Today is the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) 10th annual International Girls in ICT Day. Each year, ITU (the United Nations agency dedicated to the Information and Communication Technology industry) shines a light on the accomplishments of women in tech to build awareness of the gender gap in STEM fields. The goal is to inspire girls and young women to pursue education and careers in STEM while breaking down the barriers of entry.
In the spirit of the day, we thought we’d look inward to our team and reflect on some of our own efforts to increase STEM equity within MentorMate as well as the tech community at large. We hope that by sharing our efforts, it will offer increased visibility to women in tech and inspire other organizations to institute similar initiatives.
Experts in Their Field
According to the Women in Tech Index 2018, Bulgaria has more women working in the IT sector than any other country in the world – 30.28%. But where does MentorMate stand in these statistics? Women who work at MentorMate in Bulgaria represent 30% of all Bulgarian employees, while women in the U.S. represent 37.7% [20 out of 53] of all U.S. employees.
This year, we started a new initiative called Women in Tech Share at MentorMate. This series of free online events features women from MentorMate’s leadership team sharing knowledge, experience, and advice from their long-standing professional path. They discuss important issues facing women in tech and give valuable know-how that helps other women advance and succeed in this sector.
The events are interactive, and participants have the opportunity to share their opinion in discussions, ask questions, and share their experiences. They get valuable, actionable advice that they can use in their everyday work. Finally, participants make new connections with other women in tech, get inspired, and receive many new ideas about their development opportunities.
The first event from the series focused on coping with the IT world’s dynamics and avoiding burnout in the workplace. Viktoria Chuchumisheva, our HR Manager, talked about wellness & well-being techniques and ways to cope with the stress and difficult situations in the everyday IT world. Sixty people joined this first event and received advice to help them in their work and a practical task to understand the topic better.
After the positive feedback and interest in the first event, we organized a second one. It was about leadership and how to do it elegantly. Jeni Kyuchukova, Director of Quality and Process at MentorMate, spoke about her ten years of experience managing teams in the IT sphere. With a bit of humor, she shared how to look at problems positively and see them as our greatest opportunities.
Our third event focused on how to have a successful career in IT. Eleonora Georgieva, Director of Software Development and Compliance, shared her techniques for a successful career path and the main pillars around which she builds her professional development. She spoke about what it means to be successful, be present for your team (the team’s needs come first), be the team player everyone wants to work with and be ready to negotiate as not everything is constant. It was interesting to notice that around 30% of the attendees were men.
Educating the Next Generation of Women in Tech
While MentorMate’s two training programs — QA Academy and DevCamp — are co-ed, they provide opportunities for the next generation of women in technical roles.
QA Academy is a free online training program that provides young talents with the tools and knowledge to land their first QA job. Participants have access to engaging lectures, practical assignments, and exercise activities that help them become real QA professionals. At the end of the program, the best participants land a job at MentorMate. There have been two QA Academy editions so far, and the recruitment process for the third edition is now open. At the end of the second QA Academy, we hired 11 people in total. 7 out of these 11 were women.
Velislava Minkova, Senior QA Analyst at MentorMate and QA Academy Trainer, says that “being a woman in the IT sphere is just like being a woman in any other walk of life nowadays. We are now used to breaking barriers and proving every step of the way that whatever the qualities of a good professional are, gender is not one of them.” From her personal experience, there is no stigma around women in tech, and it’s a matter of time until we start seeing even more young women join the IT profession.
DevCamp is a 3-month training program designed to provide tutoring on an array of web and mobile technologies. The goal of DevCamp is to prepare young talents to launch their careers in the software development field. During the program, they receive both theoretical knowledge and practical assignments. While developing their programming skills during DevCamp, participants receive a salary as well. Their mentors are some of the top software experts in Bulgaria. That makes for some tough competition to get into the program. Only the top 3% of software development talent in Bulgaria make it in.
In looking at the program graduates in the past year, 30% (13 out of 43) are women. This percentage is relatively high because the application process and the program itself are quite competitive. As Anna Krivova, Senior Software Developer at MentorMate and DevCamp buddy, says: “It takes a lot of courage to enter a sphere that is known for being mainly male-dominated. Being a woman in the IT sector is a palette full of emotions, experiences, ups, and downs. If I have to describe it in three words, they would be interesting, challenging, and inspiring.”
In addition to our internal training programs, we’ve historically partnered with organizations dedicated to balancing the gender gap in tech.
One such organization, Technovation, has chapters worldwide and challenges girls in middle school and high school to identify a problem in their community and use technology to solve it. The program takes them through the entire mobile app development process and gives them a leg up for a future career in technology. We hold Technovation very near and dear to our hearts as we’ve partnered with our local Minnesota chapter on several events in the past, including their upcoming Appapalooza on May 8.
Women in Leadership at MentorMate
At MentorMate, women are very successful in their leadership roles. Quite a lot of them have reached a manager position and positively lead their teams. Currently, women account for 42% of the management positions on MentorMate’s Bulgarian team. On the U.S. team, that percentage dips down to 26.7% of women [4 out of 15] in management positions.
As these numbers show, we’re not perfect at MentorMate. We still have a long way to go to achieve full gender equality, particularly on our U.S. leadership team. But through initiatives like Women in Tech Share and by continuing to invest in programs like QA Academy and DevCamp, we’re determined to bridge the gap and have not only full gender equality but equity as well.
With the theme of today in mind, we hope that reading about the achievements of some of our team members inspires more women to join STEM programs and pursue careers in tech. They sure inspire us on a daily basis. For our part, we’ll continue our commitment by implementing initiatives that further balance the scales of equality.