Women4IT Dissemination Conference: Young Women’s Leadership in the Digital Economy
On the 17th of May 2021, PLAN International Spain organised the second Dissemination Conference for the EEA and Norway Grants co-financed Women4IT Project, on ‘Young Women’s Leadership in the Digital Economy’.
The conference brought together key international stakeholders involved in supporting the inclusion of young women that are not in employment, education or training (NEETs). Conference participants included digital skills experts, training providers, young women who have participated in the trainings, female leaders and institutional representatives. During the hybrid-style conference, held in Madrid, the panelists discussed the role of young women in the digital economy and the trainings they have undertaken in order to participate in the tech sector in the context of Women4IT.
The event started with an introductory speech and welcome from PLAN International Spain’s Local Programmes Director, Begoña Solórzano. Ms. Solórzano highlighted the importance of girls and young women being part of the fourth industrial revolution, and the urgent need to put measures in place to reduce the gender divide in digital, not only regarding education and trainings but also in the labour market and leadership roles. High-level commitment is needed to ensure we do not leave any girl or woman behind in Europe’s digital transformation, particularly during the post-Covid recovery.
Following this intervention, Carmen Tovar Sánchez from the STEAM Alliance – Spanish Ministry of Education – introduced the Spanish public-private initiative to promote the participation of girls and young women in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths careers. The aim of this Alliance is to join forces, seek synergies and promote initiatives in the field of education and training that eliminate gender stereotypes associated with certain vocations and professions. The Alliance also advocates for female empowerment in STEAM disciplines from early stages of education that contribute to eliminating the gap in accessibility to these disciplines.
The first panel then discussed the role of companies in the Women4IT project and the private sector’s real needs. Belén Perales (HR director, IBM Spain) Rita Raisa Jevdokimova (HR specialist, TestDevLab Latvia), and Mónica Arana (Bejob trainer for Women4IT) highlighted the importance of programmes such as Women4IT. Initiatives like this are necessary for helping girls develop technological skills, create networks, learn how to use tools and have the opportunity to connect with the labour market to create, in just a few months, projects with a real impact. Moreover, the panellists pointed out that companies are key for the success of programmes such as Women4IT, as they “can offer first-hand information on the most in-demand profiles and the space available for women in the sector”.
The second panel brought the true protagonists of the project to the stage: the graduates of the Women4IT trainings. Sofia Utrera, Patricia Pintor, Kenya Miranda (Spain), Jean Kennedy (Ireland) and Teodora Stirbat (Romania) shared their experiences, views and opinions on the project, as well as their expectations and hopes for the future ahead.
“Women4IT has been a very valuable experience on a professional level and, especially, on a personal level. I now have more self-confidence because I have digital skills and competences that are essential for my future career. On a personal level, the training has given me the courage to choose a career in this field,” said Teodora Stirbat, who now works in the field of artificial intelligence at the European Parliament.
The third panel discussion was centred on women’s leadership in IT, during which participants had the opportunity to listen to the experiences and suggestions of inspiring women who already have a relevant role in the tech sector, including Nerea Luis Mingueza, a 29-year-old woman who has a doctorate in AI and is co-founder of one of the main technology events in Spain (TechFest), and Cristina Ricaurte, Solutions and Innovation Director at SAP Spain. The aim of this final panel was to both show the young participants the success of female leaders in the digital field, as well as to proclaim to policymakers and the private sector that there is still much to do in bringing about equality in the digital economy.
The State Secretariat for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence from the Spanish Government, Carme Artigas Brugal, closed the event to encourage young women to participate in the digital transition and show the Spanish Government’s commitment to this goal.
The €60 million EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment supports transnational project initiatives that promote sustainable and quality youth employment in Europe. The focus on transnational cooperation reflects the view that unemployment among youth is a common European challenge, and common European solutions should therefore be explored. The fund seeks to complement existing EU funding on youth employment initiatives, e.g. the long-term unemployed in the 25-29 age group.
The 27 selected projects of the programme involve partners from all the 15 beneficiary countries of the EEA and Norway Grants, as well as Ireland, Italy and Spain – all countries with high youth unemployment.
The Women4IT project aims to increase the employability of young women (15-29) in digital technologies and boost the opportunities female talent brings to economic growth. The project, implemented from 2018 to 31 January 2022, has assessed the digital skills of 1000+ women in 7 countries, providing digital skills training and personalised career guidance to around 700 women, based on the needs and support of employers, reaching more than 10,000 youth by digital career awareness activities.