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After writing up on International Games Week Berlin, I became intrigued by one of their newest events Womenize! aimed at helping women get into the tech industry. I was lucky enough to talk with Ruth Lemmen Programme Director of the event to learn more.

TR: Tell us what Womenize! is about? What is it and what are its aims?

“Womenize! Tech, Digital Business und Media” is a recruitment and training experience for women’s career building in games and IT companies. The aim is to firmly establish the subject beyond 2015 and to carry it into other industries. “Womenize!” connects, documents and reflects on the many activities offered to promote women in the workplace. The project is realized in cooperation with Berlin’s Senate Department for Economic Affairs, Technology and Research.

Womenize! offers companies from the areas of tech and digital business the opportunity to present themselves and to get in touch with young creative and qualified women seeking to start or change their careers in the business. The Womenize! conference program will contain many interesting keynotes and presentations on career building, mentorship, job profiles within the digital industries, advanced training opportunities, and female entrepreneurship. The Womenize! workshop program offers coaching and consulting for the female audience and for companies planning to recruit more women. We are counting on approximately 150 national and international participants.

TR: What made you and your team decide that an event like this was needed for women in the tech industry?

Womenize! is a project by Michael Liebe and myself. We both have worked for different institutions and companies from the digital and gaming industries for years. We felt that there is a need to bring more women into these fields of work, as there are a lot of qualified and creative female talents out there, who could carry new impulses into those industries. Skill shortage is a huge problem for companies in the digital field, they are all looking for creative and qualified talents. The games industry for example has succeeded in tapping new target groups by addressing women with their products. Women know what women want to play and can therefore make a difference to the look and feel of a product if they are involved in the development processes. I am personally convinced that diversified teams are working more successfully altogether. There are also surveys to prove this.

On the other hand we recognized a lack of information and a lot of reservations among young people: They are digital natives who are constantly online, playing, chatting using social media platforms and so forth. But interestingly they don’t necessarily have those industries in mind when they are planning their careers. Furthermore, surveys showed that women need role models to promote their own careers more easily – it is another aim of Womenize! to present role models and to foster mentorship.

TR: How does your event plan to help women in tech?

Womenize! offers a platform for information, dialogue, exchange and training for companies and young women alike. We would like to provide young women, female entrepreneurs, and companies from the digital industries a place where they can meet, network, gain new insights and find information on where they can get further support, funding or mentorship. What we don’t want are some know-it-alls telling the girls what to do. The “action day” for new talent in tech, digital business and media is all about engagement, sharing knowhow and leveraging experience.

For us, Womenize! is especially successful if some of the participants meet their future employers at our event, and if we can actively do our part to change the way our industry is structured.

TR: Over the last year there have been a lot of accusations that women in gaming and tech suffer from a lot of undue harassment, particularly more than their male counterparts. Do you think these claims are true? If so how would you deal with this issue?

We are aware of the ongoing discussions, though the idea for Womenize! was born long before the Gamergate debate emerged. Womenize! will focus on further developing the culture in the digital industries and help to empower and motivate women to work in tech, games, media and digital business – whether this is in development, creative jobs, in PR or marketing. We want to build up a hub for information, networking and exchange, and primarily help the companies of the digital industries to overcome their skill shortage. There is huge potential for that!

TR: What would you say to the critics of gendered events such as this one who claim that they give an advantage to women in the industry?

We haven’t met those critics so far, and I doubt that industry members will agree with them, as all of them see the enormous benefits for their businesses. Skill shortage is a huge problem for the whole digital industry, and industry members appreciate all initiatives that are offering support to overcome the existing bottleneck.

TR: Will you have advice from successful women in the gaming and tech industries?

Yes, of course! We already talked to a lot of people when developing the concept, especially to women, and are still doing so! The feedback we get when promoting the event has so far been very positive, and we are heavily benefitting from the advice and the contacts the community provides.
TR: What unique skills do you believe that women can offer tech which cannot be provided by men?

Women know what other women want and need, therefore they can have a positive influence on the results and products that digital industries are offering to female customers. I also personally think that women generally have better communication skills which could foster team play. I am convinced that diverse teams will advance our industries.

TechRaptor would like to thank Ruth for her time. You can follow Games Week Berlin on Twitter and find out more and purchase tickets for Womenize! through their website.

Do you think events like this can help women in the industry?


Georgina Young

Contributor

British girl, currently in Japan. Surviving on a diet of retro games. Worshiping the god that is the Sega Megadrive. I like Nintendo.



  • Jake Martinez

    As someone who has worked as a hiring manager in tech for almost 20 years, I can say flat out that these types of organizations are the ones that do the most good.

    The biggest obstacle for hiring women into tech industries is simply put – they don’t apply for the jobs. The key thing here being both interest and a dedication to developing the correct skills to be successful.

    While I don’t agree with Ms. Lemmen’s assertion that women are better communicators than men (this is merely a learned skill), particularly as a reason why to employ them, her other point about relative experience and perspectives is true. When you are in charge of building a department or a team for a business, one of the things that you seek to establish is a culture that is both unified but contains various *different* perspectives on the basis that looking at a single problem from multiple angles will provide a better solution. This is, in fact, the greatest argument for diversity in views in the work place.

    Frankly, even with these types of structures in place, I feel that they are ultimately failing on some level because the result tends not to be more women in “tech” but more women working for “tech industries” in non-tech related jobs. Lemmen herself even mentioned it – marketing and PR being the two biggest ones. And while it’s true that there are many women filling c-level spots at tech companies, most of them come from a traditional business back ground and did not start as an engineer or programmer.

    This seems to create a very clear line between what it means to be “in tech” and what it means to be “creating tech”. To me, it seems that people are satisfied with having a percentage of female employees at their business working in roles that while necessary, are not the ones actually creating technology innovation. This will sound snooty because I am someone who climbed through the ranks from doing pure engineering work to senior management, but the work that I and my colleagues do can be done at any business in the world – the work that my subordinates do is what makes our industry unique.

    My point being – settling for numbers isn’t really making a change other than shifting bodies from one industry to another. Still, the fundamental issue of having more technically qualified and educated women for engineering jobs is what needs to be investigated and addressed.

    To put it bluntly – 1 female engineer is far more valuable to me as a hiring manager due to their rarity than 10 marketers which are a dime a dozen.

  • Demetirus

    I’m glad you brought up the point about being viewed as potentially giving an unfair advantage to women, Georgina. That is something that events/orgs like this always seem to dance on the line of and tend to eventually cross over to as their power and influence grow. I’m a firm believer that equality of opportunity is as far as we as a people should go, never to stray into the area of trying to ensure equality of outcome. There has to be some point where the effort comes from the interested party.

    I did worry a bit when they said “Womenize! will focus on further developing the culture in the digital industries…” as that feels a lot like the current aspect of the tech industry that likes to throw accusations of misogyny and shaming at any person or company that doesn’t toe their line rearing it’s ugly head again. I’m sick of that kind of negativity and harassment. The rest of the interview gives me hope that Womenize! will focus on positive development and encouragement for women but I don’t think I’ll be alone in worrying about that line.

    Overall I think groups like this, and like TFYC as well, are good things. They’re showing folks the opportunities in these fields and helping them pursue them without handing them to them. I like that. Quite a bit actually. Best of luck to Womenize! Thanks again for the great article, Georgina!

  • DEADBEEF

    I don’t know how to parse her statement on GamerGate or culture fostering. Admittedly she didn’t say anything controversial – I just tense up when I hear talk of fostering a new culture in tech, as over the past few years that’s resulted in constant bullying and shaming of male nerds.

    But I am optimistic about Womanize! as it seems more focused on building women up as opposed to tearing men down.

  • Demetirus

    I had the same concern about that culture comment. It immediately gave me a bad feeling and a lingering doubt about how hopeful I should be about this group, but the rest of the interview gave me an overall hope. I agree that the positive focus on building folks up and showing them the opportunities without handing them to them is a step in the right direction.

  • Ncrdrg

    Shame the interview was so short. I do wish women were more interested in tech. College was such a sausage fest when I studied programming.

    I like groups like this, that focus on simply helping women, empowering them into choosing careers in typically male dominated industries. This is what advocacy groups should be like, not serve as a lobbying force to portray the opposite gender as the enemy.

    Now if only there were more initiatives like this to get men to work in primary school too, that would be rad. As Jake said, lack of diversity in the workforce means you see things less broadly. And the perspective of a woman in tech is as interesting and worthwhile as that of a man in education. We need role models for people to follow.

    Instead of criticizing a group for wanting to help women to join tech, which is obviously an interest of theirs, I feel it’s more productive to create competing groups for women-dominated industries such as education or nursing.

  • Bearpants112

    I don’t blame her for her being brief and non-committal considering the flack that other groups have gotten for coming out for or against basic games journalism ethics reform.

    Not everyone is going to be a crusader, and we shouldn’t be like the aGGros who punish neutrals for just wanting to stay out of it.

  • disqus_Nj9jXLoavw

    I have to wonder, if this type of thing is something that is needed, where are the organizations to get more men into nursing? Only 10% of nurses are male(where 15% of people in tech are female), and unlike tech industry customers, many patients actually have a preference for the gender of their nurse. Most people are a lot more sensitive about the gender of a person putting a tube into their urethra, then the gender of the person making their games, software, or electronics.

  • Jake Martinez

    My wife is a nurse and she has expressed the same concern. The few male nurses available often get run around the place due to the very issue you brought up, many people feel much more comfortable having someone of the same gender taking care of them in certain situations and the hospital tries to accommodate as best it can.

    That being said, the reason WHY there are not a similar amount of effort being put into getting more men into nursing is obvious – men both have no experience in this kind of advocacy (Who would run such a campaign?) and the job itself is not seen as carrying the cachet of something like say, technology. Technology is new, people think it’s going to be the future, it pays well, so hence the push on all sides to get people into it. Everyone is fighting for their piece of the perceived future prosperity.

    Cynically you may say this is more about economics than equality for most people.

  • disqus_Nj9jXLoavw

    I would have to disagree with you on the respect. I get a lot more respect as a student nurse then I ever got as a (mediocre)programmer. If you were to say that nursing isn’t as sexy or glamorous as tech, I would agree with you completely on that.

  • TeLin特林

    ” I feel it’s more productive to create competing groups for women-dominated industries”

    I don’t see that happening sadly.

  • Ncrdrg

    Yeah, I know. There’s no money in it. You can’t get funding the way a feminist organization would receive it. Worse, you have feminist groups criticizing attempts to deal with specifically deal with typically boy problems such as suicide as taking money away from more important efforts. It’s not a goddamn competition. I don’t see why things like male efforts shouldn’t exist or be funded, it doesn’t demean or make those for women any less relevant.

  • TeLin特林

    They’d see it as feeding the “patriarchy.” Really fucked up.

  • Thadypus

    I agree with you on most everything except the money. There is a lot of money in nursing careers. It may require more schooling than becoming a programmer, but it pays well and is in high demand.
    It is an issue of perception: 1) Nursing isn’t seen as the type of career most men would look to (compared to, say, being a doctor) because of stereotypes created ages ago. 2) People may not know that nurses actually are paid pretty well. 3) Anyone advocating for young men and issues which pertain to men are seen as misogynist rather than concerned citizens.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    Male teachers are also desperately needed and at both the K-12 and college levels men are being failed en masse because there is no support for them.

    Pre-K to grade 4 there are so few male teachers it might as well be a wasteland. Particularly with so many families with no fathers in the house there are no role models. As if we didn’t have enough poor boys and men in jail.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    You can bank on the fact that anyone crying misogyny is in all actuality a misandrist.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    Actually I think it’s exactly because they have no more relevant issues and they know it and they’ll be damned if someone kills their misandric golden goose.