About 25% of women currently work in the Ukrainian IT industry. A third of the management of IT companies is led by women. Sergey Tokarev, the founding partner of Roosh and Reface investor, states that the number of women in Ukrainian IT is insufficient. The businessman shared his insights on how to improve the current situation.
For a long time, IT and the whole tech sector were considered unattainable for women. Even now, many girls still face stereotypes that this is only a “male” domain. Most often girls and young women are told that they are trying to find a partner in such companies, or they can just be partly involved in positions like HR or QA engineer.
These are the grounds why Ukrainian women fear starting their career in IT. Sergey Tokarev states that the industry will be deprived of talented experts who could make a meaningful contribution to Ukraine’s IT sector. Today, IT needs a larger number of professionals, including in data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity.
“To solve this problem, it is necessary to create thematic clubs and communities,” explains Tokarev. “This way, every girl interested in IT can find a role model in this profession and can turn to like-minded people for advice or support.”
As an example, Sergey Tokarev talks about the SHE is SCIENCE project launched by NGO STEM is FEM, which encourages girls to build careers in STEM. The project aims at introducing participants to the careers of 12 prominent Ukrainian female scientists who made significant contributions to the fields of science and IT. The project featured 12 portraits of women who worked in science and IT, including Kateryna Yushchenko, a programmer who developed a formal language for addressable computer programming, and Olga Perevozchikova, a scientist who helped develop state programming standards in Ukraine.
The project includes a hands-on component where girls may get a better understanding of IT. The project began free IT classes for schoolgirls aged 12 – 16 last year with the assistance of Oracle and in collaboration with the Swiss charity Empowerment Lab. The girls could enroll in courses on data-driven web apps, app prototyping, and machine learning. This method enables girls to identify their areas of interest in IT.
Sergey Tokarev emphasizes the need of maintaining their attention by offering a suitable high education.
”Last summer, SET University, which specializes exclusively in technology, organized a cybersecurity course for teenagers. The courses were for both girls and boys, yet girls made up 30% of the total number of course participants. There is indeed a demand for IT among girls. They need to be supported and motivated. Therefore, the university plans to open scholarship programs for girls later,” adds Tokarev.
Supporting females as they develop their careers in specialized communities is another crucial factor. Sergey Tokarev exemplifies AI HOUSE, a professional community club that brings together local and international IT experts in AI and ML. This community arranges for girls to get regular training. Around 25% of women make up the group at the moment, but more specialists will likely join it in the near future, according to the project’s administrators.