In an era where tech companies are facing increasing backlash from society, showing a commitment to diversity is an opportunity to demonstrate they have the public good at heart
Why should we strive to maximise diversity in the tech sector?
There are countless reasons, whether you look at the positive impact diversity has on company reputation, growth or productivity. But above all else, creating conditions under which previously overlooked genders and personalities can flourish produces more brilliant technologists – technologists like Angela Maragopoulou.
The CIO of B2B/SVP Business Solutions at Deutsche Telekom and TechWeek Frankfurt speaker will be the first to admit that her path to senior leader at the German telecom giant would not have been possible were it not for a relatively privileged upbringing, one that saw her furnished with a PC and an education at an unconventional school. The school taught juniors in mechanics and informatics — skills which gave Angela the platform to launch a career as a successful computer engineer and data scientist, and later, award-winning IoT technologist and agile thought leader.
“I was very lucky to be one of a very small number of kids in the 80s who also owned a PC, let alone a girl whose family was ok with her spending three hours every night playing Riven. [My childhood] was very ahead of its time.”
At the unorthodox school in question, Angela was one of 18 kids and the only girl. Representation-wise, not a lot changed when she studied Physics at the University of Athens in the 90s. Out of 200 people in her class’s intake only four were women.
That was almost two decades ago. It’s fair to say that thankfully, things have since moved in a positive direction, although improvement has slowed in recent years. According to the State of European Tech report, women account for just 22 percent of tech-related Meetup events in the region, and the increase in female representation increased by just 1 percent between 2016 and 2018.
It is important to appreciate that some countries are performing stronger than others. In her role leading teams for Vodafone around the world, Angela observed the influence of national socio-economic and cultural factors on gender equality in tech companies. Companies in developing countries with comparatively weaker financial situations than Europe and North America tend to perform better, she says.
“The need for money and a better life goes a little to address the balance. Working in technology is very lucrative and so a lot of women choose it. While in financially stable countries like Germany, families can afford to only have one parent working, increasing the preponderance of traditional forms where the woman stays at home with the kids.”
As someone who spends most of her time in Germany, Angela has spent a lot of time both advocating for the benefits of diversity in the local tech space and considering the practical steps that can be taken to tip the scales.