Why should women enter the world of technology?

Daria smiles, “This is the first important decision in my life that I’m making against the advice of my parents and teachers.” She is 19 years old and will start her postgraduate studies in September. A Latin Greek graduate fascinated by history. However, you will soon choose the technological direction. “The digital world is a very exciting world. When I was 10 years old, I was completely engrossed in video games for my brother. But playing games is just an excuse, and what really excites me is creating those same games. Everything about technology fascinates me: coding and programming… I really want To be among those people designing the languages ​​and tools of tomorrow.”

Daria remains an exception among young Belgian women. According to the latest Gender Survey (2021), 60% of female digital students – compared to 50% in Europe – are discouraged from entering this sector, especially by parents and teachers. The main deterrent motive is that women will never reach the level needed to reach this sector. “You are not good enough at mathematics”, “You are too literary”, “It is a world of geeks”, “You can never stay in such a manly world” … Daria also had to deal with such reactions. For many, they are compelling enough to abandon this option; Most of them drop out of school.

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After the sharp decline in our country in 2016 with only 6% of girls in technology schools, the survey showed that the number of students in technology studies is increasing again, by 12% in 2019 already. However, their share is still below the European average.

“We still cling to gender stereotypes from a young age,” explains Etienne Mignolet, spokesperson for FPS Economy. “We continue to associate technology and science with boys. As a result, many girls lose their potential interest in these fields of study and, often for unconscious reasons, are ruling out a career in those sectors. The fact that many people do not see the digital world as a creative sector has a positive impact. On society it also means that young girls aren’t really excited about it.

The social expectations of both sexes differ. Now the masculine image of the profession is being reinforced in the digital sector. Moreover, it provides very little educational material (computers, tablets, monitors, internet…) and there is very little technical support. Teachers should be given more training to combat this gender stereotype. They should also learn to offer a more creative and playful approach. In adulthood, young adults are still unable to participate in more advanced activities, such as programming or coding. There are very few courses where children learn more about online safety, rights and obligations of the digital world etc. This certainly applies to girls from disadvantaged groups.”

A sad thing, especially when we know that historically the digital universe was actually female. “The first programmers in the early twentieth century were women,” says John Alexander Bogarts. Together with Ian Gallian, Bogarts founded Campus 19 (1) (younger sister to École Francaise 42 in Paris, a high-quality alternative IT training). “For decades, when software became profitable, men took over the personal computer world, with disastrous consequences. In the 1980s, computers emerged among American families and became the ultimate gift, especially for boys. For example, technology in the West lost its gender neutrality, and neither This was not necessarily the case elsewhere in the world.”

John Alexander Bogarts, who focused himself firmly on the future, is convinced that the digital world belongs to both men and women. In 2018, a university campus opened in Brussels. “In October we will open a second campus in Antwerp. The school runs on money from sponsors; the online training is free and lasts between one and three years. Everyone is guaranteed to find work after that; there is a shortage of staff in this sector in our country,” he says optimistically. There are still 30,000 job openings.” His charitable project has been followed around the world (there are now over 40 campuses).

“In our country, students can benefit from the support of Bruxelles Formation, VDAB, Forum or Actiris, with one-year professional training contracts,” says Stefan Salberter. Salberter is the Director of Campus 19. He proudly contributes to a more gender-neutral world. “We started with 5% girls, and today we have 13%. The She Loves to Code initiative is a promising first step for girls who want to make the leap into this sector. My motto is: Dare! Free yourself from stereotypes, whether you are 18 or 30 years old. Or 50 years old, come and try it.”

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Julie Fullon, 41 and founder of Girleek (2), an education platform for women, feels the same way. What started with a simple blog in 2011 grew into a full-fledged training center eight years later. “85% of future jobs will be technology related, but only 15% of women are trained in this field. This is dramatic,” she says clearly. “There are also very few initiatives like Girleek. Women represent 52% of the European population, but only work in 15% of ITC jobs. Girleek helps them find a job or develop their own business, but it is also intended for already active women who want to in expanding their digital knowledge. Even if you are not a digital native, say at age 45, you can update quickly to keep up with the corporate world.” Jolie is more than confident in her case. She has set up training centers in Brussels and Antwerp in Dutch and French, with a large focus on women.

Gerlik has trained 6,500 people since 2020, 85% of whom are women, in three levels of education completely free of charge. We offer weekly webinars, master classes, personalized project guidance, longer courses… It’s not a sector meant for ardent math enthusiasts; Technology is just a great tool that offers amazing professional support,” she concludes enthusiastically. There are other such initiatives, such as Women in Digital. The FPS economy numbers are clear: in Belgium only 17.7% of IT professionals are women, and out of 1,000 people ranging Between the ages of 20 and 29 graduated in STEM, only 17.7% are seven. This puts Belgium in 27th place in the ranking of European women in the digital scoreboard. This is also the reason why our country launched the “Women in the Digital World” initiative on National and cross-sectoral level, with the aim of making digital careers more accessible.

Currently, 44% of Belgian technology students are very satisfied with their education. Although 34% of them actually experienced sexist reactions in these highly male-oriented studies – numbers that match other countries in Europe. Tessa, 21, has struggled with that, too, but she’s glad she’s breaking gender stereotypes. “My future will be technical or not,” she says firmly. “Not only does this study lead to the jobs of the future, there is also 100% job security because it is a career bottleneck. It really is a misogynist and misogynistic world, that’s right – it starts right away when you start your studies at 18…

But which world is not? It’s up to us girls to fight for making the industry and the world more gender equal, and above all less closed off. From the moment you show an interest in technology, even as a kid, they make you feel like this is a boy’s thing. So the first thing we need to do is re-educate parents and teachers: they have to stop convincing people that there are male and female professions. It is a caricature and insulting, by the way, boys and girls are imprisoned. Because for the same reason, boys do not feel free to choose all sectors and professions. A digital number has no gender.

It’s just the future! “Listen to anyone who wants to hear…

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Margo Verhasselt

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It didn’t have anything to do with geometric shapes until it moved to the center of Brussels and now advertises the capital more than the tourist office says. A lot of saying ‘that’s what it is’ to someone who doesn’t really have a clue what you’re doing, except for lifestyle trends. Always available for an early apero with a nice chat on a cooler balcony.

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