Did you know that the first computer programmers were female? According to a report in get in IT , computer programmer was in the 80’s a typical female job, a routine work for the office employee with a low-ranked position. The pioneer of the computer science, Dr. Grace Hopper, stood out in the crowd: she worked on the projects like Mark I (the first fully electrical computer in the world), and, among other things, invented the compiler and came up with the term “bug”. In one of her interviews she announced that women are in fact the better coders. She told a reporter that
programming was “just like planning a dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so that it’s ready when you need it…. Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” (2)
In our blogposts, we do not plan to discuss if men or women are the better programmers. The fact is – we complement each other very well with our diversity and with our strengths. This quote ultimately shows how much the perspective on different jobs has changed in the recent years. We want to give you a short insight into the topic of women in the IT-world and within Novatec, followed with an overview of the idea and the practical implementation of it in terms of designing the meetups and workshops.
Only about a sixth of the employees in IT-sector are female (see the green color coding in the graph below, 46.3% – female employees in Germany, and in comparison 16.6% of the employees in IT-sector).
If we look at the company structure of Novatec, then we see that with 21% we are actually above the country’s average. You can see the numbers for different organizational units of Novatec in the graph below (data from May 2020) (3).
Even though we have reached a share of women higher than the average in German IT-sector companies, and we are happy about it, we have set ourselves a goal to increase this number even more. In that way we want to use the potential that still resides in higher diversity of employees in the company.
Due to the prevalence and presence of this topic overall in our society, discussions how to win more female talent for IT-sector are taking place on different platforms. You can find a lot of articles, blogposts, books, meetups and many other forms of discussion highlighting the strengths of the women that work in IT, the good experiences and ideas worth sharing. We just picked out some of the buzzwords that one can notice in different information channels and that describe this topic well:
#empowerment, #visibility, #emotions, #diversity, #individuality, #passion, #believeinyourself, #curiosity
While we were exploring the topic women in IT, we came to realize that women experience a lot in their work and private life and therefore have a lot to tell and share. There are many positive examples and role models, which we want to reinforce, to learn from them and at the same time – to let ourselves to be inspired by them.
We have founded an initiative in Novatec called Women@Novatec to reach exactly that: visibility of the many positive examples that strengthen us from inside and also communicate these to people outside our company. It is important not to make a mistake here – we do not even discuss if women have an equal place in the IT-sector! Rather our energy flows much more into making sure, that women’s voices are heard, that they are aware our their own strength and capabilities. We want to support each other, exchange our experiences and ideas and remind each other, what are we capable of.
The initiative was founded by Paoli Izquierdo and Julia Chrapec in May 2020. Paoli is working as a Principal Software Engineer and wrote a few words on how Women@Novatec was started this year:
„For me (Paoli Izquierdo) it was always obvious, how very few women work in IT. I saw that in my studies, in my job, on conferences and meetups. I also witnessed now and then, that women in tech made bad experiences that lead them to leaving this sector altogether, and also to the other women not joining in the first place. Then again I also found inspirational stories from women that have been successful in tech, reached leadership positions and even started initiatives to inspire others – to motivate them and to encourage them to get into IT world. These inspirational stories encouraged me to actively engage with this topic and to bring it to Novatec. Novatec offers women a chance to establish oneself in tech-world and to grow into leadership positions and I am a good example for it. I am working already long time in tech-sector and every day learn more and also – reach more. Together with my colleague Julia Chrapec we want to motivate women in our company to grow, to develop themselves and to become successful in IT. In addition, we want to win more women for IT and for Novatec, to nurture them and to offer them a chance.”
Since this vision for the women in IT-sector is actually reaching beyond the walls of our company, we want to share our experiences from the meetups, as well as the methods and ideas with you, so that you can also start walking this path in your company in case you have not done so yet!
We sat together for a while to design a format for the first meetups, which create a room big enough to allow everyone from the company to participate, and yet at times small enough to enable speaking up about sensitive topics. We want to share with you what we came up with. Feel free to share with us, what have been your experiences when engaging with similar topics!
Meetup #1: Kick-off and finding out the relevant topics
In the first session we focused on finding out, which ideas and topics are on the minds of our employees when we think about women, that is, women in our company as well as women in tech, and which topics we want to see more of. To gather some input before the session, we made a quick survey asking for experiences of our employees.
Tip: Seeing the results from this small, anonymized survey was one of the main reasons, why some of the employees joined the session. What is the first small value added you can offer to your meetup participants with simple means and time investment to make the participation to pay off even just by showing up?
- Check-in: how high is the energy in this (virtual) room (Menti survey).
- Introduce Vegas rule: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Employees should feel safe to speak up about topics that are bothering them and ideas that they have.
- Since we are working with different remote tools in the company, we shortly introduced how to work with Miro boards.
- Breakout rooms: participants were sent in small groups to get to know each other and to talk about their expectations regarding Women@Novatec meetups. The expectations were then briefly presented as participants returned in the main meeting session.
- We shortly presented the output of our pre-survey (Note: anonymize the answers before you make them available!)
- After this short input, we sent participants in breakout rooms again. This time the task was to brainstorm which topics are relevant or interesting for them, or which topics they would like to see paid more attention to.
- The ideas were presented in the big round and clustered. Later on, Paoli and Julia gave names to the clusters. This was then the input for the Meetup #2.
- Finally, we also made sure to collect feedback about the fit of the used methods for the purpose of the session.
Meetup #2: OKR board for the first cluster/topic
In the second meetup we had a workshop focused on working out an action plan for the topics identified in the first meetup. For this we used canvas for Objectives and Key Results (OKRs, https://www.okrcanvas.org/). At first, it was a bit of a challenge to use this method. However, after little practice, participants understood the principle behind OKRs and we were able to identify a number of key results we want to reach.
- Menti survey for check-in (check energy level).
- Short presentation of what we did last time and the results.
- Presenting the names of the clusters (of ideas) gathered last time.
- Paoli and Julia as drivers of the Women@Novatec pointed out which two of these clusters/topics they see as top priority for the next meetups. In fact, they worked as product owners for Women@Novatec.
- We shortly introduced OKRs principles and canvas that we had simplified a bit for our purpose.
- Then we started to work on Discrimination/Equality topic. The results of “Great Place to Work” survey show that we are already on a very good path regarding these topics. Still, as a company we strive for continuous improvement and employees were able to come up with various ideas for objectives and key results.
- We presented next steps and finished the meetup with the feedback for the method used.
Meetup #3 and #4: Choice of topics that employees want to drive in Novatec and presentation of the progress
In the third meetup everyone could join and pick one of the key results that they were interested in, created in the last session. Since there were several people interested in some of the key results, we formed groups. Our goal was to show the progress of some of the key results already this year. In the fourth meetup in the beginning of December, our employees presented, how far they got with each of the key result and gave couple of insights how they plan to continue their work on this initiative next year.
If you want to know, how we progress on various topics identified during our meetups, follow this blog series!
(3) Novatec data
(5) Miro board design by Linda Kiesnere