6 years ago, Delphine REMY-BOUTANG, CEO of The Bureau created La Journée de la Femme Digitale with Catherine BARBA, e-commerce and digital expert. La Journée de la Femme Digitale came to life to celebrate innovation and digital for women. This event aims at implementing the cultural change by promoting women initiatives and successes in digital in order to help develop women digital entrepreneurship.
In a study conducted by Roland Berger and Numa in 2017, the following question was asked to the participants: “how you define a digital woman?”. 40% of the respondents defined her as a connected woman using digital tools daily, 27% as a woman with web culture and for 24% it is a state of mind. But no one defined it as a woman with IT competencies that seemed to be reserved for men only. Today, in France, the typical profile of a startupper is a man, born from French parents, graduated from business school and coming from a well-to-do background.
Why such differences?
Gender inequality in digital is global and mainly due to unconscious, but well established, biases concerning technological competencies they may have being a men or women, that follow them during their whole studies and career.
Education might be the cause. In the US far less women are following scientific studies. In France, if we have as much girls passing scientific A-levels as boys, we then lost them to have only 30% of girls in scientific preparatory classes and 27, 8% in engineers’ schools.
And this continues at work where women are not taking advantage of the rise of digital work opportunities: on 1000 women graduated in the European Union, 24 only are graduated in Digital and 6 will finally work in digital. While for men, on the 1000 graduates, 92 were in digital and 49 will finally find a job[i].
Once in their digital position, women are highly motivated and want to give their best performance. But they also feel like they are not expected to have their own ideas as males do. They also feel they experiment more gender discrimination than men. And according to the 2017 Start-up Genome study, only 16% of start-up founders worldwide are women (10% in France) and they are only 28% to hold a digital position in companies.
These inequalities are also noticeable in their attitudes towards digital technology in their personal life. Indeed, men seem to see the impact of digital technologies in their daily life more positively than women (70% vs 63%). Women also tend to be less informed about new techs than men, increasing this misunderstanding.
What are the consequences and what are the solutions?
By not achieving gender equality in digital, companies are missing out of talents but also wealth, vision and innovation. It will also have a negative impact considering the importance of big data. Indeed, the evolution of techs is matching with the developers values. Having more diverse types of developers will help prevent biases while having the same kind of people within team will reinforce them.
It is thus essential to stop this lack of diversity and help women integrate this sector thanks to role models, training, exposure to new techs, networking/sponsorship and an increasing women’s confidence.
In this environment, La Journée de la Femme Digital is playing its role by inviting 10 000 participants to see 60 speakers and 47 partners talking about women in digital for its 2017 edition. The theme “For A Better World” implies positive talks about new techs, their use and the way we perceive them. The 2018 edition is “Time for action” and will invite each and every one to be part of the change by choosing an action verb to determine how you will engage in this change. Companies such as L’Oreal, FrenchTech, La Redoute (French clothings) or Orange will share their experiences and promote the role of women in their digital strategies.
During this day, women are also invited to wear white shirts to launch a movement denouncing the few promotion of women entrepreneur by media. This movement was launched by the JFD and La Redoute. The white shirt represents women empowerment. Their aim is to make this a well-known symbol.
Delphine REMY-BOUTANG is also the founder of the Margaret award, created in 2016 in memory of Margaret Hamilton, a NASA computer scientist who develop the flight software for the Apollo Space Program. This award is rewarding the woman entrepreneur of the year and the woman intrapreneur of the year.
She is also the creator of the JFD Club, a networking program for women (and men!) aiming at developing mentoring in Digital.
All these tools are now a great way to promote digital, highlight role models, show young women that there are career possibilities and go over the current stereotypes. This will help women to understand that they can take over the jobs of tomorrow (60% of jobs of 2030 do not exist today), reorient them and make their career evolve thanks to Digital.
And as Margaret Atwood, a Canadian writer, was saying: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”!