Despite decades of progress towards workplace equality, just 17% of the people working as ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) specialists across Europe in 2018 are female and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women. Why do women remain underrepresented in the technology workforce although the need for skilled employees is more obvious than ever?
About that question, our Head of Marketing Vivian Reifschneider will talk about it with our employees Kavya Bharathappa, Nadinda Rachmat, and Daphne Clyne, all part of the software engineering team of MMT. We would like to offer our female employees a platform to introduce themselves and tell us how and why they chose the path to the tech industry. Topics such as gender bias, challenges, and opportunities are discussed as well.
Name: Kavya Bharathappa
Name: Daphne Clyne
Name: Nadinda Rachmat
Nadinda: Growing up, I was a shy kid, kinda why I decided to go to a business school, to get me out of my shell. I have a bachelor’s degree in management from Bandung Institute of Technology where I took finance as a major, so I have a love-hate relationship with Excel and its formulas.
I have been very attached to computers since I was little. Fortunately, my dad likes technology, so I grew up with different kinds of computers from desktop, early mobile devices like PDAs, first iPhone, some Symbian and early android devices. We didn’t have the internet at home so I had to go to an internet cafe and save some web pages to be read at home. That taught me to be resourceful. I first learned about some scripting around grade 5, but the first serious programming I learned was in grade 10. We were taught about Pascal, MySQL, Flash animation, and other basic web design at school.
When it was time to choose which major to pursue at University, I got accepted to quite different majors. They were psychology, information technology, and business. I took the business one at the end. But in the final year of my bachelor’s study, I realized that I still love IT and programming.
After graduation, I decided to enroll in a coding academy. I took two intensive courses about android and web development back in Indonesia. They were from a coding academy called Binar Academy which was founded by Alamanda Shantik, ex VP of Indonesia's first decacorn startup. She is a powerful woman in tech in Indonesia. I started working professionally as a software developer in 2019.
Kavya: Like Nadinda, I was attracted to computers since I was a child. I was attracted to computers as well since I was a child. Internet and web applications were game changers for me as I was growing up. I had a lot of questions on how it works and why. Kindly a family member dumbed it down for me.
Later on, I made the choice to continue my studies in this area. I studied computer science in my bachelor’s at Visvesvaraya Technological University (JNNCE). During my bachelor’s, I was recruited by a multinational corporation and after graduation, I went to work there, my first role there was as a test engineer. After a few years of working, I decided to pursue a master's degree. I chose information engineering at Fachhochschule Kiel.
Daphne: I came from a totally different academic background. My major was Social Science. After graduating from Mejiro University I worked mostly as an office clerk. There were a lot of mundane tasks that could have been automated and I wanted to do something about it so I jumped into the world of tech.
I didn’t think I would pursue my career in tech at that time. I attended Fullstack Academy, which is a coding boot camp. At MMT, this is my first job as a Software Engineer.
Daphne: In Japan, we don’t see that many women in the Tech/Science majors. I think the ratio was like 80% men and 20% women. There is still an old stereotype that a women’s job is to raise children. However, it’s easy to get a job as an office clerk which is low salary and can be easily replaced. Otherwise, if you are a woman it is not easy to get hired. The government is trying to encourage companies to hire and promote women but it’s not working the way they want. Everyone has the dream that this will change, but now for women, it is hard to get those same chances as men. I think this discourages women from studying in the Tech/Science majors. In my major, Social Science, it was 50/50. On the other hand, at the coding boot camp, there were only 10 girls out of 50 students.
Kavya: School and University years were exciting. In India, from where I am, students choose the area they want to pursue a career in at the age of 16. Generally, girls are encouraged to study science-related subjects. In my bachelor’s, I noticed that computer science and electronics were popular among girls, some of them topped at the university level too. When it comes to engineering, girls are encouraged to study software or electronics related subjects instead of mechanical or civil engineering, maybe as it often leads to a safer and secure profession: you are in an office, it is more comfortable, you work more in a business setup, travel less. I have noticed that only a few girls opt for mechanical, civil engineering, or automotive engineering. Throughout my studies in India, I was a part of a class where there was an equal number of boys and girls in a class, so the proportion was really good. But here in Germany it totally switched, the proportion of women participants in my class took me by surprise during my masters.
Nadinda: In Indonesia, it is the opposite. Indonesia has six years of primary school, 3 years of middle school, and 3 years of high school. Computers specifically, not just software, is leaning towards boys. If a girl wants to study something related to it she will be the only one. Girls don´t get an equal chance to boys to do what they want. So ever since you are a child, as a girl, you are pushed away from tech.
Even though I studied finance, my faculty which is called School of Business and Management is part of the university that is famous for its science and technology. From my observation, some faculties are considered feminine or masculine. School of Pharmacy, for example, has a much higher proportion of women than men. On the other hand, the School of Electrical Engineering and Informatics has more men than women.
"In India, girls are encouraged to study science-related subjects. Computer science and electronics are popular among female students."Kavya Bharathappa
Junior Software Engineer, MMT
Kavya, it is understandable that you were surprised. In Germany in 2018, the percentage of women studying STEM subjects is 23.4%. With 18.9% even less in computer science. Starting from 20.0 % in 1993, the share of women has tended to increase over the last two decades. Nevertheless, the share of female graduates in STEM degree programs remains very low compared to the share of women in all degree programs (48.8 %). Since reaching a peak in 2010, the proportion of STEM women has stagnated. When it comes to a job, is it difficult for a woman to work in the tech field? What are your personal challenges?
Nadinda: There were some challenges for me personally. But I see more improvements as time goes by. There are also more platforms and movements built to tackle some issues around women in tech.
As a kid, I got the impression that computers or tech, in general, are meant to be for boys. It feels more true when I joined some workshops around technology topics, I oftentimes was the only woman in the room. It took me extra effort to engage with them and feel comfortable enough to ask questions.
Daphne: I changed my job when I was in the USA. I personally didn’t feel it’s difficult. I think I jumped into the tech field at a good time when a lot of improvements were happening. Since I came from a completely different academic background and studied software engineering at a coding boot camp, sometimes I feel that I’m much less knowledgeable than I want to be. I try to study in my free time.
Kavya: I agree. Being a woman in tech does not make anything difficult or easy, it is about one’s interest to learn and ability to adapt to new technologies that might make some difference. I personally struggle to be creative in my approach to solve problems.
"I see improvements as time goes by. There are more platforms and movements built to tackle some issues around women in tech."Nadinda Rachmat
Junior Software Engineer, MMT
Kavya: I chose MMT because it offered an environment where there is tolerance towards learning and questions are encouraged. I like that my job allows me to try new things. Good ideas and clever solutions lead the way. The team is not afraid to try out new technologies or to invest time and energy to explore what can be improved.
Nadinda: I first got attracted to MMT because of the technology stacks, but I stayed for the team. There is no gap between the employees, so it makes me comfortable to reach out to everyone. I like the team. People are friendly and everyone cares to help each other out. MMT has a diverse team. Everyone gets treated equally, all opinions are heard, so I am happy to work here.
Daphne: MMT is willing to develop newcomers and tries to give them a chance. I like the people working here, too. Everyone is easy-going and kind, and I feel comfortable asking questions anytime. I’m lucky to have joined MMT.
Nadinda: I do mostly full-stack development. Doing full-stack is definitely challenging for me. The good thing is I never got bored because I work on a variety of problems on different parts of the software.
At MMT, we develop using a different programming paradigm compared to what I learned in my coding courses. In my project, functional programming is dominant with Elm on the frontend side and Elixir on the backend. There was a bit of a learning curve, but I enjoy it so much now.
I use many tools but there are some essentials. For a team collaboration tool, we use Slack for communication and Gitlab to manage our projects and code repositories. We do daily standups to share about our progress and problems that arise via Google meet. My choice of IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is IntelliJ IDEA, I spend most of my time reading and writing code on this tool. If I got stuck I can ask to do pair programming, this is done through screen sharing so we can try to solve the problem together. So apart from technical skills, communication and collaboration is an important skill in software engineering work.
Daphne: Fullstack development. I enjoy both frontend and backend development. I used to like frontend because I can see my work right away and I thought backend is super complicated. But after I worked on backend development, I realized that dealing with data and logic is fun too.
Kavya: For some time now I have been involved a lot in backend development, investigating, and adopting new tools. My current job revolves around the collection of data from sources then transporting it through few other tools and finally making it available at the destination. I use GitLab, Visual studio Code, Docker along with these tools, a lot of clear communication and clarification is important as well.
Nadinda: I really liked computers when I was a child. But when I grew older it got harder and harder to do something with that because there were only guys. And usually, guys stick together and don´t reach out to me. But after I graduated from my bachelor’s the movement of women in tech grew so much. It was like wherever I went there was an event or a workshop that was especially for women and girls. So I was more comfortable when I joined this community of women in tech. I met with many many women who are one or several steps ahead of me, so they were really encouraging. So when things get hard for you, find a community or a club. That’s what I usually did and what worked well for me. Find people who are willing to support you. And if you can´t find a person in your institution, get out of it.
Kavya: Find a mentor. That makes a big difference, find a person who is encouraging and is honest about how the industry works. Having a good mentor makes a huge difference especially when it comes to the field of tech. Anything related to technology might look intimidating, competitive, and stressful but with the right person or people to guide, one might realize there is nothing to be scared of. I will suggest not to get overwhelmed by the way people talk about technology, take guidance and suggestions from people who actually work in that area. This advice is from my personal experience. When I realized that I do not have to be scared, I opened up a lot of opportunities for myself. That’s my personal experience and that’s my advice for everyone who wants to explore tech.
Daphne: Don't let people discourage you. Since I'm a woman and mixed-race, I get judged a lot, but after I learned how to let go of what people say I enjoy doing whatever I want. Believe in yourself and do what you like.
"Don't let people discourage you. Believe in yourself and do what you like."Daphne Clyne
Junior Software Engineer, MMT