Last month, I was honoured to be invited for a third time to the Philippine Youth Congress for Information Technology (Y4IT). Like previous events, the experience of speaking to an audience of 7,000+ students was overwhelming, and is an experience I wanted to share with you.
Y4IT is an event catered for IT students; the youth who will become the future leaders of the technical industry. So, this year it was rather apt to talk about an issue that has a major impact in the technical community – gender diversity and women in ICT.
During my presentation, I shared a bit of my story growing up and loving technology and eventually pursuing a career in IT. I shared my experiences and observations while working as a network engineer and a technical trainer in an environment largely driven by men.
While my experience has been generally positive, I pointed out some challenges that come with it. I also noted the initiatives being done by APNIC, including youth fellowship and Women in ICT events, to raise awareness, provide opportunities to women and close the gender gap. I also shared these five things that I learned as a woman in tech:
- Even if you’re small, think big. As a girl in a room full of guys, it’s easy to feel inferior. Be confident and believe in your own self-worth. Never doubt your skills. Believe that you are smart!
- Speak up! Your thoughts and plans may be different than the guys in the room, but that’s the beauty of being a woman. You think differently and bring fresh ideas to the team. So don’t be afraid to speak.
- Accept the challenge. If presented with a one-time opportunity, grab it! Know the 20% and fast track to learn the next 80%. Don’t back out just because you feel incompetent. “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
- Find your niche! Don’t be a jack of all trades. Specialise in something. Be an expert and earn people’s respect.
- Network and find a mentor. The tech community is challenging. Find a community and look for mentors to help you out.
Through this talk, I am hoping to instil the idea of diversity and inclusivity in these young people’s minds. Hopefully this also inspires more girls to push forward and overcome biases and difficulties as they pursue their passion for technology.
Even if you’re small think big.. #Y4IT
— Christine Reño (@Chezetine) September 27, 2016
I also posed a challenge for the boys in the room to be more open, inclusive and welcome the change.
Hopefully, events like these lead to a better gender equal tech environment, particularly in the Philippines.
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