At #WITsthlm 2020, over 2,500 women came together to deliberate tech for an inclusive future
#WITsthlm, organised by Women in Tech Sweden, is the largest-ever conference for women in tech across the Nordics. Its tagline for 2020, Beyond Barriers, aims to create a strong community for women in the tech industry.
Over 2,500 women took over the Congress Waterfront in Stockholm, Sweden, for the largest-ever conference for women in technology across the Nordics, organised by Women in Tech Sweden.
The tagline of this year’s conference, ‘Beyond Barriers’, continued to celebrate the achievements of women in tech from Sweden and all over the world, and aimed to continue to create a strong community for women in the technology industry, while also working to engage more women in tech in the future.
Powered by companies and individuals who want to create change, Women in Tech Sweden is run by women with different perspectives and experiences.
“When we ask our nearly 9,000 members what they think most impacts their career decisions, they say their networks and role models are most important. It is easier to imagine a career in the field if you see someone you can identify with who has an exciting role, has done groundbreaking research or founded a tech start up. At WITsthlm2020, there is both the network and role models, both on stage and among the forward-thinking participants. I am very happy and proud that this unique movement has grown even bigger,” said Elin Eirksson, Director of Women in Tech Sweden.
Paulina Modlitba, Programme Manager for WITsthlm, described the importance of the theme, ‘Beyond Barriers’.
She said, “By and large, women overcome obstacles every day. We conduct sustainability research, photograph black holes, develop social robots that comfort lonely people, create sustainable winter jackets filled with flower petals instead of down, program DNA, develop ethical guidelines for advanced AI, put pressure on the big tech companies to take greater responsibility, and much more.”
“But we also overcome obstacles that try to stop our progress: glass ceilings, discriminatory decisions, exclusionary cultures, and ruling techniques. All this, and more, is what Women in Tech is all about. Here, we break new ground, gather together, and make the planet a better, and more sustainable, place to live,” she added.
The event saw a powerhouse of speakers who discussed, deliberated, made the audience laugh, and brought the house down with their exemplary communication skills. Even the most complex of technologies were explained with enthusiasm, giving the audience every reason to enjoy the innovations of today and the expectations of tomorrow.
The first speaker of the day, a Sextech entrepreneur, and a company she named after herself, Lora DiCarlo has developed Ose, an award-winning robotic massager for hands-free blended orgasms, said,
“My company challenges people to ask themselves, “Who owns your pleasure?” After being banned and having its award revoked in 2019 at CES, the world’s largest tech show, Lora returned to CES 2020 with two new sex toys and awards.
She made a very pertinent point when she said, “We can overcome all barriers if we start with the biggest obstacles we face, our own mindsets.”
Anna Margaretha König Jerlmyr, Mayor of Stockholm, touched upon the burning issue of climate speech in her short speech. She said, “As a mayor, I know that cities are the true changemakers. As we address the greatest challenges of our time, we do with one of the greatest possible resources: womankind.”
Sana Alajmovic, Co-founder, Sigrid Therapeutics, spoke about the importance of a healthy lifestyle – but with a twist. Science and technology have greatly extended life expectancy, and the young entrepreneur wanted to provide multiple solutions to make it easier to live a healthy life.
Lucie Quarta, a computer studies student affected by cerebral palsy, received a standing ovation when she spoke about her passion for mathematics of computing and how eye tracking technology has enabled her to study. She said, “We often read of the potential risk new technology will bring to the world, but there are benefits. I can now live with goals, passions, and dreams.”
The day-long event also saw many panel discussions on the challenges faced by women in tech that included unconscious biases, lack of funding, inclusiveness, and others.
An important message also ran through the entire conference. What is the greatest quality a leader should have? Most definitely, EMPATHY! Another striking statement made was, “If you are not actively inclusive, chances are you are unconsciously exclusive.”
The penultimate speaker on stage was Betelhem Dessie, a pioneer in the Ethiopian tech industry, a leader, and an educator, who has copyrights to many software programs.
The closing keynote that brought the curtains on the event was on the topic of being a male manager in a well-oiled track, male privilege, and female obstacles when pursuing a career in business. Some important deliberations were made and as entrepreneur Caroline Farberger said, “Many women are hearing comments about their appearance and clothing, in situations where they’d rather be hearing comments about their competence. Let’s once and for all bury the notion that you need to behave like a man to have a successful career.”
#WITsthlm2020 was truly an event for women by women – and brought home the fact that the challenges faced by women all over the world are the same, and we need solidarity in sisterhood to move forward and emerge successful.
(HerStory was at #WITsthlm, Stockholm on the invitation of the Embassy of Sweden and the Swedish Institute)
(Edited by Megha Reddy)