On 17th May 2021, Plan International Spain organised the 2nd Dissemination conference of the EEA and Norway Grants co-financed Women4IT Project on “Young women’s leadership in the digital economy”. The conference brought together key international stakeholders involved in supporting the participation of Young women Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET) in this sector: digital skills experts, training providers, young participants who have participated in the training, women leaders and institutional representatives. During the conference, held in Madrid in a hybrid format, the panelists discussed the role of young women in the digital economy and their training to participate in the tech sector in the context of the Women4IT project.
The event started with a welcome and introduction speech from Plan International Spain, Local Programmes Director, Begoña Solórzano. Ms. Solórzano highlighted the importance of girls and young women to be part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the urgent need to put measures in place to reduce the gender digital divide, not only in education and training but also in the labour market and the leadership roles, looking for a high-level commitment not to leave any girl or women behind in the Digital Transformation, especially during the Post-COVID recovery.
Following this intervention, Carmen Tovar Sánchez from the STEAM Alliance – Spanish Ministry of Education, introduced the Spanish public-private initiative to promote girls and young women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math careers. The aim of this Alliance is to join forces, seek synergies and promote initiatives in the field of education and training that eliminate gender stereotypes associated with certain vocations and professions, that promote female empowerment in STEAM disciplines from early stages of education and that contribute to eliminating the gender gap in access to these disciplines.
After that, the first panel discussion of the conference highlighted the role of companies in the Women4IT project, the private sector´s real needs and its experiences with the project partners. Belén Perales, HR director at IBM Spain, Rita Raisa Jevdokimova, HR specialist at TestDevLab Latvia, and Mónica Arana, Bejob trainer for Women4IT, also highlighted the importance of programmes such as Women4IT to help girls develop technological skills, create networks, learn how to use some tools and have the opportunity to connect with the labour market to create, in just a few months, projects with a real impact. Moreover, the participants pointed out that companies are key for the success of programs as Women4IT, as they “can offer first-hand information on the most demanded profiles and the space available for women in the sector”.
The second panel brought to the stage the real protagonists of the project, the young participants of Women4IT who have already completed their training. Sofia Utrera, Patricia Pintor, Kenya Miranda (Spain), Jean Kennedy (Ireland) and Teodora Stirba (Romania) shared their experiences, views and opinions on the project, as well as their expectations and hopes for the new future ahead.
"Women4IT has been a very valuable experience on a professional level and, especially, on a personal level. I now have more self-confidence because I have digital skills and competencies that are essential for my future career and, on a personal level, the training has given me the courage to choose a career in this field," said Teodora Stirbat, who now works in the field of artificial intelligence in the European Parliament.
The third panel discussion was centered on Women’s Leadership in IT, in which the participants had the opportunity to listen to the experiences and advice of inspiring women who already have a relevant role in the tech sector, such as Nerea Luis Mingueza, a 29-year-old woman who is a doctor in AI and co-founder of one of the main technology events in Spain, TechFest, and Cristina Ricaurte, Solutions & Innovation director in SAP Spain. This final panel’s aim was to both show to the young participants the success of these women leaders in the digital field and to claim to the policy-makers and private sector that there is still a lot to do in terms of equality in the digital economy.
Finally, the State Secretariat for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence of the Spanish Government, Carme Artigas Brugal, closed the event to encourage young women to participate in the digital transition and to show the commitment of the Spanish Government to this goal.
The €60 million EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment supports transnational project initiatives that promote sustainable and quality youth employment in Europe. The focus on transnational cooperation reflects the view that unemployment among youth is a common European challenge and common European solutions should therefore be explored. The fund seeks to complement existing EU funding on youth employment initiatives, e.g. the long-term unemployed in the age group 25-29.
The 27 selected projects of the programme involve partners from all the 15 beneficiary countries of the EEA and Norway Grants as well as Ireland, Italy and Spain – all countries with high youth unemployment.
The Women4IT project aims to increase the employability of young women (15 -29 years) in digital technologies and boost the opportunities female talent brings to economic growth. The project, implemented from 2018 to 31 January 2022, has assessed the digital skills of 1000+ women in 7 countries, provide digital skills training and personalized career guidance to around 700 of them, based on the need and support of employers and reached more than 10.000 youth by digital career awareness activities.
For more information on the project, see: https://women4it.eu/