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Women in IT
AUTHOR: Liridona Syla

Challenges of women in IT

(A short throwback)

The story of women in programming takes us back to the ‘50s, when girls like Mary Allen Wilkes, decided to choose programming as a profession, an unfamous profession for women. All that was known was that computers were supposed to be the key to the future.

When digital computers finally became a practical reality in the 1940s, women were pioneers in writing software for machines. At the time, men in the IT industry considered writing code a secondary, less interesting task. The real glory has been laid in “making” the equipment. The term “software” had not yet been coined.

When the number of coding sites exploded in the 1950s and 1960s and companies began to rely on software to process payroll and data lists, men had no particular advantage in hiring. Employers were simply looking for candidates who were logical, good at math, and punctual. And in this regard, gender stereotypes worked in favor of women: Some leaders argued that women’s traditional expertise in meticulous activities such as knitting and weaving manifested precisely this mindset. (The 1968 book “Your Computer Career” highlighted the fact that people who like to “cook from a cookbook” become good programmers.)

In the 1980s, the early pioneering work done by female programmers was largely forgotten. Hollywood was producing exactly the opposite image: Computers were a male-dominated field.

A 1983 study involving M.I.T. highlighted grim results. Women who raised their hands in the classroom were often ignored by professors and despised by other students.

When computer science programs began to expand again in the mid-1990s, the coding culture was established. Most of the students in this field were already men.

(The current situation)

Nowadays, with all the attention created with projects aimed at inclusiveness and combating gender stereotypes in such professions, women have decided to go ahead in pursuing their professional goals. To what extent the appropriate conditions have been reached for them to have proper and equal treatment in this profession, in a country like Kosovo that is in the process of capacity building in this area, remains an issue that requires research. Despite the progress made in increasing the number of girls who choose programming as a profession, in Kosovar companies, however, the male gender dominates.
According to a publication by STIKK (Kosovo Information and Communication Technology Association) entitled “Women in Technology”, in Kosovo only 20% of the ICT sector workforce is women. A similar situation exists in European countries, where only 30% of the approximately 7 million employees in the European ICT sector are women.

From the data obtained from the Kosovo Agency of Statistics (KAS), women in the Kosovo economy still face many challenges. In the workforce, more than 80% of women are inactive, and for other active women, the unemployment rate is around 40%.

Kosovo, as the youngest country in Europe, is characterized by a turbulent history related to the war of 1999. Even after the war, Kosovo still struggles to achieve a stable state and economic growth is more than necessary to get out of poverty of about 30% of its population.

However, Kosovo has a strong point where the hope of development and economic growth is held – its Youth. A significant part of the young population in Kosovo is equipped with very good skills in English and to a lesser extent, German.

Knowledge of these two languages, combined with Kosovo’s proximity to EU countries and its free labor force, puts the country in a favorable position to provide digital services abroad.

In addition to the commitment of organizations, companies, training centers, the efforts of the country government to direct the youth towards certain programs in this field, have been almost invisible. The demands of the labor market and those offered by the education system are not synchronized with each other, which encourages young people to choose directions that are overcrowded and offer more jobs, such as economic and legal direction.

The University of Prishtina, as the largest university in Kosovo, introduces about 5,000 graduates to the labor market each year. Of these, only about 150 students graduate in Computer Engineering and about 300 in Computer Science. Although the overall composition of graduates shows that the percentage of women exceeds men by about 10%, this percentage changes completely when it comes to the possibility of employing women in this profession. The small number of graduates in these fields, even from the largest university, can not meet the constant demands for programmers in the labor market.

Economic and financial development for the citizens of Kosovo leaves much to be desired. Especially when it comes to girls and women who face social, financial, economic inequality, where as an eventual factor is gender. Various statistics show such a situation. Only 12.5% ​​of women looking for work have one, compared to 41.3% of men.

How do you feel in this profession?
Do you face difficulties, since the male gender dominates?
What problems do you find most at work, as a gender factor?
Do you think that girls in Kosovo have perspective in this field?

“It’s been a while since the era of “Programming” and “Software engineering” has become a new trend in Prishtina, and this makes you feel better when it comes to sustainability and the profession itself as well. I’ve been involved as a programmer and a community builder these past few years, and I think this profession has helped me build something different I can look up to every day, and that includes my confidence, a very rich skillset, and a great network. Being part of a technical world helps me think differently when it comes to problems. I never knew they will come my way because that’s how you get to face challenges in every way possible. These challenges in one way or another contribute to my growth, especially on the technical side.

When you’re part of this profession, you will most likely notice an abundance of the opposite gender when you’re in the office, being part of a particular conference, or in a room full of important decisions. Personally, I find it a very collaborative environment when there is the opposite gender present, whether it’s a working space or an informative space only. The only difficulty I have encountered while on my beginnings in this industry, it’s the arrogance that they own which sometimes makes it difficult to communicate and the lack of communication leads to a weak collaboration, and when this collaboration is missing because of the arrogance than we will see problems coming around us, these problems might be related to the current workforce, rapid development, and other future opportunities.

I think that despite the mentality we as a society possess, we are trying to give a chance to others, such as girls in ICT, to prove themselves and to ignore the fact that there is such arrogance within us, but I think we should appropriately giving this change to the community, by the “appropriate way” I mean by giving them the trust they need to build a particular algorithm, to design a specific task for a huge client, and to challenge them by believing they will thrive and own their work in the right place and in the right time. Yes, I think we do have a great future in this industry, whether it’s inside Kosove or not, I think we are eventually improving as a society where thinking that girls can be technical is becoming a new trend as the Software Engineering one I mentioned earlier.”

Qëndresa Hoti, Software Develper at Polymath Labs

“When in high school I didn’t have an idea about studying computer sciences. What led me into the computer sciences was that this program had mathematics, and since I loved mathematics I started studies in the department of programming, which led me toward an amazing professional career in software engineering.

What I do really enjoy is that you get to choose your own career path, you have the opportunities to explore throughout different roles and at the same time move some stones along the way, affect lives, encourage people, and build tools that others would use to make their lives better.
The tech industry is dominated by males, and that doesn’t mean that there are obstacles for females, it’s just different because we function in different ways. Regarding challenges, of course, but not for being a minority in this industry. I personally haven’t faced any obstacles, people are enthusiastic when having a girl on the development team, interested in problem-solving, complex systems, and learning new tech.

I think the only missing piece that would help women toward the tech industry careers in a higher % of female role models in tech.

As long as women in the tech industry advocate their journey and experiences through different social mediums, I know for a fact that there would be a large number of women who’d be encouraged to become a part of the tech world.

We already are great role models to many girls out there, and I think that women in Kosovo possess an enthusiastic personality, as well as being eager to learn and explore several fields, especially STEM.”

Albiona Hoti, Developer Relations Engineer at Webiny

“I think the whole process for becoming a programmer is the same for both genders. During my own journey, gender wasn’t a key factor nor it hindered my chances to become an engineer. Working side to side with people of different nationalities and genders was really a life-changing experience which made me grow on all levels as a person and as a programmer. Most of the time, I do not think that much about gender, but I rather focus on the skills and character of the person which define us as individuals working together as a team.

If you’re around cool and open minded people, you don’t face much discrimination nor special treatment. On the other hand, we can’t deny that the glass ceiling and inequalities between genders is a prominent issue in our society not only in our field, which seems to me more equalitary compared to other professions where the gap is still huge, especially in wages and treatment.
Sometimes it happens to meet people who are judgmental who think that you’re less qualified than you actually are merely for being a female. In some interviews that I held, males tend to address your male colleges easier than women who are actually part of the interview panel.

Some of the challenges involve microaggressions like people assuming you are not a programmer, or that you’re the junior position due to misogynistic prejudices.
In some cases the drag may be related to things like having your work ethic questioned simply because you have other obligations as home and you can’t put your work as a priority, which I think doesn’t happen to male colleagues in a similar way.

Programming is one of the fields which have a lot of perspective in the whole world not only in Kosovo. My advice to the young passionate female programmers would be to keep your heads up, get stuff done and pay no mind to the small minded people.

They’ll eventually learn to respect you through your work ethic and good manners so don’t waste your time and energy to focus on your gender, but rather channel your focus towards the things that really matters and would impact your future and personal growth as having the right work ethics, to be well mannered, to have values and principles, to learn how to operate in a team in order to be effective as much as possible, and of course being competent and highly skilled at your work is a necessity in my humble opinion.”

Egzontina Krasniqi, Software Engineer at Joris Ide

“During my studies at the University of Prishtina I have not encountered direct gender differences from UP staff. But, what bothers me is that in the faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering in all programming subjects we have male assistants and no female assistants. The University of Prishtina and our society should work harder on the emancipation of girls, especially in rural areas.”

Elsa Vitija, student at University of Pristina, Electrical and Computer Engineering

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