“As long as the diversity ratio is unbalanced, we will need to address the issue proactively”
Computer science remains largely untouched by women in Switzerland. But the potential of women is desperately needed. Linda de Winter, Head of Development, and Laetitia Henriot Arsever, Head of Technology Management, tell us why they feel comfortable in this field.
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Only 14.5 percent of staff in the Informatics unit at Swiss Post are female. Are more women needed?
Linda de Winter: IT is usually presented as being very technical and rational. It’s less often that we see what the work and the more creative side to IT looks like. I also think that it’s important for women to see the benefit and the impact of a job. As long as there’s not enough of this, it may be that IT continues to attract fewer women.
Laetitia Henriot Arsever: The shortage of women in IT has various reasons. We know from several studies that it’s not due to the lack of ambition or competencies on the part of women, but a result of many more complex factors: image, a lack of role models, environment, culture, career models, recruitment processes, prejudices – to name just a few. Interestingly, this is not the case for all countries. In Malaysia, for example, there’s an equal balance. So it is possible to increase the share of women in IT and I am convinced that we should continue to push for more.
Do we need more women in IT?
LHA: We need more diversity and inclusion in general, not only gender diversity. We know from several studies that we as a company will be more successful when we are able to tap into the full potential of capabilities, experiences and perspectives.
LdW: Especially when it comes to the digitization of our society. More and more often, we’re using apps that contain aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) to make our lives easier. These apps and algorithms for AI ought to be developed by a group that is just as diverse as the users are. Otherwise, the logic won’t match the thinking and emotions of the users.
How can women be attracted to the IT sector? Do they need to be “enticed” differently to men?
LHA: As long as the diversity ratio is unbalanced, we will need to act proactively. I have also come to realize that our network and recruiter database are biased. This means that we need to pay special attention to how we recruit, ensure we also reach women and that our job descriptions are gender neutral.
LdW: I do think we need to portray IT a little bit differently. We should be focusing more on the impact that can be achieved in society, on the impact on user-friendliness and on the benefit of IT solutions. We could also show more heavily that people in IT also work in teams, are able to develop and that they have contact with customers. These are all factors that are certain to attract women as well.
There are a few more women amongst apprentices. Do females who are digital natives have fewer inhibitions?
LdW: On the one hand, digital natives have an affinity with IT, which means that young women are more likely to choose our industry. On the other hand, the reluctance of women to enter fields that were traditionally described as male professions is dropping rapidly. But Switzerland is still a little behind other countries in my view.
LHA: According to the most recent SFSO statistics, more and more young women are choosing degree programmes that used to be chosen mainly by men. This trend can also be seen in IT and this is very positive.
How do you feel as a woman in this male-dominated world?
LdW: Generally I feel very welcome, but I’ve also felt the opposite in the past. I’ve had male colleagues who’ve said that, as a mother, I need to focus more on my work-life balance and who asked me whether I wanted to slow down a bit. But that’s never thrown me off course – at most it’s meant a temporary detour before heading back on the path to my goal. But in general, I feel absolutely fine in this world. I also don’t know any different, because I’ve been working in the ICT industry for almost 25 years.
LHA: I’ve got used to it. During my studies and then at work, I was surrounded mainly by men. I realized that at the beginning it is sometimes more awkward for men that it is for me. For some it is the first time they have had a woman as a boss. But in my personal experience, once you’ve proven yourself, it can even be an advantage to be a woman.