Julie Scherpenseel, you became the 2020 Young ICT Lady of the Year: what has that nomination meant for your career – do you think you have become a role model?
Julie Scherpenseel: ‘The title gave me more credibility outside the sector and it functioned as a platform that allowed me to have more of an impact. By sharing my story in the media and speaking at events and for students, I was able to reach more people. After an interview in Flair, I received an insane amount of messages from girls saying I had inspired them and that they are considering a technology-related study.’
Tony Janssens: ‘If such a nomination is widely shared through the appropriate channels, then this is definitely a great way to bring the IT world to the attention of women and to increase the female influx into the industry.'
Women in the IT sector sometimes experience prejudice – how do they best deal with it?
Andy Stynen: ‘Indeed, I notice that women in technical positions sometimes face prejudice, which is tremendously unfortunate and unfounded. I always try to encourage women around me to not care about the prejudice and just go for the job that makes them happy. In addition, I believe that everyone in the business world faces prejudice at some point. For example, I became CEO of a large company when I was 34 years old. Most of the people in the organization were a lot older and I could read the room: what is this brat doing here? I feel like you have to prove yourself twice during the first months and years.'
Julie Scherpenseel: ‘There have been some moments when I felt I had to prove myself more than my male colleagues, but I learned from that and it has definitely made me stronger. Studies show that women are under pressure to prove themselves within ICT in the United States, but in Europe and Belgium that problem is less prevalent. If you still suffer from gender prejudices, then change companies, because there are plenty of organizations where it is not the case.'
Is your organization taking specific steps to attract female ICT talent or get women into top positions?
Stefanie De Smet: ‘At delaware, thirty percent of the employees are women, regarding our technical functions that proportion is a lot smaller, though. We strongly believe our company benefits from diversity. We interpret diversity broadly: it goes beyond gender. Additionally, we are convinced that different opinions and contributions are necessary for an organization to make the right decisions and to be able to grow. That way, more women are encouraged to move on to management positions.'
Tony Janssens: ‘One in seven employees within our company is a woman. Unfortunately, we have no female managers. However, we always choose the best candidate and we don’t let gender play a part in that. The job goes to the person with the most appropriate competencies and the best cultural fit.'
Andy Stynen: ‘Forty percent of our 1.300 employees is women. If we look at our technical profiles, that number decreases to 16 percent. We do not have a specific approach to attract women. I believe a lot depends on the senior management: a diverse senior management is always better. It has been scientifically proven that companies realize higher earnings if both men and women are in the board of directors.’
Julie Scherpenseel: ‘In total, our scale-up employs a hundred people, comprising twenty percent women. Our management consists for half of women. This is largely due to our people policy: we offer each employee a personal career path and we have a very flexible work environment and inclusive culture. This ensures that people – including women – stay longer in our organization and are encouraged to take on leadership roles.’
Do quotas help get more women into management positions?
Tony Janssens: ‘Diversity should be about everything: diverse opinions, backgrounds, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, gender, you name it. But this should also be pursued outside our sector. For example, why is it rarely mentioned that there are few men working in midwifery and nursing? My point is: I actually don't believe in quotas and they should not be necessary.'
Julie Scherpenseel: I think it is less clear-cut. Yes, the right person has to be be in the right place and skills and passions are the most important elements. But quotas can help drawing attention to gender bias, which is not to say that people should get a particular job because they are women.'
What tip or advice would you give to women considering an ICT career?
Stefanie De Smet: ‘IT Is a very broad domain: there are numerous functions, roles and jobs to start, grow and evolve in. You have nothing to lose.’
Andy Stynen: Indeed, take a leap of faith. Try it. It cannot go wrong, as there are enough opportunities, jobs and employers in IT to choose from.
Tony Janssens: ‘It should be a fit. Do not force anything: look for a cultural fit at an employer and the rest of your career path will follow.
Julie Scherpenseel: ‘Just do it: working in IT is fascinating, dynamic, challenging and you have a social impact!’