Why diversity is so crucial to the creative process
Despite the enormous growth of the IT sector in recent decades, only 22% of all tech jobs in Europe are currently filled by women. It is even lower than the average in the Netherlands, namely only 19%. These numbers not only raise questions about gender equality but also highlight the call for diversity in the industry.
We give the floor to six female LINKIT explorers from the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa. They talk about the obstacles and challenges they have had to overcome, why diversity is so essential to fully exploit the potential of IT and what the social importance of this is.
Dusty typing rooms
Where women in IT used to work in typing rooms, we now see more and more women in various positions. Yet the average remains remarkably low, partly because women (still) have to prove themselves more than men, says Marina Hilliger (OutSystems Developer).
“Women have to fight against old-fashioned stereotypes, such as the idea that women are by definition not suitable for IT. Unfortunately, I know enough examples of women who feel they must work harder to get the same recognition as men.”
According to Marieke Meelker (Team Lead Functional Consultancy), it also has to do with men not seeing women as full partners. “I have been asked on several occasions to get everyone coffee of take the meeting notes, while, in my role and position, there was no reason to ask this of me. As a confident woman I was not afraid to delegate these tasks to somebody else, however by doing so I could be perceived as being difficult and not a team player. Things that probably would have not been said when it was a male doing the delegating. Where a man would (almost) automatically give respect to another man, a woman would have to “fight” to get the same respect.”
Yet it is not just the IT sector, says Vonnelize Haupt (Manager). She believes that it mainly has to do with upbringing. “Obstacles women experience in IT mainly stem from prejudices, passed on early in childhood.”
Importance of Diversity
Still, ‘fighting’ for diversity is extremely important, the six women say. It opens doors to new solutions and approaches from different angles. Anna Langelaar (Team Lead Marketing): “IT solutions are intended for diverse people. It makes sense that individuals of different backgrounds and genders develop these. Diversity, therefore, has a positive influence on the user experience.” Mirirai Mapanda (OutSystems Developer) agrees. “Diversity leads to a considerably wider range of solutions so that a much larger group can be reached even better.”
Role of LINKIT
Organizations should, therefore, not be guided by prejudice but by expertise, says Laura Fidalgo (OutSystems Developer). “LINKIT focuses on new talent and the best people in their field. That vision is important. After all, I don’t want to work here because I’m a woman but because of my knowledge and skills.”
Anna and Marina nod in agreement. “LINKIT is an example for many organizations on how to deal with different nationalities, religions and backgrounds. Everyone ‘lives’ for these values instead of just talking about them,” says Marina. For Anna, it is mainly the passion that touches her. “In many ways, LINKIT is very diverse. It doesn’t matter if you are male, female, non-binary or any other form of diversity. What matters is passion, the willingness to discover and be a real team player.”
Innovation thanks to women
Yet, despite the low percentages, the share of women in IT is substantial. Mirirai: “Women approach issues differently and – in fact – have more empathy, which creates a different synergy in a team.” Marieke adds: “Women ask themselves questions such as ‘Why do programs work the way they do?’ or ‘How does the process behind the application work?’. These kinds of questions arouse curiosity in a team, resulting in new ideas.”
According to Anna, Diversity ensures creative, innovative solutions. “The more diverse the group is, the more creative the solutions become. Solutions that would never have been devised in a homogeneous group.” Laura adds: “Another perspective is already innovation – and you achieve that through inclusivity. When we get stuck in our thoughts, we ignore brilliant minds around us and deliver an end product that would have had much more value if we had just listened to each other.
In the eyes of all women, developed solutions are aimed at society. That is why it is also important that the people behind this are a reflection of this. “I see more and more women as software developers, UI developers, data analysts or project managers,” says Vonnelize. “This growth results in more user-friendly solutions and increased employee satisfaction.” Mirirai: “Diversity goes much further than gender equality. It is about a synergetic collaboration between different cultures, backgrounds and upbringings. Everyone is born and should be respected the same way.”
Vonnelize concludes with a striking example. “We recently completed an MVP project at LINKIT for a South African client. The team largely worked remotely, and it was one of the most diverse teams I’ve ever encountered: a South African female analyst and UX designer, a Dutch woman as a UI designer and a development team consisting of three women and two men. It was the ultimate example of how successful diversity can be: the project was completed without problems, and the customer has now asked to expand the team.”
Diversity is a word with great value within LINKIT. We are looking for explorers who drive to discover and develop. And that does not include gender, orientation or religion.
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