In Colombia, the percentage of women working in the technology sector is no greater than 30%, according to the most recent study by the education technology company Crack The Code. Additionally, only two of every ten women choose to pursue a science or technology-related career.
Taking a deeper dive into the issue, we spoke with Sofia Caro, who shared her experience on the situation of women in technology in Colombia. We discussed the possibilities of promoting female participation in tech from a young age, and how eliminating gender stereotypes can expand women’s possibilities throughout the sector.
Sofia Caro is an Account Manager. Her experience with inbound communications and client management has helped startups achieve desired PR results. Her international undergraduate experience has allowed her to develop the adaptability, competitiveness, and communication skills necessary to manage a variety of accounts across industries including interior design, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, healthcare technology, hospitality, and more. Sofia is a contributor to Pulzo, Social Geek, and Entrepreneur.
Based on the above, what are your views on Colombian women in technology and which are some relevant role models to follow and learn from?
Colombian women who venture into the world of technology are women who want to make a mark. In a country where patriarchal culture has prevailed for so long, women who decide to enter this industry are agents of change and transformation. Therefore, I believe that they should be recognized, highlighted, and applauded. In this way, we can make them visible within the industry and also showcase them as examples for the rest of the women in our country.
One of the reference women in the field is Sandra Hinestroza, who currently serves as General Manager of HP Colombia.
What improvements have you seen in recent years regarding the growth of women in this industry?
To begin with, the percentage of women applying for positions in the technology industry has increased from 12% in 2015 to 51% in 2021. We can deduce that the possibilities and job offerings for women have also increased significantly.
Likewise, initiatives such as Women in Tech Colombia and WISE Latin America (a free program consisting of training workshops and mentoring, aimed at supporting the creation of female-led startups) contribute to the educational development of women in the sector.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications has created spaces that promote women in the industry, such as Hacker Girls, a project that promotes education and work for women in cybersecurity.
Opportunities like these seem to be increasingly visible and present in Colombia, positioning the country as one of the leaders in the region in promoting and training women in digital security.
Do you have suggestions as to what we can do to empower and train women in the country and create a mixed and participatory technology industry?
In order to create an environment in which women can feel supported, a necessary “infrastructure” is needed that generates significant demand in the job market for women. It is also necessary to encourage active female participation in leadership roles.
Another important point is the support for female-led companies. Whether through mentorship, resources, or financing that allows these businesses and entrepreneurs to access support and improve opportunities for them.
A report from the company ‘Where are we now? Understanding the role of women in technology’, among other things, revealed that 30% of women in the region believe that the lack of female representation made them doubt entering the IT industry. The ones who had the most doubts were the Brazilians (39%) and Chileans (34%), followed by Peruvians (30%) and Colombians (29%), and finally Mexicans (26%) and Argentines (24%). New models need to be made visible and promoted to continue female participation within the industry.
How can we encourage women to educate themselves in technology?
In order to incentivize women to learn technology-related skills, it is necessary to have strong STEM curricula in schools starting from the early grades, and initiatives that highlight women who have been pioneers in the field. Women who serve as role models can inspire others and demonstrate that it is possible for women to possess these skills and hold high-level positions. It is also important for schools to work consciously to reduce the gender gap and create scenarios that demonstrate that everyone can have the same capabilities, regardless of gender, as long as the same opportunities are provided.
Furthermore, it is extremely important to have direct and accessible support for women of all socioeconomic levels to educate themselves in technology. For example, networking spaces where women already in the industry can serve as role models and share their experiences with other women. These spaces should be designed to facilitate connections and support networks in which women support women, inviting others to believe that they can be part of the technology field regardless of their gender or identity.
How can we recognize women for their contributions to science in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field, and thus motivate women and inspire new generations?
We have to do so as a society, by making their achievements and work visible. Let’s applaud what they have accomplished, talk about it among ourselves, and be spokespeople and advocates for these great women. If each and every one of us acquires a perspective in which women in STEM are examples, just as we do with great leaders who have been an inspiration to all, and we give these women their value for having overcome the barriers that we have as a country and society, only then can we open up a space that motivates and encourages new generations.
Gender stereotypes influence our aspirations and dreams. In a world where boys are encouraged to play with robots and cars from early childhood, while girls are steered towards playing with dolls and toy kitchens, how can we, as a society, encourage girls to explore the technology field?
It’s essential to educate girls from a young age from multiple angles. Formulating ways of creating and believing through playing, installing the idea that being what you want to be is possible, is a critical exercise that starts at home and must be replicated in every setting where they grow and develop.
Also, becoming familiar with the concept of technology, understanding, interacting, and observing science and technology as something that is part of life, rather than distant and unknown knowledge.
Homes and families also play a crucial role. If parents normalize conversations and discussions around female role models in their daily lives, they allow young girls to understand that it is possible to be a woman and succeed in this field.
It’s about planting a seed that will bear the fruit of self-confidence, a mirror in which girls can see themselves reflected, and that can be a driving force for them to dream of being scientists, astronauts, leaving behind the stereotypes that led girls to have limited dreams.