Friday, February 09, 2018

Let’s talk about ‘Women in STEM’


In occasion of the February 11 celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, in Smartmatic we want to open the conversation and bring out one of the many facets of gender diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math): Communication. For instance, how do we talk about women in tech, within and outside the industry? Are we prone to use gender-bias and stigmatising language in the field? How can we start transforming this reality today?

These are issues very close to my heart, as I have developed all my career in Communications, first as a journalist covering technology, and then working for a technology company. Although I will be addressing these ideas on a SXSW panel, titled “Latinas Removing Barriers in Tech”, I give you an advance here.

As Communications Director in Smartmatic, I believe the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, as well as the upcoming International Women's Day (March 8), become excellent opportunities to publicly discuss the state of women in the industry. Both celebrations indeed revive my passion for advocating gender parity and diversity in tech.
 
However, I would like to take
@WomenScienceDay this year’s theme “Equality and Parity in Science for Peace and Development,” to call for action in a particular doable issue: evaluating and improving our discourse on women in tech. We firmly believe that diversity and equality are part of the foundations for achieving sustainable development. However, we have to start seeding first our own backyard. So here I am.

Believe me; I am thrilled that the global conversation in recent years, online and offline, has taken up and embraced women crusades. Movements such as #MeToo, #WomensMarch, #WomenInSTEM, among others, are empowering many of us to speak our minds, lead the change we want to see and make more female voices be heard and respected. But are those enough? Probably not, if we do not start a joint pledge to improve the way we talk about women in tech, in our daily routines.

Hence, I am sharing five practical ways to start refining right away our narrative on the subject.  Inspiration comes from extraordinary colleagues working on equality and parity in tech, along with several thought-provoking articles released on the issue around this time of the year. For instance, please have a look at these recent two pieces, full of interesting references: “The real problem with women in tech efforts is the unhelpful way we talk about the issue,” in Mashable and Data does not lie: tech firms need to hire more women to succeed in Wired.

Needless to say, these actions are non-exclusive to women. They are meant to ignite the debate across all stakeholders, functions and hierarchies in our organisations.

 1.      Be informed

Regardless of whether you are a known speaker at a national conference or a level entry collaborator talking with some co-workers in a coffee break, be always ready. Read about the topic, discuss it honestly and debunk myths you know only harm diversity and parity. Work on sharing more and better statistics about women productivity, participation and achievements in the STEM. Moreover, be aware of how worthy it is for the industry and society that you speak your mind and talk about your own experiences in the field.

2. Show empathy

Getting to know the struggles of women in tech will give you powerful tools to generate awareness, convince colleagues and improve the situation form a more sensitive perspective.  It is essential to understand the causes and consequences of problems and how you can deliver solutions. Show you can “wear the other’s shoes”, and more significantly, listen and learn with the heart. I loved this advice and lessons about supporting and empowering other women in tech, from a personal and emotional perspective.

3. Be committed

Start leading the change. Every battle starts with each of us believing we can transform and advance ‘the way of thinking’ and ‘the way of doing’ in our organisations. It is within each woman in the technology fields to propose advancements, outline demands and help her company to commit to a more diverse and balanced gender environment. One exciting route to start the journey could be committing to the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals) and showcasing the benefits of gender diversity for Peace and Development. Enjoy the global momentum to become an advocate.
The challenge is a great one: shape new organisational culture and challenge gender norms. Not easy for sure, but if you are a woman in tech, I am sure you are already up for the challenge.

4. Empower other women

In a male-dominated field, sorority and support among women become vital. When addressing the issue of women in tech, remember to be supportive, share knowledge, give credit, and offer advice to other females. It could be beneficial to share your story, thus encouraging others to take risks. Similarly, mentors can be of significant help and inspiration. Look for a mentor if you are starting your journey, or start a mentorship or volunteer program if you have a longstanding professional career. Choosing female technologist role models when communicating news and developments, could not only create opportunities for women in the industry, but it could also attract and engage more girls and young women into the field.

5. Innovate

We are living in a world in which innovation is paramount for development and sustainability. However, particularly among technology companies and executives, it is time to start focusing innovation with equality and diversity in mind. Being innovative, not only from a theoretical and technical perspective but from an emotional and human behavioural point of view, is critical.  After all, this is what technology is all about! The first step might be in recognising that increasing participation of women in STEM will lead to technology solutions that better serve the expectations of more diverse and global societies.
Samira Saba 
Communications Director

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top social media influencers in topics WE care about


Either if you are a millennial (81% of whom check twitter at least once per day) or just ‘a bit’ older, chances are you have a social media profile and frequently engage with others. For instance, recent stats show that social media users spend an average of 135 minutes per day online. According to statista.com, “the number of worldwide users is expected to reach some 2.95 billion by 2020, around a third of Earth’s entire population.” Only in the US, 81% of the population already has at least one social network profile.

We are all living digital lives now. Online participation and networking have become a fundamental part of our routines and habits. We consume information, chat, learn, discuss, work, and have fun with social networks. However, one of the most significant aims is to build relationships with like-minded people and influencers in the subjects that interest us.

Even if sometimes the information is overwhelming, and we are flooded with contacts, and followers, as well as confused with never-ending social media novelties, we keep on asking ourselves: shall we expand our list of social acquaintances and influencers? Well, we probably should. If it means that we are doing it with a clear strategy to learn and connect better, or we are organising and cataloguing our feeds; then, we should!

Tell me who you follow… (and I will learn from them)
Recommendations can be tricky if we do not entirely align with our advisers. However, here we are listing our 4X4 front-runners: four top influencers on four topics we love in Smartmatic. Discussion time is open! Please check out the list and share it if you find it useful, expand it with your suggestions, and make sure you also engage with us on FACEBOOK, TWITTER and LINKEDIN.


When considering whom to follow, please keep on your radar influencers in topics we are passionate about in the organisation, such as tech-news outlets, eDemocracy, Election Management, and online voting. Thus, if you decide that now it is a good time to enlarge your lists of contacts, here are our 4X4 recommendations:

1.       Technology News
ü @WIRED Wired magazine, which focuses on how technological innovations can affect the world we live in and the future. If you love it, check out other top tech magazines.
ü @mashable from the multi-platform media and entertainment company. It is the go-to source for digital culture, tech biz, and entertainment content and videos for its influential global audience.
ü @TechCrunch An online publisher “dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.” It offers analysis and stories about start-ups, Silicon Valley, venture capital, gadgets, apps, and more.
ü @verge The Verge (Vox Media). It covers the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture, with in-depth reporting and long-form feature stories, as well as breaking news, product information, and community content.

This category could go on forever. There are zillions of technology news providers out there. We could add similar profiles (@CNET @Gizmodo @Engadget) depending on layouts, updates frequency, tone and voice, or even depending on your specific geek’s taste. However, when it comes to the latest technology trends and gadgets, the above mentioned are among the most popular, followed, and updated news outlets in social media.

2.       eDemocracy
Just in case you don’t follow us yet… Start here @smartmatic. eDemocracy is one of our favourite topics to track on social media! (We have even made it to the top 5 influencers list on the hashtag #eDemocracy according to Hashtagify.me).

ü  @edemo E-democracy forums.e-democracy.org, a non-profit pioneer fostering inclusive online engagement, global open government knowledge sharing, and innovative civic technology.
ü  @govtechnews Government Technology magazine. An array of news and resources on eGov, #stategov & #localgov to help authorities solving problems “through the smart use of technology.”
ü  @EU_ISA2 The European Commission's programme (ISA² Programme) “developing IT solutions to simplify bureaucracy.” It supports the modernisation of public administrations, eGov and open gov.
ü @nesta_uk Nesta supports governments and public sector bodies to make smarter use of people, data and technology to reform public services, improve citizen engagement and deliver social impact at scale.

3.       Elections management
ü  @IFES1987 IFES (International Foundation for Electoral Systems). An independent NGO promoting sustainable democracy. “Giving people a voice in the way they are governed.”
ü  @Int_IDEA The International Institute for Democracy & Electoral Assistance. An inter-governmental organisation that promotes sustainable democracy. “Improving and consolidating electoral processes worldwide.”
ü  @NDI The National Democratic Institute. A non-profit organisation that is working to strengthen democratic institutions through citizen participation, openness and accountability.
ü  @IPUparliament Inter-Parliamentary Union. The global organisation of national parliaments. “Driving positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action.”

4.       eVoting and online voting
ü  @WebRootsUK WebRoots Democracy is a think tank focused on the intersection of technology and democratic participation.
ü  @evotingcc E-Voting.CC, the Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation (Austria). A professional and independent centre and event organiser for discussing and improving the use of information technology in election processes.
ü  @RANDEurope RAND Europe, a research institute that helps improve policy and decision-making, in consortium with @OpenEvidence, is currently examining the extent to which remote voting solutions are employed in Europe (particular emphasis on internet voting.)
ü  @_mikesummers And of course, we should not miss our very own Michael Summers. Online voting expert, e-Gov and Digital ID advocate. #WeAreSmartmatic

Ps. If you have decided to keep your digital life as far as possible from work, just remember you might be missing significant opportunities to listen and learn, network, stay updated on latest trends, show off your knowledge and achievements, and ultimately, helping others in similar paths seeking advice or opinion.