To find out how a woman involved in the Digital and Tech field thinks, we spoke to Steliana Moraru, who has a diverse professional background that combines the passion for technology with that of communication and corporate social responsibility.
Currently, Steliana is Marketing & Communication Manager within a company in the financial field and Board Member & Head of Marketing of the Global Women in Tech organisation. She has over 10 years’ professional experience, covering as Chief Marketing Officer, International Communication Manager or Program Manager management and communication responsibilities for local and international organizations. She has developed and coordinated projects in the field of e-government, technology for social welfare, launches for software products and events dedicated to the tech field.
With such staggering experience, Steliana gave us insightful responses on the challenges that young women face before or during the employment / training process in the IT sphere.
We are happy to learn the opinion of a woman so much involved in the Digital / Tech area. Her insight will surely inspire us further in the development of the Women4IT project. Thank you, Steliana!
Women4IT: In your vision, what are the main challenges faced by young women in terms of employability in general in Romania?
Steliana Moraru: According to ILO 2018 research, only 42% of women in Romania are employed, leaving us only a few percent behind the international average of 48% of women in employment. Regarding young women, access to education and technology, combined with rapid globalisation, have created an adequate environment for access to jobs. However, when looking at the challenges they face, there are several constant concerns:
- Lack of access to resources (financial, educational, technological) – many young women looking for a job come from rural areas that do not offer the same conditions as urban ones.
- The education programs (curricula, teachers, etc.) do not correspond to the current standards of work and, more importantly, they are misaligned to the future of work – the main universities in the country are making real efforts to adapt their courses to prepare the young man for the challenges of the world of employment. the work. They do this by combining traditional courses with readers from professionals working in certain fields or by adapting to new teaching methods. This type of approach is in a minority when it comes to lower levels of schooling (high school, high school), creating a gap in what the job market expects and how young people are prepared for it.
- Indirect discrimination against young women, societal influences and prejudices, including stereotyping them as less interested or able to present themselves in certain fields, including STEM. The most appropriate example is to ask someone to draw a scientist: most of us will draw on the white image, then ask someone to draw a secretary. Women are more likely to be seen in subordinate roles than men.
- Labour market trends – a challenge that is not directly related to gender but affects the employability of young women.
- Workplace systems – current workplaces are a challenge because they do not give young women a flexible work schedule, they do not consider encouraging women to work in domestic policies, they do not offer a career plan and they may have inconsistent implementation. gender policies at the leadership level. Improving these areas would improve staff turnover, broader access to work for young women. Very often, young women work long hours in informal, intermittent and unsafe working conditions, characterized by low pay.
- Community and influencers – the perceptions, interests, trust and career decisions of young women are directly influenced by the community in which they live (both online and offline), peer to peer influence and influencers they refer to.
W4IT: How would you summarise these challenges?
SM: Romania can be considered a good practice model for women in the IT field. At the same time, it is one of the countries with the highest percentage of women in technology, almost 30%, along with Bulgaria and Latvia, according to statistical data for 2018. In comparison, the United States ranks around 25%. Also, we have a steady increase in the number of young girls who become students in technical faculties, as this recent analysis shows. However, deeper research shows that this number is amazing or even a drop when it comes to young ladies / girls choosing a STEM university or staying in STEM.
Thus, the perspective given by the statistical information is almost positive for our country. From my point of view, I think there is a place of action, from two perspectives: what can we do to promote the STEM field among young people (I think about high school students here) and what can we do to support long-term women who is already in this field. These investments, on these two levels, should be part of a broader public agenda for promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace, regardless of the area of activity and preparing younger generations for the future.
Given these two perspectives, I see the following challenges regarding employability:
- Societal predispositions and education on the differences between men and women – The representation and perception of information technologies and technologies have influenced education programs and teaching styles, the direct result being that young women have a lower interest in STEM fields. The current education system continues to focus on heavy learning or even the use of tools and software to teach technology (especially in high school), rather than developing hands-on training and experiments that have the capacity to engage in a diverse range of students. Some schools still practice gender segregation depending on the area of study, which leads to lack of knowledge in scientific matters.
- Marketing – with few exceptions, young women in technology do not have the ability to provide a captivating overview of their capabilities or even lack confidence in their work.
- The right company – now, almost every company becomes a technology company, which means that most companies have or will have a different technology position. One challenge is to have the ability to filter through the multitude of offers of companies that offer a secure workplace.
- Lack of role models and mentors (especially female figures).
- Lack of visibility towards the multitude of roles it can have in technology (being in technology does not mean just programming).
- Future challenges of work: the perspective of collaboration with human robots, RPA, integrated networks.
W4IT: Can you suggest some methods or actions to encourage young women to pursue careers in IT?
- Role models – Romania ranks among the countries with one of the highest rates recorded by women in the IT field (from developers to senior managers)
- Creating a professional support system – finding a mentor who understands the goals, recognizes the potential and is willing to help you succeed.
- Digital education programs should also pursue efforts to eliminate gender bias in education programs and parenting attitudes.
- Increasing the awareness of students regarding the possible consequences of choosing different fields of study, such as STEM
- Facilitating women’s access to STEM jobs through internships
- Encouraging female entrepreneurship in this area as an alternative to technology jobs per se.
W4IT: What do you consider to be the key attributes (skills, attitudes, etc.) needed for a successful career and what are the main considerations of women in terms of career? For example. recognition, money, work-life balance, etc.
SM: Strong knowledge in the desired field, improvement of life and education, resilience, desire to become a “T-shape” professional (broad in how to collaborate and innovate between disciplines and deepening in specific areas of expertise).
W4IT: In what ways do you think that employment services can be improved in such a way as to meet the needs of young women?
SM: It would help a professional counsellor to provide support and guidance in establishing a career path. Flexibility in the type of employment contract (full-time, remote, working, freelancing). Using a recruitment and application process based on customer journey principles (customer journey) (with “customer” in mind).
W4IT: But when a young woman participates in training courses, what challenges do you think she faces?
SM: I do not know the challenges related to this topic.
W4IT: Could you suggest ways in which training methods and tools could be improved and / or modified to better fit the needs of women, especially regarding digital skills training?
SM: Adapting the traditional training methods to the new methodologies used in companies: introduction of the AGILE concept, gradual start, overall thinking, application of the Kanban method.
W4IT: Given the objectives of the Women4IT project, what materials, content or discussion topics could you suggest for the training sessions?
SM: Investments and start-ups – starting and obtaining investments, easy start-up methods, complex problem solving, critical and overall thinking, design thinking, marketing, personal branding and not least, growth mindset.