February 2015. Four people get together to have a few beers in Madrid, and they decide to set up Mujeres Tech. One month later, three women decide to create Girls in Tech in Granada while having breakfast together. Two independent organizations in pursuit of the same goal: to encourage the presence of women in the world of technology.
One year later, one of the founders of Mujeres Tech –Cristina Aranda, the marketing and communications director at Intelygenz– says: “We don't want to sell tech, we want to make it”. And she goes on: “There are very few women programmers today, and this situation has to change. The average profile of women programmers at Twitter, Facebook and other companies is 15%, and in the startup ecosystems there are very few female founders or co-founders”.
Aranda wants “more women in the digital sector”. Elena Cruz, a telecommunications engineer and co- founder of Girls in Tech, agrees. “The Girls in Tech organization started in 2007 in San Francisco as a meeting point for women interested in technology. We thought it would be interesting to create a movement of this type in Spain, and we started up last year”, she says.
Why do women lose interest in technology as the years go by?
Both Aranda and Cruz agree about the cause: “a biased outlook”. “Little girls don't see role models they can identify with. They see very biased views in comics and videogames. Roles for boys and girls are highly segregated and that means they lose interest when they reach adolescence”, says Cruz.
Aranda points out that at this “difficult time for teenagers, when peer pressure is very strong, several studies highlight the negative Pygmalion effect of the gender bias which holds that boys are good at science, and are encouraged to steer their course towards science, whereas girls tend towards careers with social impact: medicine, nursing –if they're on the science track–, and always in the humanities if they're good at expressing themselves”.
The co-founder of Girls in Tech urges them not to lose their motivation. “We want to publicize stories of women promoted by women”. According to Aranda, “our commitment here at Mujeres Tech is to create actions with social impact that steer girls and young women towards technology, and focus on technology as something that's fun and attractive”. And she points out the importance of visibility: “If you have no role models, like they do for example in the United States –look at Megan Smith, Obama's CTO–, and if you don't see female programmers or scientists in the media, the going is going to be hard. Both Aranda and Cruz agree (although they were interviewed separately –Aranda in Madrid, and Cruz by phone from Granada) that this is a long-haul journey.
In this race, what do women bring to the world of technology and business ?
“We listen more, we go into more detail, we're more empathetic, we think more in terms of the product, the consumer and the impact. We have a more holistic view. Here at Mujeres Tech we champion multidisciplinary multi-gender teams. We want to promote policies for recruiting female talent within companies. I'm surprised there are no diversity departments inside companies, or diversity policies. What talent recruitment policies do companies really have? Do they operate like American companies where there has to be at least one woman candidate for every job? The female vision is very important in companies –just like the male approach– but it's different. We tend to think more in the long term”, concludes Aranda.
Cruz points out that the most significant finding when they run workshops with young people is how creative teenage girls are. “They surprise us, rather than the other way around. Their creativity when they present their projects is incredible”. And in the professional sphere, “they ask more questions before they launch projects and they tend to have to do with social issues”.
Mujeres Tech aims to have a headquarters where “both men and women can come to enjoy technology, and so we can continue fostering the spirit of enterprise in girls from a very young age. We women can be adventurous”. Girls in Tech wants to drive technology in women whatever their age. These are two organizations that work passionately to achieve their goal.
They want to change a world in which “‘companies do not allow women to be leaders or men to be fathers’. And it’s true”, concludes Aranda recalling the words of Margarita Alonso, chairman of the IE Foundation, in one of her inspirational talks.