Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter a tech firm and be greeted by women in every department? Weird! Isn’t it? No wonder! IT sector has forever been a male dominated industry and in a society like ours, where females have always been commanded in every arena, this sector is not an exclusion.
It has always been a man’s forte when it comes to technology and they have dominated this industry for years. It’s a matter of dismay to enter a tech firm and find women limited either to the reception desk or sales and marketing department. In a world where we look for equality in every field, the tech industry should not be left alone.
Our androcentric society already defines stereotypical gender roles since the very first steps of a toddler. Acknowledging the existence of women as Tech guru beyond Nepal does not seem that grueling. Only when it gets to us, it seems incompatible. Our willingness simply does not define the career path that we choose. We look up to role models in the field that we would like to pursue our careers. Lacking such strong woman’s personality in our nation, women become reluctant to enter or even puzzle out in the IT area.
Only lately, this wit of people seems to be changing even in a developing country like Nepal. More women seem to be getting involved in IT sector. New startups seem to be mushrooming every day and surprisingly many of them are led by women. Among such startups, one is ‘Women in STEM’ led by four recently graduated, young women, all with IT background who aim to shift the mindset of the society.
Binita Shrestha, co-founder of women in STEM, was the sole female student in her class of 50 pupils. This made her skeptical on this career choice. She appealed many of her friends from the biology group to come and stay with her at least for a class, just to boost up her confidence.
Despite knowing she was the only female student in her class, why did she enroll in it? On being asked the question she said, “ I was more enticed by the creative aspect of computer engineering; the idea that you can actually create something with the use of computer fascinated me and instigated me to select this subject as my calling.”
Technology is the only field that’s growing rapidly and people all around the world are facing serious problem regarding the very little involvement of women in this field. Globally, only 26% of women are involved in STEM fields whereas in Nepalese context, only 12% of women are enrolled in STEM education and the ones who pursue their career in this field is less than 12%. Binita together with her friend Pratiksha wanted to take this initiative as to solve the issue of the underrepresentation of women in these fields. In the end of 2015, the duo; Binita Shrestha and Pratiksha Pandey launched Women in STEM, a non-profit organization initiated with the strong aspirations to decrease the gender gap available in the STEM Fields.
Ever since the formation, WiSTEM has been playing in two fields; Hour of Code and STEM education for children. Hour of Code basically teaches women of age group of 15-29 and mostly undergraduates with a two day workshop to learn programming through a module that they have created. In fact, in the first batch of hour of code, out of 17 students the ratio of men to women was remarkably greater. To bring the female students, WiSTEM had to plead the men to pass around the message to young women. They also asked them to fetch their friends, sisters or whoever they could convince to the plan. Gradually, until the third batch, they received around 77 responses, all of which were from women.
Binita stresses on the point of awareness. She says “We don’t seek to make them an expert in two days time. Rather, we provide them direction on how and what should be done in this field and also we give them recommendation letter as well as job placement. In STEM for kids, we enroll girls in the age group of 8-15 and provide them with proper awareness on what STEM actually is.”
Previously while acting as a president in GIT, Binita understood that the root problem lies in the way the kids are groomed at their very early age. Thus, she focused to develop a program specially designed for children. That’s where this whole idea of women in STEM came up. She further realized that, in a state where there is a deficiency of quality education, it is difficult to claim STEM education. After continuous brainstorming, they carried this program on ‘Life is an academy’ school and concentrated on the underprivileged children from marginalized groups.
Men have been dominating this field over the years, can women keep up with men and be able to bring equality? As per Binita,” Yes! And that being the only reason we are making this attempt despite of every difficulty that we are facing. We have started witnessing examples ourselves within this one year period We are capable but we underestimate our capabilities. Just to let you know, programming was first invented by a woman named Ada Lovelace. We have always underestimated ourselves and that’s the sole reason we are far behind in this area.” The first and foremost problem with women not coming to the IT or Technology sector lies within them; the thought that IT field is just for men and that women cannot excel in it. They need to step out of this conservative thought and try and see life on a broader aspect. And the next problem is they should be able to convince their parents and allies that they can excel in it. This statement is grounded in the perspective of a single organization. In recent years, there are many companies where the participation of women in IT sector seems to be remarkably high. Women might be intimidated by the technical skills that men show everywhere, from home to the schoolroom. It might seem even daunting at first, but we should not forget that these are just skills and it can be learned by anyone irrespective of their gender. If you truly want to build a career in the IT sector, then just take a step forward.