Hinde Boulbayem from Sumy, Brussels and Ida Srdić from IBM, Ireland Innovation Exchange Lab were invited to participate and celebrate the first birthday of Women in Technology. The event took place in the beautiful venue of Place Royal, Brussels.

Round table with Caroline Coesemans and Ida Srdic moderated by Julie Foulon

Julie Foulon, Cofounder of Girleek moderated the session with Caroline Coesemans, Head of legal & public policy in Google and our Innovation Manager Ida Srdic. They shared lots of ideas on how to empower women and engage them in the technology sector which is male dominated and women are in the minority; in other words where numbers are not in favour of us!

Caroline presented two good practices that they follow in Google. One is “No-Manel” panel (manel= all male panel). When your company is invited to speak on a panel without a gender balance, try to ask the organiser to add other speakers/women to the panel. This might result in more women being trained in companies in public speaking representing the company externally, as you need to have a pool of women ready for such events.  She was self-critical saying that now we are “Famel” = all female panel. The other campaign in Google is called “I am remarkable” and encourages women to stand up for themselves and present their achievements stating clearly, I am remarkable #IamRemarkable by Google – Empowering Women and Underrepresented Groups to Celebrate their Success . It is a fact that women do not do it often enough and this unfortunately results in less opportunities for them; thus resulting in lower income and less number of women in power to change this, according to all available statistics.

Ida explained one of the main goals of SELIS is to reduce CO2 emission through the introduction of innovative digital services and business models and the impact of innovation management methodology and processes that she introduced to remove traditional inhibitors and barriers for inventors. This resulted in two inventions emanating from two women and entrepreneurs – Britta Balden and Hinde Boulbayem. Ida expressed her feelings on how great it is to work with them and how it will be to live in the future with their innovations. Women are more sensitive to criticism, especially around intellectual property creation, and without clear and objective guidelines, taking into account feedback from inventors they will never enrol themselves in this process. Women are extremely practical and innovative but statistics here are also not in our favour.

They talked about their companies and posed the question why there are less women in the 4th industrial revolution?

Today, if you do not have the internet and a mobile phone you cannot do business and some will say if you are not on social media you do not exist. Ida remarked that although she has spent more than 30 years in technology she is technology agnostic meaning that she has no passion for technology – instead she is passionate about people and nature. People need to understand technology and technology needs to serve them, to grow their businesses and preserve nature through sustainable business models. To achieve that, technology needs to be built for these purposes and that is what we in IBM, a very respectable old company, are doing. We are developing products and researching technology that you can trust for people that we respect. Why are women not there? Maybe, we need more time to understand all the implications and to be sure that we will benefit from technology. No one should have this feeling that we must be there, for women it is important to have freedom of choice because many times in the past we did not have it.

Caroline stated that lack of technical education and skills prevent us from being there. Such education and opportunities are less available to women due to stereotypes and sometimes culture. Google introduced educational programs for children “CS first” https://csfirst.withgoogle.com/en/home.  Also, there are a smaller number of women in technical companies because we like to work in workplaces where people are very supportive to each other and with less women sometimes the level of caring is also lower. She explained her role in Google and how it is more and more important for companies to have this social responsible role internally and externally.

They discussed the idea of role models (Marie Curie, Madeline Albright, Madona) and shared some guidelines on how we can change the world.

Ida said that she admires and respects all those women, their work and the benefits that they bring to the society. Her attitude, here, is that each person has a unique life path and it is not an innovative idea to follow others or to think what other people would do in your specific situation.  We need to believe in our strength and define our success that comes from intrinsic motivation. It is our life and our unique experience, and we should treasure it with all failures and achievements that we will experience there. What makes those women known and successful is not applicable to any of us here, just from the simple reason of not facing the same challenges in life. Do not follow, lead if that is what you want, but give yourself the freedom to be yourself.

Caroline chose Madeline Albright – inspired by her talk – On being a woman and a diplomat https://www.ted.com/talks/madeleine_albright_on_being_a_woman_and_a_diplomat that ends with Madeline’s moto “There is a special place in hell for women that don’t help each other”.

They agreed that we will change the world if we take care of each other, respect differences and introduce them as an imperative.

Discussion was inspiring and provoked a lot of talk afterwards. Dr Maurielle Eyletters, explains the impact of urban city environment on trees and problems with related IT management systems.  Diplomat Muthia A. Chandra from the Indonesian embassy invited us to celebrate their National day in August and we discussed the differences between Asian and European culture in IT industry. Kat Martina, Career & Leadership coach explained how Alternate Reality Game “STEM on Heels” aims to help tech and engineering companies to hire more and better suited female STEM professionals. We all agreed that in the recruiting process women tend to represent themselves honestly without praising their competitive advantages enough and with often inexperienced recruiters that reduces their chances to get hired. The ARG will overcome those obstacles and with 800.000 STEM jobs shortage in EU makes us more visible through neutral and measurable assessment that helps to recruit best tested candidates.

Many thanks to the organiser, great and active participants and looking forward seeing next steps how we can change the World.

Dr Maurielle Eyletters, Aliwen and Hinde Boulbayem, Sumy

Hinde and Ida having fun after a long working day

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