Girls! TECH UP: In close contact with technology

At the 7th Girls! TECH UP of the Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering, technology was explained by women for women, brought closer in a playful way and career prospects were discussed.

Powering a village through play, building a solar beetle, or making diodes glow: At the now 7th Girls! TECH UP of the Austrian Association for Electrical Engineering, technology was explained by women for women, brought closer in a playful way and career prospects were discussed. And that is urgently needed: While our lives are increasingly shaped by technology, the STEM field is characterized by a shortage of skilled workers. Targeting young women still has potential: Of 10,000 electrical engineering apprentices, only about 650 are female.

“Making it easier for women to get into technology”

The event series was founded by OVE Fem, the women’s network in the association, which was launched 10 years ago by Michaela Leonhardt, Head of Green Hydrogen at Burgenland Energie AG. “The goal was to bring together women leaders in the industry,” Leonhardt said. It quickly became clear that the work with young people was particularly important. This is because women are still particularly active in the traditional female professions.

Girls! TECH UP connects the experts from the companies with young women. Leonhardt: “Talking to female role models makes it easier for women to get started. They can touch and experience technology on site, have moments of success and see that women can also be successful in technology.” The goal: To teach them about the variety of opportunities in technology, IT and in the energy industry so that they think about these options as well as the traditional professions.

Federal Minister Kocher at the Girls! TECH UP, Credit: OVE/Der Knopfdrücker

Enabling access to technology in a playful way - Credit: OVE/Der Knopfdrücker

Credit: OVE/Der Knopfdrücker

Credit: OVE/Der Knopfdrücker

Credit: OVE/Der Knopfdrücker

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Getting girls out of stereotypical thinking

Helping young girls make a more informed and diverse choice of career is also the aim of the “Sprungbrett” counseling center, which has a booth at the event. “Sprungbrett” supports young women in shaping their future with confidence and self-determination: “Girls come to us and feel that boys have already come into the world with the skills they need for technical jobs.”

Though that has improved in recent years, the message in the conversations is clear: That they can do anything, regardless of being a girl. And, “You can earn much better in the non-traditional jobs and are more financially independent.” Even in apprentice compensation, the adviser says, the difference is already noticeable.

Anette Fexa, employer branding expert at Frequentis, points out another development in the interview: Typical women’s jobs, for example in offices, are becoming fewer due to technological developments. At the same time, she emphasizes a positive development: “The restructuring in the market is happening. But it’s not just jobs that will be eliminated, new ones will be created. And I believe that these will be of higher value.”

The challenge: To address women, a different approach is necessary. Fexa: “A call for applications to address women must look different than for men.” Mina Schütz at the booth of the Data Science & Artificial Intelligence research group of the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) also points that out. She appeals for a new narrative of job descriptions: “The field of media forensics is still a male-dominated field, and women’s opinions should play a stronger role in this field,” says Schütz. But the way IT experts are portrayed in public scares off young women, she said: Always sitting at their laptops. She adds that it’s a very diverse job: “We have a lot of exchanges, I travel internationally and the job is a lot of fun.”

“The industry must become fit for the future – and that will only work with women”

At the booth of HTL Mödling, a smart home is controlled via app, renewable energies and switching circuits are explained with small models. Students from several school levels are at the event to talk about their everyday school life. Jennifer Schiffer, Gender and Diversity Officer at HTL Mödling, has been observing a positive development for years, saying that there are more and more female students. She is convinced: “The industry must become fit for the future – and that will only work with women.”

Future opportunities in technology are also discussed at the Austria Power Grid (APG) booth. Jasmina studied electrical engineering and stayed at APG after an internship: “I feel good about being part of the energy transition.” Her colleague Betina appeals to the girls to get out of stereotypical thinking: A life without electricity is no longer imaginable, she says, that’s why job prospects are very good and female colleagues are always welcome.

Role Model Award: Vote until October 23

Role models, that becomes clear in the conversations, are essential: They tell young girls that they too can be successful in technology. Girls already have much more confidence now. Families should also be approached, because there are still parents in resistance.

There is often a lack of knowledge about the developments on the markets. Michaela Leonhardt adds: “In the last 10-15 years, an extremely large number of things have happened, many new professions have emerged in the technologies of the future. Women can make the world a little better every day by doing this work.”

In order to bring young women closer to these jobs of the future, voting for the Role Model Award 2023 will continue until October 23. In short videos, pupils, students, apprentices and experts convey their enthusiasm for technology. Voting is still possible until October 23 at girlstechup.at.

Anja Herberth
Author: Anja Herberth

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