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Sergey Tokarev: How to attract more women to Ukrainian IT

One of the components of a successful IT company is a diverse team that can look at the same situation from different angles. That is why it is so important to have both men and women, says Reface investor Sergey Tokarev. Now, Ukrainian IT has about 33% of women in IT management and only about 25% of women among all IT specialists. Yet, it is not enough, believes Tokarev. He offers a guide on how to attract more women to tech specialties.

At the moment, there is a significant shortage of AI, ML, data science, and cybersecurity specialists. It would be difficult to cover that shortage if society does not support girls who want to try themselves in these areas. And support should be provided at all stages, believes Sergey Tokarev, starting from school to higher university and IT companies.

The first obstacle a girl may face is a prejudice that IT is a purely male area where girls can count only on HR or QA tester jobs. At some point, one can even hear that girls choose any tech specialty simply to be surrounded by boys so it will be easier for them to find a future husband.

“To solve this problem, it is necessary to create thematic clubs and communities,” says Sergey 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.”

To provide girls with role models, NGO STEM is FEM has been launching numerous initiatives. One of them is SHE is SCIENCE, a project that tells the Ukrainian society about 12 female scientists born in Ukraine. These scientists contributed a lot to both Ukrainian and world science, including IT.

Another STEM is FEM’s initiative provides girls aged 12-16 with an opportunity to dive into IT practice. Together with Oracle and Empowerment Lab, they have launched several courses on Data-driven web apps, App prototyping, and Machine Learning this year. The teachers on the course can also become role models as all of them are women successfully working in IT.

After finishing school, here comes higher education. Sergey Tokarev explains that he can see the demand among girls for IT education when analyzing a new cybersecurity course at SET University – about 30% of the total number of course participants are girls.

“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,” says Sergey Tokarev.

And once a young woman finds her job in an IT company, another kind of support is provided by the IT community. AI HOUSE is a great example of such a community. It unites Ukrainian and foreign AI and ML specialists, lets them share experiences, and provides training. Sergey Tokarev explains that at the moment,  there are about 25% of women in the community, but the organizers hope that more professionals will join them soon.

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