#womenintech – Showing women why it’s great to work in tech

How can we help women find out about the possibilities in the tech sector? Lisa Zijm and Chantal Verhoeven, two of the six founders of the Female Role Model Agency Role It Out, are working hard to make a positive impact. We asked them what they want to change and how they plan on doing it. The origin story It all started during a hackathon at the end of 2021, which was initiated by the city of Nijmegen. Lisa and Chantal participated as part of the NXP team and ended up winning. “The idea behind the hackathon was that tech needs young people for its future: young women are very underrepresented in the sector. The challenge was to find ways to make tech more attractive to them,” says Lisa.

Their solution? Find and foster female role models to have more women consider a career in tech. As Chantal explains: “If you ask a kid in kindergarten to draw a fireman, astronaut or pilot, chances are they end up drawing men. They don’t have any examples of women in those roles to draw on. The same goes for jobs in tech. As long as women are unaware of the possibilities there are in our sector, piquing other women’s interest in working in tech will be difficult. That’s why we think female role models can play an important role.”

But what defines a role model in tech? “There isn’t one specific kind of woman who fits the role model description. The biggest requirement is actually working in this sector, and you do have to be proud of your work and willing to broadcast that. Being enthusiastic also helps,” says Chantal. Why is it important to increase the number of women working in tech? According to Lisa, the answer to that question is twofold. “The labor market is increasingly focused on digital and technical skills. If our methods of hiring and training are not inclusive and therefore fail to bring more women into tech, there’s a risk that they will fall behind.”

Additionally, research shows that teams work better, deliver higher quality, and are more innovative when their members are diverse”, Chantal adds. “The person who asks questions about the necessity to bring more women into tech is usually part of the majority and doesn’t face the same challenges as someone in the minority would. Once everyone feels recognized and is on an equal playing field, there won’t be a need for us activists anymore. But until then, we need to fight arguments like ‘we simply need to hire the best person for the job’ or ‘we couldn’t find female applicants.” “That last argument is heard often, but it fails to address the real problem”, says Lisa. “Most managers and directors we have spoken to all agree that diversity is needed. But it’s hard for them to hire more women, as there are not enough women applying! That’s where we come in, inspiring more young women to go for this sector, so managers and directors get 50/50 applicants.” Give women examples they can relate to Lisa, Chantal, and the rest of the Hackathon team decided to start their own foundation, called “Role It Out.” With this foundation, they aim to help women become role models. “We want to build a community and educate role models. We do so by offering them a training program that helps them develop certain skills useful when they share their enthusiasm for their jobs in tech. We then hope they’ll inspire others to join the sector and create a buzz around female talent in tech,” says Lisa. The goal is to be obsolete

The training program is still in development, but Role It Out is ready to get started and make a difference. “If we can look back in a few years and conclude that more women have found their way into tech, we’ll be very happy with what we’ve achieved. Since we also work on the Novio Tech Campus with our foundation, we’ll be able to see for ourselves whether the group of people working here will become more diverse,” says Chantal. Lisa adds: “It would be amazing if we didn’t have to exist anymore in some time. Who knows, if more women start working in tech, it might become easier for others to follow in their footsteps.”

Interested in finding out more about Role It Out? You’ll find them at ”The Vibe of the Future Festival” on September 8,  www.vibeofthefuture.com where they’ll be on stage with three role models from the tech sector. Besides that, their role model training program is taking shape and is set to kick off in September.