The Dutch IT sector is still dominated by men: only 18% of professionals in this sector are women. Digital power scores are well above this average: 30% of data-driven work professionals are female. We asked four of them how they like technology. Do they face prejudice? And is it a problem that women are still a minority?
The cliches are as numerous as they are known: women understand nothing of technology, computers to boys, data analysts prefer sitting alone in the attic – and so on. Everyone who gets into the realm of digital power quickly sees just how true these stereotypes are. A large percentage of the advisors are women, and the atmosphere exudes openness and friendliness.
Nienke Halma works for Digital Power as a data analysis consultant. She can comfortably conclude that most prejudices about women and information technology have now been eliminated. “I don’t experience any prejudices myself against women in tech,” she says.
Eiske Jensma-Van der Lei, Senior Data Analytics Consultant, also attests that women in 2022 are completely at home within IT. “What I see is that more and more women are working in technical positions in companies. We also have a good male-female ratio at Digital Power. Personally, I don’t have any bias.”
Customer Experience Specialist Mila van der Marg agrees that at Digital Power it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. “There is a free culture and no judgment is made on the basis of a person’s gender.”
Customers don’t matter either – if you notice a difference, it’s precisely because customers are happy to have a woman on the team. “Whether this is justified is another question – I personally find someone’s gender unimportant. It has to do with your skills, personality and experience.”
Karin Vloemans, who also specializes in customer experience, knows that minorities – like women in tech – sometimes suffer from negative stereotypes, but immediately adds that she has no experience with this herself. “I’ve always been interested in the interaction between technology and people, and in this area the division of men and women is more equal,” she explains.
More than just coding
By doing so, you immediately address another important misunderstanding about working in technology: the idea that it consists solely of coding. This cliché sounds more compelling than the idea that IT is not for women.
“It would be a shame for someone to define so quickly what it means to work in technology or work with data and for whom it is appropriate.”
Nienke points out that the world of technology is much broader than many people think. “Within the digital power there are very technical and less technical data functions. In recent years, for example, I have grown myself from an executive consultant to a strategic consultant. In my business, I alternate content analytics with stakeholder management and knowledge transfer.”
“But there are also colleagues who focus more on coding, predictive models, or website tagging,” she explains. “Each colleague develops his or her profile based on what he/she can learn. Therefore, it is unfortunate that someone determines so quickly what it entails to work in technology or working with data and for whom it is appropriate.”
The widely divergent disciplines of Eiske, Mila, Karin and Nienke confirm her view.
Nienke uses her communication skills and critical eye to ensure goals and KPIs are clearly defined for everyone. Internally, she supervised several colleagues and took the lead in creating the Works Council. She currently works for ANWB Retail, previously for Robeco Global, NS and Totaal Bed.
Eiske did odd jobs as a data analyst and web analyst. As a project manager at ABN Amro, she is currently working on a standard data layer that improves digital data collection. It also contributes insights into developing data analytics in a complex organization.
“Whether a man or a woman is in front of me makes no difference to me.”
Mila started last fall as a customer experience specialist. In this role she combines her knowledge of psychology and data. After utilizing her expertise on a number of in-house digital power projects, she is currently on assignment at ANWB and Vattenfall InCharge.
Karin has often used her experience as a technical data analyst to tag different Vodafone apps. She is currently working as a Customer Experience Specialist with Digital Power Datahub on a research assignment on User Experience for Doctors of the World, which correlates well with her background in Knowledge Workplace and User System Interaction.
“I am a good example of the opportunity that Digital Power provides to develop towards a different discipline in the data field,” she says enthusiastically.
Diversity goes much further than the male to female ratio
This means that two biases seem to have disappeared: women are completely at home in the tech sector and work is very broad and diverse. However, based purely on numbers, you could still say it’s a man’s world – after all, they are in the vast majority.
To counter this imbalance, there are various (governmental) initiatives to increase the proportion of women in the sector. However, in their day-to-day work, digital energy consultants do not see women outnumbered as a problem.
“I sometimes experienced with clients that I was the only woman who ended up on the all-men’s team,” Eiske says. “Personally, I don’t care about that – it’s about the work you do. I always look for gender-independent characteristics such as motivation, passion for the profession and interests. It makes no difference to me whether I have a man or a woman in front of me.”
Ninke agrees. “I am not aware of the gender of the people I work with, but I focus on the knowledge and personality of my colleagues.”
She sees the subject playing a role in some others. “Through conversations and trainings within ‘Digital Power’ about women’s leadership, I am fully aware that not everyone feels it. That’s why I particularly try to give a more conscious space or platform to colleagues who are naturally in the background.”
“The lack of equal opportunity goes beyond gender and this field of work.”
Karen herself does not experience analyzes as a man’s scientist. “Not with customers as with digital energy itself,” she says. “This is also because as a data consultant you often work with people who don’t work in traditional technology, such as designers, marketing and product management.”
Don’t play a significant role for Mila either. “I don’t see that as an advantage or a disadvantage. For me, the fact that there are more men working in the data world does not mean that being a woman is not a fun or interesting field of work. The most important to me is that everyone who has an interest in data and wants to make it their business has a chance. equal.”
She considers that this is unfortunately not always the case in practice, but emphasizes that this problem has many other dimensions. “The lack of equal opportunity goes beyond gender and this field of work.”
Equal opportunity for all
When asked what can be done to get more women excited about the tech sector, the main focus is that everyone – woman or man – should be treated the same way.
Eiske believes that it is good to introduce girls and boys to the various disciplines within the sector at an early age. “If this happened in a gender-independent manner, I am convinced that many more girls like boys would choose a technical profession, just as more boys would choose a profession, for example, care or education.”
“It is a good idea to encourage women to develop in a direction that appeals to them.”
It also sees a role for Digital Power, which previously developed a data education module for high school students from the Digital Power Datahub. “For example, we can organize more hackathons in schools than our institution, in order to attract the interest of young people in this field.”
Karen and Ninki find it especially important that everyone be able to do what they like. “It’s also good to encourage women to develop in a direction that appeals to them, so that they also radiate pleasure in their work,” Karen explains. “We hope that this will lead to other women also trusting that they can find a good job in technology.”
“That’s why I think it’s really good that we at Digital Power are really encouraging us to continue to evolve in the direction that works best for us,” she says. “This gave me the opportunity to move from technical web analysis to the field of customer experience, which fits best with my background and interests.”
Ninke adds that she is pleased that Digital Power “puts women and men equally ahead in its marketing communications.” “Whether we go to a conference as a group or whether we take new photos for the location. This will allow us to attract a wider audience.”
Furthermore, “no special focus” should be placed on more women in the tech industry. “It is about everyone being able to do what makes them happy. As long as women who have ambition to work in this sector have equal opportunities.”
Mila totally agrees. “I think enthusiasm is irrelevant. The point is that every person who is passionate about this field has an equal chance of developing and finding a job. In my opinion, it is not important that the number of men equals the number of women in each field of work.”
Of course, this does not mean that there is no room for improvement, but in conclusion she emphasizes once again that this requires much more than just the enthusiasm of women. “The key lies in the distribution of opportunities and expectations for men and women in society. Only when gender norms are modified will everyone have a fair chance.”