, less woman. So they say “Okay, what we need is more role model to show the youth that you can do it too, a woman can do it too.” And not only to the girls, but also to the boys because sometimes the people don’t think, it’s that we are biased. We do what we see.

So then they ask to the public who wants to be a role model. And I was one of the people that I say “Me.” And then for all the people, they called 30 people. At the beginning it was 15, then they grow to 30. And we have been following a program of role models, with that small events, with really good trainers. And they were telling us how to behave and how we can do it better. How can we teach people, not teach people to communicate, there are a number of ways, to make the people aware the problem that is in the society.

MG: Should we dive deep into the topic? Looking at the statistics, it’s obvious done in technology. There’s more men than women. And there is this gender gap, but what do you reckon are the reasons for that. Why is that so?

GRR: I think everything start when we are kids. Like for example, you go to buy toys and it’s the boy toys, sorry, toys for girls and for toys for boys. And then you go to activities in the school and the girls go to ballet and the boys goes to judo, so to say. So now this is changing a little, but I think since the beginning we teach the boys to be boys and the girls to be girls. And the man have to be brave. They cannot be vulnerable. They have to be strong and they will not have to be caring, and you cannot be bossy. So when you have your opinion, you are bossy if you are a woman. But if you are a man, you are brave. So is it like what we have been teach since we were small.

MG: So it’s this deep within us.

GRR: Yes.

MG: Not only people wise, but socially wise.

GRR: Yes.

MG: Why does it matter to close this gap? Why should we do that?

GRR: Well, it will be much better for everyone. Not only for woman, because I’m working as equal women’s association, but it’s not only good for woman. It’s also for men because my men friends that they are vulnerable and they feel safe talking to me and being open, but they are in high positions at work and they cannot talk with other men because he’s not man enough. So it’s not good.


Okay, so it’s like a kind of a trap.


So I think it’s good for everyone that we can feel safe. And also for the world where we live is really diverse. Not only for women but also for old people and young people and with different races and religions. And if you don’t have all these represented in the company, then the products you are doing, are not for everyone.

MG: Okay. That’s a fair point. So what can be done to close this gap?

GRR: Well, I think we need to start from the kids.

MG: Education.

GRR: Education, yeah. I think education is a big thing there.

MG: But later during the way?

GRR: Now we’re trying to help companies and to show and to tell them, for example, in technology, technology is not only to make a robot. Technology is everywhere. You wake up, do a coffee with a coffee machine, that’s technology. You turn on the lights, it’s technology. Everything is technology. And in technology you can work in, not only creating the technology, but for example, myself, I work as a communication and marketing, but I work with technology. So everything, every time, more and more is technology.

MG: Yeah, that’s the way the world goes today. Yeah.

GRR: We’ll think of all the people in the company to create it more diverse and everything. So everyone feels welcome.

MG: Okay. So not only tech, but the different sides of tech, like science, perhaps, and research as well. And there’s technology, but there’s also business. And then maybe fostering this entrepreneurialism within women can be beneficial as well. So let’s say we have, bringing more women into technology, say into IT, you say it’s beneficial. So what are the benefits of having women within the IT team?

GRR: For example, there are products that are for woman and only woman need it and they are developed by men. So then they are not successful. You are going to use it, then you’re like “Okay, but why it’s made like this?” And it’s because the people who create it, they don’t need it. They don’t know how to use it. They don’t understand. So you have women in the team-

MG: So let’s call it lack of domain knowledge.

GRR: I lose your voice. Sorry.

MG: So we can call it the lack of domain knowledge.

GRR: And also a lot of artificial intelligence is created by men. So then the artificial intelligence behave as men. So it’s not diverse. It will be beneficial that there are some products are artificial intelligence and some face recognition that they don’t recognize black people. So they’re like “Okay, we need to have a black person in the team so that you can try and see, Oh, it’s not working.” Listen, if you don’t have diverse teams, you do not know.

MG:Okay. That’s also a good point. From my perspective here at Future Processing, we don’t consider gender a factor that we look at when we hire say skills. Because it’s the skill set, it’s the approach, it’s the   that matters and it can be man or woman and do your job well. But of course, looking at the teams where there’s more diverse teams, then definitely, from my persperience collaboration is better. And then women also bring some more creativity to the table from time to time. Of course, men can do that as well but a good representation of both is the balance, I think, that we should aim for. Also, as he said, the positive energy and the ambition, and then being committed and engaged, it’s also something that more women can bring. Definitely. Please continue.

GRR: The way we behave, men and women is completely different.

MG: Mm-hmm (affirmative), it is.

GRR: And to have a combination that we can create better things. There’s a study from McKinsey that say the diverse teams have 35% more productivity and better results. So this is good.

MG:Yeah, definitely that a positive statistic. I couldn’t agree with you more. Men and women are from different planets and I can see that definitely. But maybe putting the cat among the pigeons, because of course, there’s this huge trend now in closing the gender gap and raising awareness and it’s positive. But from time to time, I encounter say online job offers for women only. Isn’t that maybe a step too far, or isn’t that discriminating towards men? What’s your opinion on that?

GRR: Yeah, but it depends, each example I will have to see. But sometimes there is a company that they have in the team five men and they need a woman to have some diversity. Or sometimes there is that really young team and they need someone older because it’s also discrimination and not diverse with ages. Because sometimes the team is really young and then you don’t have the point of view or the older people or the other way around. So sometimes they say a woman because they need this kind of profiling in the team.

MG: Yeah. So I think what we agree on is that context is very important, definitely. And the right representation of not only gender but also, as you say age, race, religion, whatever can bring some benefits to the table. So were we to maybe shortly move towards the conclusion of this conversation, from my perspective, I would say that I believe that regardless gender, regardless race, ethnicity, class, age, whatever, everyone should have equal chances and equal opportunities when it comes to building the career. And diversity and inclusiveness that you’re fighting for is essential. It might be crucial in some cases, definitely. Especially in tech. So what would be your word of wrapping up this conversation?

GRR: I also think, yes, when more diverse the team, I think the better results. Because it’s not the same, the knowledge you can have when you are young, than when you are older. For example, I’m from Spain, but I live in the Netherlands. So when I worked with Dutch people, my point of view is completely different because I come from other culture. So it’s also enrich the result, you want to grow big. So the background, the age, the gender, everything is valuable, is good.

MG: As you saying, two heads are always better than one. And then two points of view are, well, it’s good to have an outside point of view on a particular case. And if these points of view are regarding gender or age, that can bring value, I believe to even IT projects. Thank you for having this… Yeah, please.

GRR: With three men, white men, 30 years old, they will have had the same-

MG: I am a white man, 30 years old. That was a bad example.

GRR: No, I mean the three like this. But now we are diverse. You are a man 30 years old, I’m a woman and one year older from Spain, in the Netherlands.

MG: We’ve really had a very interesting conversation. So thank you, Gemma. And thank you our audience for being with us on this, another episode of IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. Thank you.

GRR: Thank you, Michal.