The Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM) from Macedonia, in partnership with the City of Skopje and Girls in Tech Macedonia, organized a one-day conference on topic: Inspire for Digital Future, as a part of their project for Decreasing the Computer Gap in Technical Professions.
At this conference, the Mayor of the Municipality of Skopje greeted the audience and expressed his support in overcoming the gender gap in technical professions. Then CRPM presented their research, conducted in a few Macedonian high schools, and targeting topics like preferences of male and female students in tech, their confidence in solving tech and science problems, and their interests in tech. Also, this research included questions about the preferences of girls and guys in choosing a tech career, and what would be the decision making factor.
Some of the findings of this research showed that girls are more self-criticizing towards their math, physics and informatics skills, even when their skills are estimated as the same with their male classmates. Research findings discover that stereotypes of “male” and “female” professions are one important factor in the decision making process of pursuing such education and career. Often, such stereotypes go in favor of creating a negative personal image for girls if they were to follow such careers. Therefore, tackling these stereotypes is one of the main activities to be enforced in order to overcome these issues. Full research findings can be seen in this brochure (in Macedonian language).
Girls in Tech Macedonia Managing Director Jasna Trengoska greeted the audience at this conference with a short speech in which she emphasized the need to work with the Macedonian youth in order to ensure that such stereotypes will be overcome. She addressed the young people in the audience, saying that a few years from now, as the future drivers of the Macedonian tech society, it will be their responsibility to make sure no profession at all is ever judged by gender, but by individual skills of the people doing it. She invited them to stand for these points of view and to practice them in their everyday activities.
As a part of this conference, Girls in Tech Macedonia featured three successful ladies in tech, who gave their motivational speeches to the audience and participated in a discussion panel led by Monika Rizovska, Business Development Manager at Girls in Tech Macedonia.
Prof. Marija Kalendar from FEIT (Faculty for Electrical and Information Technologies), representing a lady that has already built an academic career in tech, emphasized that back in the time when she had to make those decisions it was even more difficult to be a woman in tech, but with determination and avoiding lack of self-appreciation, it was possible and nowadays it is even more. She has been representing the Macedonian tech academic world in multiple prestigious events in Europe and has never been discriminated for being a woman in tech.
Emilija Talevska, Software Engineer at Reward Gateway in Macedonia, representing a lady that is currently developing a career in tech, spoke about her personal lack of confidence at the beginning of her career and how her personal successes increased her self-confidence and made her a successful woman engineer. Currently she thinks that she would never be anything else, even though when she was making the decision to study tech, she had various influences convincing her to be something else.
Anna-Sophie Kloppe, Senior student at NOVA International Schools, representing a lady that is yet to build a career, emphasized how tech changed her mindset and how Girls in Tech Macedonia and its activities influenced her and her school. A year ago, Girls in Tech Macedonia visited NOVA International Schools for a short interactive presentation, and the result we heard of that today is a record number of girls decided to sign up for Computer Science class after our presentation! We love such stories where we have made an impact! Anna-Sophie pointed out an example of three of her friends that wanted to continue into tech at University. All of them experienced strong influence from family and peers into choosing another, a “less male” career. Two of them accepted these opinions and went into other fields. Thanks to that Girls in Tech presentation, the third girl stubbornly went for a tech career and is currently studying at a tech university! Yay!
An interesting conference and a much needed discussion, we encourage more institutions and individuals in Macedonia to speak out loud about overcoming stereotypes in STEM!