Key takeaways from Virtual Women in Tech Forum 2020

© Rahul Thakuri

This year, we organized Virtual Women in Tech Forum as a Special Edition with the theme “Closing the Gender Gap in Technology”.

The effects of COVID-19 have been harmful to women, not just in technology. Thus, this year’s theme has become even more relevant and crucial than ever.

It seems that the importance of our mission resonated well with the audience — we had record-breaking +1800 registrations for the event!

Here are the key takeaways from the Women in Tech Forum 2020. If you want to see the event’s full recording, head to our Youtube channel.

Opening words: Marjo Miettinen, Women in Tech Finland, co-founder & Ensto, Chairman of the Board

© Rahul Thakuri

According to Miettinen, the Women in Tech Finland network’s key principle has always been to bring more women with diverse backgrounds into tech companies. She reminded the audience that the need for technology is growing, but men are still developing most of the technology we use. Society cannot afford to ignore the perspectives of half of the population in the future.

Well-performing women still stand out in a male-dominated business. Their opportunities are worth exploring. There is doubt that women can be at least as capable as men in challenging male-dominated positions.

Miettinen’s advice for the forum participants: Speak about women in tech as much as possible, and especially with men, because we need them.

Watch Miettinen’s opening words on Youtube.

Keynote: building an inclusive digital economy, Yacine Samb, Google

© Rahul Thakuri

Technology itself is not racist; it’s just that designers are not screened for their own unconscious biases. As women in tech, we are too well aware of these design flaws in our society.

How to do it?

1) Believe in what diversity can achieve; it means understanding that people are an investment.

2) Delivering a framework of fairness means that we need to futureproof all of our processes

3) Finally, creating a culture of inclusivity means valuing everyone for who they are as individuals and where they want to go in their careers.

© Yacine Samb

Gender diverse leadership teams outperform those that are not. More diverse technical societies equal opportunities to succeed. Equality means equity, which here means closing the pay gap and putting women in leadership positions.

To improve the hiring and retention of women in tech, there should be a way to diversify the talent pool and create a magnetic working culture in organizations and companies.

How to make the digital economy genuinely democratic:

  1. Provide the tools that are accessible to everyone
  2. Expand the opportunities for underrepresented groups to learn how to use them

Samb encourages to work for justice through your advantage group.

© Yacine Samb

Samb advises forum participants to ask yourself: What leaders do you follow on social media? What podcasts do you listen? Who is the most senior black person you have worked with? Are you actively making an effort to understand voices that have been silenced?

Watch Samb’s virtual keynote on Youtube.

Panel discussion: How to retain women in the tech industry by making the tech culture more inclusive.

Panelists: Tomas Nyström, Ekaterina Gianelli, Anna-Maria Henell. Moderator: Elina Lappalainen © Rahul Thakuri

Watch the whole discussion on Youtube. Here is a collection of the best bits from the discussion.

Tomas Nyström, Country Managing Director, Accenture Finland

If you look at the research we have, 65% of the leaders believe they have an open and inclusive culture for diversity. If you ask the employees, it’s 35%. There is a gap. We are at the stage where the understanding is there, but it hasn’t penetrated actions.

Ekaterina Gianelli, Partner, Inventure

If your team is not gender-diverse enough, I suggest that you hire a woman as your next executive hire. A lot of research suggests that teams with female executives or CEOs hire two times more females. Numbers will change a lot in the future if you make the next leadership hire a woman.

Anna-Maria Henell, CEO & Co-Founder, Disior

I would encourage the younger generation by showing them what a tech career can be on a broader level. If younger people can learn what they could do in tech, they could retain in the big companies and ask for responsibility and go for more senior positions.

My story from building banks to becoming a tech founder, Monika Liikamaa, Enfuce

© Rahul Thakuri

Liikamaa shared her work experience and admitted she is competitive by nature and mostly competes with herself. She said she wanted to build a company she could be proud of.

Enfuce’s core value is collaboration — because nobody can succeed alone.

Enfuse came about from a meeting by a cup of coffee. I urge everyone to do networking — you never know who you will meet. Asking for help is essential. Nobody has ever turned me down when I have asked for help.

Today, Enfuce has 57 employees and we run over 10 million end customer payments daily.

We wanted to set high ambitions when we started to build the company. If you have small dreams — you will end up doing small things. Having the courage to drive to do big things. We wanted to build a company that drives positive change in the financial industry and from that enables inclusivity in payments and by that we can impact the world we live in.

Enfuce is all about thinking big. This is what the company plans to achieve in the next five years:

© Monika Liikamaa

If we put our minds to it and get things done, we can achieve things that nobody has done before. Why not try to be bigger and better than Google? How hard can it be?

Liikamaa wants to make sure that people working at Enfuce really believe in the things the company stands for. The company has over ten nationalities, and 34% of the employees are females. Liikamaa remembers that in the first two years, it was really hard to get females involved.

Liikamaa’s advice for the forum participants: If you want to work for a company, don’t look at the open positions, look at the values and apply. You fit it in if you have the ambition and mindset to get things done.

Watch Liikamaa’s virtual keynote on Youtube.

Panel discussion: Understanding gender bias in technology

Panelists: Marja Dunderfeld, Kenigbolo Meya Stephen, Susanna Bairoh (online). Moderator: Reetta Heiskanen © Rahul Thakuri

Watch the whole discussion on Youtube. Here is a collection of the best bits from the discussion.

Susanna Bairoh, Research manager, TEK (Tekniikan Akateemitset)

One thing is to understand that hardly anything has nothing to do with technology. Everything is tech. That is one thing that would increase women’s interest in technology — what you can do with it, not only what it is.

Kenigbolo Meya Stephen, Frontend Engineering Lead, BCaster

It’s about the orientation we give to women at a very young age. If you take movies and tv shows, you find that every time you have a tech scene, it’s always men. Finland is a great example — in the past years, the number of women in parliament has grown. Growing up and having a reference point of having a female president is great.

Marja Dunderfeld, Chief Security Officer, Huawei Technologies Finland

When it comes to technology, we need to change our ideology. We should stop talking about men and women — we are humans; we have the same capabilities.

A humble thank you to all of our partners for supporting the 2020 Special Edition. See you in 2021!

Women in Tech aims to encourage more women in technology and to promote the value of diversity, inclusion and equity in technology.

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