Women in Tech 2018: Addressing the tech industry’s ‘pipeline problem’

Around 74 percent of young girls express interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, but women hold just 25 percent of computing jobs.

Women in Tech 2018: Addressing the tech industry's 'pipeline problem'
It was a packed house at Women in Tech 2018.

So what’s going wrong? 

It’s a question asked by the organisers of Women in Tech, an event held annually in Stockholm on March 8th which is, by no coincidence, International Women’s Day. 

“The tech industry desperately needs more people in general,” says Jessica Sjöberg, VP of Corporate Comms at MTG.

In Sweden, Sjöberg explains, just 30 percent of tech roles are filled by women.

Determined to do something about this dismal statistic (often blamed on a 'pipeline problem'), some of Sweden’s largest media and technology companies, including MTG, have banded together to address the issue.

“Such a large part of the population can’t be outside recruitment,” she says. 

“So that’s why we need to do different activities to put the spotlight on the industry and show women why it’s suited to them.”

Since the first Women in Tech event in 2014, the concept has gained momentum and is making progress with its mission to inspire and enlighten women in the industry, as well as those curious about tech.

This year, Women in Tech took place at Folkets Hus conference hall in central Stockholm. 

The all-day event kicked off with a light breakfast before an introduction to moderators Sabinije von Gaffke, founder of The Game Change Global Initiative, and Anna Olin Kardell, journalist and program leader.

Joy Buolamwini addressing a captivated crowd at WITsthlm18

Taking first to the stage was Joy Buolamwini, self-proclaimed ‘poet of code’ and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League. Joy’s inspirational research explores the intersection of social impact technology and inclusion. 

Speakers following Joy included TV personality and neuroscientist Mouna Esmaeilzadeh, a pioneer in the field of preventative healthcare, and KTH’s Danica Kragic on the future of robotics.

A notable speech was delivered by the Mayor of Stockholm Karin Wanngård, who introduced ‘Stockholm: A Woman’s Place’, a new initiative between The Local and Invest Stockholm. Wanngård received an enthusiastic round of applause when she declared Stockholm a place where women are free to reach their personal and professional potential.

Mayor of Stockholm Karin Wanngård introducing the launch of 'Stockholm: A Woman's Place'

The afternoon was filled with a series of breakout sessions when attendees could choose to hear more about topics like AI, digital leadership, startup life, and blockchain. More speakers followed in the auditorium before attendees were invited to unwind and mingle with a drink in hand. 

What stands out most about Women in Tech 2018 is the obvious need for an event of its kind. Tickets sold out in a record two minutes, and there was barely a free seat in the packed auditorium.

Perhaps the event's success is, in some part, due to the location in which it is organised and held.

“There are many perfect places for an event like this, but as everyone knows Stockholm is a hub for many tech companies and we have a lot of people working in the industry,” says Sjöberg.

She adds that, while the event is usually a one-off, this year there will be a string of related events running throughout the year.

“This year, all 11 sponsors will host an event on their own premises, so there will be more activities that will keep the discussion going and keep the spotlight on the issue.”

You can follow Women in Tech on Facebook for news and updates about upcoming events.

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.