European Leadership Academy Essay Contest Winner Speaks at the HUAWEI Talent Summit in Helsinki

Published on 10/12/2021

The European Leadership Academy organised an essay writing contest last November for participants of the first Summer School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age, which took place in August in Lisbon.

The students were given the task of sharing their thoughts on the topic "How can we best support female talent for an all-inclusive digital world?“ 

The author of the best essay, Ieva from Lithuania, had the opportunity to speak at the HUAWEI Talent Summit, held in Helsinki, Finland on 10th December 2021. The aim of the contest was to reward creativity, hard work and determination while supporting the professional development of Summer School alumni.

In the coming year, the European Leadership Academy will be providing more opportunities for our #NextGenChangeMakers to improve their skills, connect with new people and be inspired. We are committed to supporting young women in their career development.

The School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age is a unique concept designed to aid the creation of an inclusive and equitable future for young female leaders in the digital age. After the success of the inaugural Summer School, the Winter School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age will take place from 21 to 25 February 2022 in Nice, France. Applications are open until 3rd January 2022.

 

Submission from Aminata Dembele, France

“Growth and comfort do not coexist.”- IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.

Women cannot expect progress to happen by staying idle. We have to unapologetically disrupt the status quo. To defy the odds stacked against us, we have to have the audacity to dream. I’ve heard too many times “wait your turn...you can’t have both”. Women are chained to societal norms that prevent them from being the next Ada Lovelace. As a result, this tech-driven world has missed out on so much prospective talent. The digital divide of our time isn’t a dichotomy of who has the internet or not anymore, but rather gender.

This reluctance of tech companies is because many executives believe in the inevitable dismantling of a practically man-made, no pun intended, institution to accommodate us which is not true. Inclusivity only means empathetic consideration from men, not exclusion of them. Female driven senior leadership programs are a great way to foster diversity and inclusion. We also need to extend those programs to entry level women as well, backed by executive level sponsors, who will mentor, advocate and be on the lookout for new opportunities on the corporate ladder.

Talent seems scarce right now because we have already deemed that 50% of the talent pool is unqualified. We need to eradicate the stereotypes inculcated into young girls that women and technology are incompatible. The truth is that many of us have the necessary tenacity and grit that is needed for these careers. 

Lastly, companies need to have that human factor that supports a culture of acceptance and inclusion. We have to get rid of unconscious biases and dissipate barriers to reduce this gender disparity. There has to be a collective effort that allows us women to write history. There is enough room for heroes as well as she-roes.


Submission from Yana Peeva, Bulgaria

The digital world was created to connect people from across the globe as a non-gendered space. Yet with the field of STEM being male-dominated, there’s a severe lack of female representation in the digital world as developers and consumers both. This trend can be changed by providing more learning opportunities for students, stimulating the transition from “masculine” to “feminine” management, and creating platforms and networks dedicated to women in the field of technology and innovations. 

In schools, female and male students are equal in the aspect of academics: across most EU countries, all students are expected to complete STEM school courses, i.e. natural sciences, informatics, mathematics... However, most famous leaders in tech are men, which discourages young girls from developing their skills in these fields. Offering all students internships or field trips to leading tech companies and introducing them to developers, managers and programmers, amongst whom there are plenty of women, we can inspire girls to pursue STEM careers and boys to value diversity in the workplace. 

The traditional business management is “masculine” not only because most companies are led by men, but because it has stereotypical masculine traits: it is based on competition, aggressive promotion, and product-centered goals. A “feminine” management is founded upon cooperation, empathy, and experience-centered goals and is prominent in the areas of psychology, fashion and online marketing. By promoting and teaching “feminine” management to male CEOs in tech, their companies would become more accommodating for female professionals and thus promote the participation of women in STEM. 

Amplifying the voices of successful current female leaders is also key, which is why creating platforms and networks where they could exchange knowledge with future female leaders is part of the solution as well. Such platforms are already being formed, and one is the Huawei Female Leadership Academy. 
 

Submission from Alessia Ruta, Italy

The world we live in was not designed for women. Evidence can be found in objects, laws, policies, social constructs and idioms of daily use. This is what makes a woman’s life harder and her talent diminished.

The world we live in wasn’t designed against women either: it was just designed without them, without us, without hearing what we have to say and what we really need, without having in mind the unique potential we carry. Even nowadays when something is designed to be “woman-friendly”, it may occur that the female user that the maker thinks of is not an authentic, independent one, but rather a stereotyped version of what a woman should be: cute, assertive, fully devoted to motherhood, lacking any career or leadership ambition and only capable of care and humanities-related works.

It’s a fact: a gender bias being real in one’s mind will be real in one’s actions and creations, including digital innovations.

In this regard, does the digital world even exist? Actually, there are no such things as “the real” and “the digital” worlds, there are moments of our life happening offline and others happening online, and even others being online and offline at once. All of them are equally real.

This being said, an inclusive digital experience, for women as well as for any other target, can only happen if they are involved in the process of making as much as they already are in the fruition: that’s the political topic of representation, behind and on the scenes. Efforts must be made at all levels of governance by public and private actors, with an intersectional perspective when deciding, educating and raising awareness amongst all generations.

Equality is a cultural challenge and the digital world a cultural product, thus inclusion can only originate from cultural revolution. 
 

Submission from ​Alisa Uzarina, Latvia

Close your eyes and picture a leader in the digital world. What comes to your mind – a guy with a laptop, Steve Jobs? Digital world is often imagined as a boys club. One recent survey shows that 78% of students could not name a famous female working in tech.

Paradoxically, there are two powerful phenomena unfolding on Earth: the digital transformation and the rise of women. The link between them is overlooked and combating gender stereotypes is a key.

To support female talent, we need to educate them. So is the goal of many initiatives, hackathons, coding schools. It is both public and private sector responsibility to foster women participation in education, research and acquisition of digital skills. However, even though girls might achieve better academic results, they often lack confidence.

To increase the self-confidence of female talent we can surround them with inspirational people. Success can be contagious, yes, it definitely can. This summer I had a chance to feel the power of community. Summer School for Female Leadership in the Digital Age helped me realise that we are stronger when we come together. Female communities become spaces where career advice is shared, and opportunities are created. What is important, female communities shall not limit the engagement of men.

It seems that women’s networks are predominantly female and less powerful. Dear gentlemen, please find at least one woman to mentor. Introduce her to the influential people – these connections can propel careers. Give her thoughtful input on how she can advance. 

We as individuals must hand-hold girls in the digital world while giving them more freedom to explore and learn technologies on their own, making them feel more confident.

Let’s create a culture of inclusion all together! Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.
 

Submission from Julianne Vela, Malta

How can we best support female talent for an inclusive digital world?

As a #NextGenChangeMaker, I believe that the way forward for an inclusive digital world is by supporting female talent based on an empathy-oriented, motivational approach encompassing 3Es: Equality, Education and Entrepreneurship.

The first pillar in supporting female talent is Equality. Digital inclusion is social inclusion. We must address the gender gap, invest in the female potential and move forward together with the main purpose of leaving no one behind! A safe and supportive environment, supported by female role models and leaders, ought to be created for females to learn, grow and network together. To achieve unity in diversity, females must be encouraged to take ownership of their identity as well as acknowledge the power of their personal brand. 

The second pillar of Education involves equipping and empowering females with the necessary skills to create a more equal and open world and have their say in the technology revolution. In order to advance towards inclusivity in the digital world, females must be encouraged to develop and embrace their personal potential through national and international educational programmes.

The third pillar of Entrepreneurship involves embracing and encouraging female talent in business. Business must: promote flexible working and a work-life balance in a healthy and sustainable environment; eliminate stereotypes and glass ceilings; and provide family support measures to parents. By placing women in the forefront, females are given the enthusiasm to make a change, allowing for inclusive recruitment and the retention of female talent. Moreover, female entrepreneurs in the digital sphere wanting to manage start-ups/SMEs should be supported by grants. Women supporting women celebrates high potential female talent and this leads to networks of empowered females. 

In conclusion, the trick to reap the fruits of female talent in an inclusive digital era is by embracing the 3E empathy-oriented approach, involving: equality, education and entrepreneurship.