Female Tech Heroes –  Key event takeaways

I am still feeling the energy from the Female Tech Heroes event at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven last Tuesday, which aims ‘to inspire women in tech, but also women who are curious about tech‘, and that it did. Why is this needed? By now we should all be familiar with the fact that diverse companies are more innovative and have higher revenue, amongst other benefits. Gender diversity is one way to bring diversity to your company, however, many tech companies still struggle to include women. At Nextview we have a 26% female workforce (which is high in this industry), and we are always striving to become more diverse. This event left me with some great tips I wanted to share, to bring more women into the tech industry!

© High Tech Campus Eindhoven

With 600 attendees, the day was packed with inspiring keynotes from women in the tech industry, from companies like TomTom, Philips, Adyen, Lightyear, TNO, ASML, and Accenture.

There were also smaller workshops throughout the day, so we could dive deeper into various topics, and Nextview hosted ‘What Design Thinking Can Do For You’ given by our very own Female Tech Heroes Lisa van Paridon, Suzanne de Witte, and Ilka Tuinstra.

Design Thinking Workshop by Nextview – © High Tech Campus Eindhoven

My favorite takeaways from the day were:

1. Ensure female friendly job requirements

Martine de Visscher, Product Lead – Plugin & Partnerships, Adyen suggested specifically leaving out tech requirements in job ads when trying to create diverse tech teams. Of course there are women with very strong tech backgrounds and studies, but at the moment these studies are dominated by men. Since each individual brings their own unique value to the team, not everyone needs to be a tech expert or have a tech background, especially if you want diversity. I can speak from my own experience here, as I never would have joined the tech industry had Nextview advertised for a consultant with any other word choice than ‘affinity with tech’, as my educational background is not tech, I never thought this was an option for me, despite my strong passion. Here are some extra tips to improve your job adverts.

2. Be aware of your biases

The Implicit Associations Test (a free online bias test) was mentioned a few times throughout the day. One attendee explained that all hiring managers at her company take this test before they start interviewing. It was a nice reminder of the importance of bias awareness (and yes you have them, we all do). This gives you the opportunity to recognize when your biases might be getting in the way of fairly assessing a candidate (or anyone). I took the test and was disappointed to see a moderate gender bias myself, but on the other hand what did I expect when I am bombarded with gender stereotypes everyday? And now I do feel more aware after the test, so I can combat these biases in my mind!

3. Overcome buddy syndrome with speed-dating interview format

One presentation explained ‘the buddy syndrome’ a psychological tendencancy, we cannot help, to like people similar to us. This contributes to a lack of diversity, making it a cyclical problem difficult to get out of. A solution that worked for this company is interviewing candidates in ‘speed dating’ format with multiple and diverse interviewers, so each speaks to the interviewee about 10 minutes. They all then must agree on the candidate.

© High Tech Campus Eindhoven

4. Share Child Rearing Responsibilities

Many women shared their personal stories of their family dynamics and child rearing responsibilities, stressing the need for sharing the responsibility of raising children in order to succeed or advance in their career. If you wonder why you have no women in upper management or director positions, workplace culture and lack of flexibility could be a contributing factor. Many companies are catching on to the benefits for everyone of equal parental leave and Salesforce, Netflix, Microsoft and Amazon are just a few big companies making leave policies more equal (one factor which can strongly influence work culture).

But no need to wait for a policy to be in place, if you have a child, make an effort to share the responsibility where you can (even if you don’t you can be an advocate for greater workplace flexibility). If you are an employer, make an effort to be flexible when it comes to where and when you ask your employees to be present. Employees with diverse life experiences (which is difficult to achieve when stuck in the same office for long days) bring that diversity back to their work for more creativity and innovation.

5. Inspire younger generations

Janneke Niessen, co-founder CapitalT & VCVolt touched on the importance of going against the dialogue that girls hear every day, by exposing girls to real life examples of women in tech. She mentioned that when she asked her children what she did, they responded with ‘you’re a princess!’. Of course this got a few laughs, but when she explained that she never actually explained to them what she did (and changed that right away), it made me think how I never talk to kids about what I do. If you have kids or talk to kids, tell them about your own job and tell them about the women you know at your work, particularly the women in tech or management or director positions. Children need to be exposed to the fact that women are in these positions too, and girls need to see this option as a future career.

What I hope to see next year

This event was a great start to inspire women, however I think it is time to bring men into the conversation next year. There were so many important topics presented that we all could learn from, and because we all benefit from diversity, I think it is important to have everyone involved in the conversation on how to achieve it. I would also love more workshop time to have the opportunity to dive deeper into some of these topics, and learn from each other.

© High Tech Campus Eindhoven

Overall a great experience, and time to put some of these ideas to action! If you are a woman curious about tech, or anyone interested in getting more women on-board, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, Tamara De La Loza, as I made the career switch and I am happy to discuss any questions you may have!