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The annual Grace Hopper conference is the place to be for women in technology. It’s an amazing platform for female technologists to exchange insights and network. Grace Hopper, also known as “Amazing Grace”, is considered to be the first modern programmer in the early 1950ties. Her motto was, “If it’s a good idea, just do it. It’s much easier to apologize afterwards than to get approval before.”  To honor Hopper’s achievements, Anita Borg, a Ph.D. in computer sciences, founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) in 1984 and  the “Systers” online community in 1987. Created for women technologists in computing, the “Syster” community strives to increase the number of women in computer sciences and improve the work environment for women.

This is also a very important goal for the SAP P& I Enterprise Cloud Services department. Dilipkumar Khandelwal, President of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and Managing Director of SAP Labs India is a strong supporter of women in technology. “The career choices for women are still anything but cliché-free. To encourage more women to enter the IT field, we need to have more female ambassadors and mentors who share their own experience of how they ventured out to work in IT and succeeded. It’s a way to help women envision their future in technology.” This year three ambassadors from the SAP Application Innovation Services (AIS) department attended the annual GHC event in Texas: Bärbel Haenelt, Gabriele Weyerhaeuser, and Julia Siebeck. Julia and Bärbel were also selected by AnitaB.org to be a speaker at the event.

The Importance of Women in Tech

The annual GHC is an important vehicle to pique women’s interest in STEM subjects and win them over to work in tech organizations. Encouraging women to pursue a career in IT is more important than ever, based on the OECD Report “Empowering women in the digital age” published this year. New digital tools support and empower inclusive global economic growth. To seize this opportunity, it is essential that no one, and especially no woman, is held back in trying to achieve their aspirations. Based on the report, companies can take advantage of the digital transformation as a leapfrog opportunity for women and a chance to build a more inclusive digital world overall.

The change includes breaking stereotypes in early education that represent hurdles for a more inclusive workforce in IT later on. When Julia was in the grammar school she had to defend herself that, as a girl, she was among the best mathematics students in class.  Gabriele had a similar experience.  “My school teacher once said that it cannot be possible that there are girls in sciences and mathematics classes at school. He even asked us girls why we didn`t attend language class,” added Gabriele.

Today 250 million fewer women than men are online globally. Especially women living in developing countries, including Sub-Saharan Africa and in rural parts of Asia, face hurdles for their career choices through the limited technology access. This leads to a systematic under-representation of women in information and communication technology (ICT) jobs as well as top management and academic careers. For instance, women worldwide are 20 percent less likely to hold a senior leadership position in the mobile communication industry, they make only 8 percent of the investing partners at the top 100 venture capital (VC) firms.  Events like GHC help women to jump over the hurdles by networking with other women and get encouragement for their career in IT.

Speed Dating with Mentoring

Companies from all over the world offered activities at GHC to help building a successful career in IT as a woman, including a demo-both to pitch your ideas, workshops and keynotes on opportunities women faced in the digital transformation era. For example, Disney had a fun, but also profound presentation on how Minnie Mouse would appear today. “The presentation showed Minnie Mouse with nerdy glasses and laptop. A completely different appearance than what we were used to in our times,” said Bärbel.

The mentoring circle was one of the highlights for students and recent graduates. A perfect way to gain insights about the onsite companies and their working environments. Fifty tables were set up in a huge room, allowing students to pick different topics. “It was a little bit like speed dating”, said Bärbel with a twinkle in her eyes. Julia was greatly surprised that today’s graduates have a very clear picture in mind when looking for a job. “They choose their employer very carefully and ask specific questions on diversity and career. For sure, work-life balance goes without saying. Mentoring was about sharing valuable tips that help propel the IT career of young talents forward,” commented Julia.

For women seeking to enter or advance their career in, GHC is more than just an event to connect and get a one-time career advice; it’s a stepping stone to build a lasting network.  Plus, it is a talent pool. “Particularly remarkable is the “embracing atmosphere” at the event,” said Gabriele. “Attendees are open-minded and energizing. It’s a true platform for hungry talents and more senior professionals to connect and empower women to get greater access to more senior-level career opportunities.”

GHC is a leapfrog opportunity for women’s economic empowerment to accelerate progress in the digital transformation and the digital labor market – ladies, just do it!

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