At the moment, women make up approximately 25% of all Ukrainian IT specialists. Among the leadership in IT companies, the number of women makes up about a third. Yet, this is not enough. It is necessary to increase the number of women in Ukrainian IT. As IT entrepreneur, Founding Partner Roosh, Reface investor Sergey Tokarev says in his column on UP.Zhyttia, this can be achieved by developing educational initiatives.
According to Tokarev, many girls are afraid to start their careers in the IT industry, as they constantly face stereotypes that it is a supposedly “male” industry. For example, women are often told that they choose IT only to find a husband there or can only become HR or QA testers.
Many girls are frightened off by this. As the result, the industry loses future valuable personnel. At the same time, the IT sector currently suffers from a shortage of specialists: in particular, in data science, AI, ML, and cybersecurity.
“To solve this problem, it is necessary to create thematic clubs and communities,” says Sergey Tokarev. “This way, every girl interested in IT can find a role model in this profession and can turn to like-minded people for advice or support.”
So, for example, to inspire girls to pursue a career in STEM, NGO STEM is FEM launched the initiative SHE is SCIENCE. As part of the project, the participants could learn about the career of 12 Ukrainian scientists. The faces of the project were, among others, also female IT specialists: Olga Perevozchikova, a scientist who participated in creating state programming standards in Ukraine, and Kateryna Yushchenko, a programmer who created a formal language for addressable computer programming.
In addition, STEM is FEM allows girls to delve into IT in practice. This year, in partnership with the Swiss organization Empowerment Lab and with the support of Oracle, the initiative has launched free IT courses for girls aged 12-16. Participants can attend classes on Data-driven web apps, App prototyping, and Machine Learning. The teachers are women working in IT.
Once a schoolgirl chooses an IT area she is most interested in, this is where high education should come into play, believes Sergey Tokarev.
”This summer, SET University, which specializes exclusively in technology, organized a cybersecurity course for teenagers. The courses were for both girls and boys, yet girls made up 30% of the total number of course participants. There is indeed a demand for IT among girls. They need to be supported and motivated. Therefore, the university plans to open scholarship programs for girls later.”
It is also necessary to support girls when building a career. One of the tools is creating professional communities, such as AI HOUSE. This initiative unites Ukrainian and foreign AI and ML specialists and organizes training for them. Currently, women make up about 25% of the community, but the organizers hope that more professionals will join them soon.
Thus, by developing educational opportunities for girls and women, their percentage in the industry can increase significantly. “After all, every schoolgirl who is interested in programming yet does not get any support becomes a part of the contribution to gender inequality, a shortage of qualified personnel, and a loss of profits for your company and the country’s economy in the future,” sums up Sergey Tokarev.