We need to support more women in technology careers, experts say
Author: Wai Wa Wong
Bali, Indonesia - Closing the big gap in women's access to careers in technology is a critical part of achieving gender equality overall, experts have said at a workshop co-organized by UN Women.
The Women in Tech workshop on 3 July was part of the three-day Inclusive Lifelong Learning Conference held in Bali. The conference issued the Bali Manifesto, Embracing Inclusion: A Roadmap to Lifelong Learning for All.
UN Women organized the workshop with Kartu Prakerja, a workforce training programme of the Indonesia Government's Coordination Ministry of Economic Affairs, and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Over 300 participants from 38 countries including high-level government officials and representatives of technical partners, international non-governmental organizations, and the private sector attended the conference.
Women remain a minority in both education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), representing only 28 per cent of engineering graduates and 22 per cent of acritical intelligence workers globally, according to a 2021 UNESCO report.
Denni Puspa Purbasari, Executive Director of PMO Kartu Prakerja, the governmental unit dealing with programme implementation, told the workshop that only 10-20 per cent of information technology (IT) engineers in Indonesia are women. She suggested that traditional gender stereotypes were to blame.
"Female Indonesian high schoolers do not choose an IT major not because of personal choice but parental influences, lack of role model, and wrong perception about IT and engineering in general." Purbasari said.
"With the help of technology," she said, "women will have opportunities to access training, meetups and mentorship and climb-up to top career in technology, while taking responsibilities as a mother."
Dwi Faiz, Head of Programmes, UN Women Indonesia, said: "Providing access and basic computer skills is not enough. Soft skills, such as leadership and communication, supported by gender-equal technology industry and ecosystem, will be the game changer to make lifelong learning close the gender gap."
Workshop participants said the rapid advancement of digital technology is creating many opportunities to empower women and girls.
Kanta Singh, Deputy Country Representative of UN Women India, described how UN Women's Second Chance education programme is leveraging technology to give women who have limited opportunities access to education, skilling, employment, and entrepreneurship.
Dian Siswarini, CEO of XL Axiata, an Indonesian mobile telecommunications service provider, highlighted the importance of advancing women into tech leadership roles. "Women's advancement and empowerment are critical to the country's progress. We are committed to turning this into reality by expanding and advancing women's empowerment within the organization and in society through tech and digitalization," she said.
Annie An Dongmei, senior solutions architect of Amazon Web Services, a member of the Executive Committee at Enterprise Architecture Chapter, Singapore Computer Society, and Board Member at Cloud Seeders, spoke of her own experience with the unconscious biases and stereotypes in the STEM fields. This has led to the decreasing percentage of female workers at senior IT levels, she said.
"By fostering a supportive environment that values diversity, we can break the shackles that hold women back from realizing their full potential," she said.
Tessa Wijaya, COO and Co-founder of Xendit, a financial technology company in Indonesia, mentioned the gender-equal initiatives taken by her company and added: "For women who dream of launching their tech venture, those dreams are not just possible in the Western world, but also here in Asia. You need to be open to learning and challenging yourself."