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