It’s estimated that by 2030 women – IT specialists would only reach 22% of the total number of IT specialists worldwide. Although the overall trend of women in IT is slowly increasing, it can be seen as a signal to increase attention to girls’ involvement in this industry. In this article, we introduce the students of Transport and Telecommunication Institute TSI – talented and aspiring young women, that shine in the field of ICT.
Nowadays, girls’ knowledge enhancement in STEM fields & their part in the development of the industry – are popular topics for discussion. Currently, both governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as business representatives, are implementing various forms of education to encourage more women to pursue and develop their careers in ICT. Although IT is still mainly seen as a male-dominated field globally, this trend is slowly changing. More and more girls see themselves in IT careers, showcasing their skills and knowledge, choosing to build their future specifically in this field, and conquering the job market. Irina Yatskiv, Chairwoman of the TSI Board, emphasizes: “We live in a rapidly changing world, and technology is one of the key things that supports us as it simplifies our lives. But technology without proper, smart management is nothing. I believe that a girl, a woman, is very important in an IT team. Why? Because when developing a new project or product, you must think about different users. If there is a girl on the team, diversity in this background will be achieved and different perspectives would get included. Without a woman in an IT team, it is not possible to think about diversity. I am truly convinced that a girl can complement a project with various things that are crucial for its success. Modern women are gifted with sharp minds, intuition, and capability. I highly appreciate it when, forming teams, gender balance is considered, as well as when leaders support women’s opinions. Everyone knows that IT is a field that is still dominated by men, but we need to change that.”
There is, of course, plenty of stereotypes that influence public opinion about women in the ICT industry. For example, it is often said that girls in IT are quiet and introverted. However, it can be said that TSI female students, professors, and lecturers break these stereotypes. They are creative, energetic, communicative, and purposeful in their motivations and goals.
Paula Pupola, 3rd year student in the bachelor program in “Computer Science“, chose to study IT because she likes implementing logic in problem-solving, and she feels that information technology is a field where she can express herself best: “My favorite study course is “Databases” because I enjoy logical thinking. In databases, it is very important to organize everything into pieces and plan everything in advance. And I also like data science, and everything related to data.”
Marija Jastrebinska is a final year student in the bachelor program “Computer Science“. Her favorite subject of study is programming, and her inspiration is Ada Lovelace: “I have always enjoyed laboratory work – writing code, compiling, finding errors in my code… And often, when my code didn’t work at first, I tried to go through it, and I was always so happy when it worked afterward. I felt a sense of satisfaction about it.”
Veronika Soldatyenkova is a 1st year student in the double degree bachelor program “Computer Science: Artificial Intelligence” ( created in collaboration with UWE Bristol – UK). Veronika’s favorite subject is higher mathematics: “I chose to study IT because since the age of 10, I have been attending IT courses, and then I decided that I want to associate my life with IT.”
Career in the IT industry – Yes or No?
Everyone has their own story and reasons that have influenced their choice of future job. For some, it may be the field itself, for others, a childhood dream or ambitions of their parents, and alternatively, it may be the salary or the desire to follow the trends on the job market.
Marija Jastrebinska chose to study IT because she had read the “Professor Fortran’s Encyclopedia” in her childhood: “I always liked mathematics, but at some point, I realized that I wouldn’t be an academic mathematician, that I am interested in the practical application of mathematics – formalizing, solving problems, doing calculations. And when I was applying to the university, I knew TSI is the coolest place to study information technology. So, I did it. And I am happy that I chose IT field.”
Motivations differ. Paula Pupola emphasizes that to pursue a career in the IT industry, one must truly be passionate about the field and the work they do: “The qualities that are required to work in the IT field are definitely a sense of responsibility, precision, and at the same time, creativity because there are various situations that require finding unique approach & solutions.”
Education in IT not only provides technical knowledge but also develops logical thinking, attention to detail, trains the sequence of things, self-discipline, and helps identify and search for patterns – all of which will make it easier to organize one’s work in daily life. Anna Andersone, the CEO, mentor, board member of Riga TechGirls, emphasizes that tech knowledge provides additional opportunities for women and girls, equipping them with tools to create their solutions and achieve personal and professional goals: “Programming combines creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that are valuable in many areas of life. By developing these skills, women and girls can confidently face challenges and positively impact both their direct surroundings and the world as a whole. Digital skills provide access to expanded job opportunities in the rapidly growing technology industry while contributing to the creation of innovative solutions!”
There are many positive aspects that can successfully influence career development in the IT field, but what can block it? Professor I. Yatskiv brings to the attention: “There is one thing that can sometimes prevent a girl from achieving her career goals. Perfectionism. Girls try to be excellent and perfect everywhere, giving 100% in everything. And it is often difficult to accept that sometimes, for example, there may be mistakes in your software or other obstacles that may keep you from perfect results. You must strive step by step towards your dream because, in the end, everything will be great, although there may be difficulties along the way. I believe that society should inspire girls to build their careers in the IT field because everyone should understand that nowadays, actually, every job requires ICT skills. And if we don’t have such girls in our teams, we don’t have a full, holistic view of the tasks at hand.”
IT a complex industry – myth or reality?
Perhaps you have heard more than one story about how the IT industry is too complicated, too technical, too “boys club”, or that girls are not interested in IT. It should be said that all the TSI ladies of ICT field acknowledge that these are all myths. Paula Pupola confirms that she knows many girls who are interested in the IT field, and currently, she is doing an internship in IT where the team is quite well represented by women: “I would recommend other girls to study IT as well because we are quite a competition to guys. And perhaps there are even a few things that we can do better because we are precise and very responsible. And gender doesn’t matter; what’s really important here is that you enjoy what you do.”
Fortunately, none of the students have encountered gender discrimination in their job or internship search, where preference is given to men or, on the contrary, to women. Girls have mostly encountered fair evaluation of applicants – both technical and other skills and competencies necessary for daily work. Nadezhda Spiridovska, Associated Professor at TSI believes: “The gender imbalance in the IT field is a multifactorial phenomenon. One of the factors is the sociocultural factor, or in simpler terms – stereotypes. In our society, it may be to a lesser extent, but in many societies and cultures, the IT field is considered an area where men work. And education is also one of the factors that can keep girls away from reaching their goals. Specifically, if they have not received relevant education in the IT field, it can be challenging for a girl to compete. But on the other hand, it opens opportunities because a good education will help balance this inequality.”
What is the most exciting aspect of the IT field?
Undoubtedly, working in an international team with representatives from different countries and fields can be challenging, but at the same time, it offers opportunities to learn and gain – both knowledge and skills, to get acquainted with cultures & languages, understand the specifics of other people’s work, as well as promote tolerance, patience, and the empathy. Nadezhda Spiridovska agrees: “Merging the IT field with life, offers very challenging and interesting tasks that require continuous constant development, in simple words – learning. And I have always enjoyed learning.” Paula adds that the most exciting part is that every day is full of challenges because IT is constantly changing and evolving, and it is also the duty of specialists to develop and improve themselves, to keep up.
To become a successful IT specialist or even a leader, it is not enough to master theoretical knowledge or “tame” programming languages. Veronika shares, that, in her opinion, the most interesting and important aspect is being able to use various skills and strengths to achieve the desired result purposefully: “As a UX/UI designer, I can combine my communication skills to find clients, my creative skills because I have to implement design solutions during the whole process, and also my IT skills because sometimes I need to code. You know, I would recommend girls to study IT because the stereotype that IT is only about programming – is not true. In fact, there are many areas where you can fulfil yourself & stand out. For example, graphic designers, UX/UI designers, game designers… If you are a creative person, you can confidently build your career in the IT field.”
Irina Yatskiv, Chairwoman of the TSI Board, points out that currently, on average, women took just 15-20 percent of employment in this field, including students. The society, however, needs a much larger number to balance teams, for more comprehensive analysis, and for the behavioural aspect in every project implemented: “I really want to call out for every girl thinking about this career path. Please don’t think that this career is full of difficulties; in fact, it is very exciting, very interesting, and intriguing. You will meet different people along the way and work closely with innovations! Dare to do it, be confident in yourself and your skills – conquer the IT world! Nothing is impossible if you truly want it!”