The presence of women in the IT sphere has been discriminated against for decades. And this is a big miss of big heads because women might introduce a robust workforce and become qualified experts. Currently, women comprise approximately 25% of all Ukrainian IT specialists. However, this number is not enough yet and needs to be increased. The entrepreneur Sergey Tokarev, the Founding Partner Roosh and Reface investor, shares insights on engaging women in IT through developing educational initiatives.
IT has been like an inaccessible area for women. According to Tokarev, many girls fear starting a career in IT because they face constant stereotypes that it is a supposedly “male” industry. They often hear their intention to enter IT is to find a life partner and that they can pretend only to become HR or QA specialists.
On the one hand, this problem frightens many girls off this. On the other hand, the industry loses future valuable personnel. At the same time, the industry suffers from a lack of experts, particularly in AI, ML, cybersecurity, and data science. As a way out, Sergey Tokarev suggests creating thematic clubs and communities. This will wake up more interest in girls and help them find a role model in this profession. Also, they will find like-minded people and receive some support or advice.
Sergey Tokarev exemplifies an initiative SHE is SCIENCE launched by NGO STEM is FEM. The goal of the project is to let participants learn about the career of 12 Ukrainian female scientists so they can become their role models. Among those faces were IT specialists: Olga Perevozchikova, a scientist who contributed to creating state programming standards in Ukraine, and Kateryna Yushchenko, a programmer who tailored a formal language for addressable computer programming.
This initiative also allows girls to dig into the IT sector in practice. Last year, STEM is FEM launched free IT courses for school girls aged 12-16. The courses were created in partnership with the Swiss organization Empowerment Lab and with the support of Oracle. The IT courses involve classes on Data-driven web apps, App prototyping, and Machine Learning. The teachers are women working in IT.
Along with IT education, Sergey Tokarev emphasizes the necessity of supporting it with professional communities like AI HOUSE. This project unites Ukrainian and foreign AI and ML experts and organizes training for them. Currently, the number of women in IT leadership makes up about a third and 25% of the IT community is women.
Therefore, creating educational opportunities and specialized clubs for girls and women will drastically increase its percentage in the industry. “After all, every schoolgirl who is interested in programming yet does not get any support becomes a part of the contribution to gender inequality, a shortage of qualified personnel, and a loss of profits for your company and the country’s economy in the future,” sums up Sergey Tokarev.