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How to work in technology with a gender perspective in Colombia

09/29/2015 10:35
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In the development of the Colombian entrepreneurial ecosystem, particularly in the technology area, women are playing a major role by driving inclusion and gender equality in the ICT field in the country. One example is Sorey Bibiana García, a Computer Engineer and Software Development Specialist, who is the founder of the Avanet community and co-organizer of BarCamp Medellín.

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Gender equality is a topic that is gradually gaining recognition in several areas of Colombian society. This is why in technology, one of the fastest growing fields where more development opportunities arise, it is worth asking oneself if this development is taking place in an egalitarian way.

Sorey Bibiana García is one of the creators of Codies, a community of software developer women, who in addition to building technology seek to inspire others and understand the causes of the gap between women and technology development. At Codies they seek to help other women from their own technical knowledge and professional experiences. She also works as a developer of mobile apps in the Digital Women program of the Antioquia government.

How would you define your work in relation to technology and gender?

I've been a university professor in technical degrees for the last ten years and I've seen how the lack of interest in this type of degrees has decreased gradually. 6 years ago I started getting trained in technology in open scenarios and events through mi community Avanet, but 2 years ago my concern over the lack of women in technology became a personal worry, while it also became a recurring theme in the world of technology and in the country as a whole.

Being one of the few visible technical women in the technology field, many journalists asked me about this topic and the Antioquia government's Digital Women program invited me to talk to them in this respect. I saw so much interest that I felt the urge to create something of my own, and I met another developer woman from Bogotá, Camila Gaitán, who is also very active in technical communities, and together we set up Codies.

I was later invited to work officially in Digital Women, in a specific area that had not yet been addressed, the field of technology, creating apps and coming up with ideas and scenarios for empowering women, complementing the many topics covered by the program.

That is my task, understanding and working for gender equality in technology.

 

What is the situation of women in the technology field in Colombia? Is their inequality with men?

To answer this question we must understand that it is not always a matter of barriers, but in fact they exist and they are due to multiple factors.

In my personal experience I always saw that women have a great area of activity in everything related to technology. However, many things affect the direct relationship between women and creation.

Women end up holding technology positions, sometimes by choice, others due to pressures exerted by the environment, which regards them as incapable, which is absolutely not true, but ends up creating situations of limited possibilities for promotion, lower wages or detracting from the work performed and the technical capabilities of some women. 

We could say that there is no direct exclusion, but it is indirect in many ways. If you lack a sufficiently strong personality to face these situations, you can end up accepting them and making them part of your reality, or simply giving up and moving to less technical scenarios.

This is why the programs aimed at women work to redress certain damage caused by child rearing, education and bad publicity. Subjects such as the lack of self-esteem and self-confidence are directly responsible for the situation of many women that dare not participate in scenarios "that are supposedly for men", when that's not real.

There are now in Colombia many independent movements and foundations working for these situations among women. Technical training is necessary, but using many tools while lacking the bases needed to survive in scenarios that are still alien could become useless work.

What does working in technology with a gender view mean?

Working in technology with a gender view means thinking about tools and products that contribute to the empowerment of women and to solving their basic needs, also about training to give them a voice and the chance to express their views.

It is far removed from being or creating things in pink or the typical stereotypes associated with women. In fact, working with a gender view in technology precisely means recreating the tools that women have for finding a fair place and feeling that we have equal opportunities and rights.

It is not a simple issue, we are still discovering what it means to do technology with a gender view, but we're working on it.

How can we raise awareness about the importance of having a more inclusive technology sector?

I think that the crux of the matter is much more related to the education of girls from an early age, but also of boys and families. Family is the first scenario where equality should appear, it's the scenario where as a girl you build the ideas of what you may become, and although traditional toys for girls are not a bad thing, it's wrong to leave them exclusively in that place, instead of showing them, and also boys, the many tools and possibilities available to them. Making clear that there are no barriers preventing them from doing exactly the same things.

With teenagers, however, work involves rebuilding their self-esteem and self-confidence. Proposing options and role models that can inspire them, such as positive ideas of women who are successful in technology, or who simply enjoy what they do by being able to have an impact on the life of so many people from a cell phone or a computer screen.

 

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