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Women+ in Tech Initiatives at Tomorrow University

Janine Paschke
Professional Master in SET learner

As a female-read, non-binary Product Manager in the tech industry, I am fortunate to have received a lot of support and opportunities from both female and male mentors and peers during my career, but this is certainly not true for the majority of women+ in tech.

Taking part in the Women’s Network at my company, it’s evident, women+ in tech do not lack the skills, education or the talent, but the confidence and support to push through the adversity they experience to make a meaningful, positive impact.This is one thing I am hoping to change.

When I started my degree Master of Science in Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Technology at ToU in 2022, I was excited to see many female+ peers in the program. Unsettlingly, many of them did not see themselves as a “tech person”. When I chose the advanced tech track, now the Impact Certificate Build a Better Society with AI, I found myself alone between male peers. Not that I had a personal issue with that, having worked with all-male, all-female and mixed teams throughout my career. It was disheartening to witness nonetheless. This lack of representation is disheartening, especially in AI, which will shape our future. How will we ever be able to change these numbers to make sure that the future technology represents and supports all of humanity equally?

The Numbers speak!

It is no wonder the current ethical issues we see with AI such as racial or gender bias can be directly tied to the lack of representation of diverse groups at companies developing  technologies that shape our tomorrow.

Berlin Meet-Up Workshop

While this is a global issue influenced by a lot of factors, I wondered if we could not ignite change at a smaller level right away - particularly at a university dedicated to nurturing the change makers of tomorrow. To address this issue, I organized a workshop during the Berlin meetup focusing on Women+ in Tech. We discussed challenges faced by women+ in tech, including feeling isolated in all-male teams and being criticized for behavior that reduces tension. We also highlighted the historical contributions of women+ to the computer industry.

My aim was to raise awareness of this topic within the community and to engage with my peers in identifying potential solutions for building a supportive environment for women+ in tech at ToU. To facilitate this, we divided into different groups based on participants’ prior experiences in the tech sector.

Group 1: Comprising students currently working in Tech - This group provided a platform for Female+ peers to candidly share their experiences, free from fear of repercussions from superiors or colleagues. In this setting, male peers actively listened and gained insight into the female+ perspective on workplace dynamics

  • A recurring theme in Group 1 was the challenge of women+ finding themselves isolated within all- male teams, leading to communication breakdowns. Examples included women+ being excluded from casual conversations that foster mutual trust and camaraderie, as well as facing unwarranted criticism and labeling when attempting to ease workplace tensions through friendly interactions. Additionally, many women+ in the tech sector, often younger than their male counterparts, encounter discrimination and a lack of recognition for their contributions.
A female Tomorrow University learner giving a workshop in front of the other learners.

Group 2: Composed of individuals interested in pursuing careers in Tech - This group highlighted the predominant perception that tech roles primarily entail software engineering or programming, overlooking the diverse array of opportunities within the field. This group suggested establishing mentorship programs and coding buddy initiatives to provide guidance and support to students navigating tech challenges at ToU.

In general, it seems there is still little awareness of how important women+ were for the early days of the computer industry and that programming being a “man’s job” was an artificial rebranding of an occupation that was once deemed as feminine. There is still a lot of work to be done to make sure that female+ role models and significant contributors to computer history are properly included in tech-focused education.

Next Steps

While some intense discussions sprung up during the workshop, it only showed how important it is to have those conversations in the first place and start raising awareness. Even with the achievements of the #MeToo movement as well as more and more companies dedicating resources to DEI initiatives, there is still a lot of room for improvements, especially in the tech industry.

As a result of the workshop, we have now launched the first iteration of the Women+ in Tech Circle at ToU, which will hopefully lay the foundation for a larger community to support women+ in Tech at ToU during their studies and beyond.

Connect with Janine via LinkedIn

Janine Paschke
Professional Master in SET learner
Janine Paschke
Professional Master in SET learner

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