Women’s challenge for technology and innovation

TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION WOMEN – The so-called STEM disciplines, an English acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, have (been) the preserve of male profiles for many decades. But if once the female population enrolled in engineering was always rather modest, in recent years has tried with determination to turn the tide, trying to inspire young girls even with illustrious examples, such as the astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, currently engaged in orbit leading the mission with the European Space Agency. The goal is to ensure that more and more girls take into account scientific and computer studies, since technology now enters and pervades every sphere of work, even in terrestrial latitudes. Then, of these and other topics we discussed with Silvia Rovati, Information Technology Business Analyst at Avaloq and new entry into ated-ICT Ticino as a Committee Member.

Silvia, when you started a few years ago as an analyst and programmer, on what elements did you base your choice of training and acquisition of skills?

I was lucky enough to be born and grow up in a family that helped me cultivate curiosity as a virtue and not as a defect. A family that left me free to follow my passions and supported my choices even when they were not in line with their expectations: enrolling in the Faculty of Electronic Engineering after five years of Liceo Classico is not an obvious and linear choice. It wouldn’t be today. Imagine thirty years ago, when I started my university career!!! But what immediately became clear to me was that, while I almost did not have the basic notions in the physical-mathematical field, I had acquired, spending years translating from Greek and Latin and studying art history and philosophy, solid problem-solving skills and an undoubted ability to find the necessary information. All this accompanied by a point of view certainly different than the majority of my fellow students. The other thing I realized right away was that I should never stop learning. When I started (in the last Millennium, as my children sometimes remind me …), the Internet was just in its infancy. Many of the software languages and concepts that I am confronted with on a daily basis at work did not exist. Knowledge is acquired; skills must be trained daily. But this, nowadays, is valid in all areas of work. Not just for people like me who are business analysts.

Talking about new professions and professions, what trends do you see today, for which images can be passionate about young girls from Ticino?

The percentage of girls who, not only here in Ticino but practically all over the world, choose a training and work path between STEM subjects is still very low, compared to the choices made by boys. From worldwide studies it seems that, up to middle school, boys and girls are equally interested in STEM. But already starting from secondary school, a gap begins to open between boys and girls with respect to the choice of scientific courses. Gap that, at the university level, becomes an abyss. An abyss in my opinion inexplicable and unacceptable. Certainly a consequence of deep cultural stereotypes and gender prejudices. It is as if there could still exist a concept like gender education, which leads to promoting paths, suggesting inclinations and legitimizing different attitudes based on gender. Everyone should be brave enough and aware enough to foster a cultural and social climate capable of promoting and welcoming the specificities and talents of individual people, regardless of their gender. The world needs science. And science needs women. If there is no attempt to bridge the gender gap, areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain will inevitably be addressed and developed mainly from a male point of view. And this is not only unfair, but also limiting. It is a waste of resources that we cannot and must not afford.

Finally, I was struck by your passing, when you showed up at the assembly of Ated-ICT Ticino when you joined the association. Why do you think that a female (also) component is more necessary than ever in technological development?

I am a firm supporter of the concept of uniqueness of people and not of diversity. Every human being is a kaleidoscopic mixture of strength and weakness, talents and shortcomings. And only a truly inclusive approach, which can also overcome the concept of gender, can make possible the contribution of women in work and in society. To do a job like mine, you need to be curious, passionate and competent. Being a woman or a man is not relevant in itself. But my being a woman allows me a different approach and point of view from that of my male colleagues. And that can sometimes make a difference and help me and the team I’m part of find a better and more effective solution to the problem we’re facing at the moment. It is important to inspire girls, girls and women to break the barriers of gender stereotypes and gain more self-confidence. Something has been moving in the last few years. The road is long, but it must be absolutely traveled, thanks to Role Model finally also female in the STEM (just think of iconic figures such as the astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the director general of Cern Fabiola Gianotti and Amalia Ercoli-Finzi, scientific consultant of NASA). Because “seeing is believing” (that is, “seeing is believing”): the presence and direct contact with female figures of reference expand what is possible for women, demonstrate the behaviors and mindsets necessary to achieve what they know is possible, and inspire women to aim higher than ever imagined. In my small I’m really doing everything so that my daughter, when she has to choose what to do when she grows up, decides on the basis of her passions and her talents and not on the basis of stereotypes, with the absolute certainty that, whatever path she decides to take, will have my full and unconditional support.



Article also appeared on Tio -> Technology and innovation: challenges for women