IT for Girls, Girls for IT: Interview with CzechITas co-founder Monika Malátková

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CzechITas-Team

I met CzechITas (Czech Girls Talk IT!) at a small workshop with a CzechITas instructor participating, in an auditorium of about 95% men, a year ago. We could hear a lot of giggling when the CzechITas instructor spoke about mobile technology. It wasn’t a bad presentation, in my view, but I am not a big fan of quotas for women. I see people around me treating women and men equally in business. But while there, I realized that there were gender prejudices in IT business. And I could see that what CzechITas (and similar female clubs all around the world) does is useful and I support that. I sat down with Monika Malátková, CzechITas co­founder, and interviewed her…

Do girls need support in the IT business? Aren’t current opportunities open to both women and men? Do women feel better when attending courses for women only?

The possibilities are same for everybody, that is right. We just try to point these possibilities out to girls. A lot of them have logical thinking and are good at math but never have considered studying IT due to stereotypes or prejudice. We are trying to open doors to the technical disciplines for them. Show them what a creative field it is and what they can accomplish. From the feedback from our workshops we already know that they feel better, safer and that they are not afraid to ask any kind of questions in workshops for girls. We try to approach younger girls, girls at universities and women who are already involved in IT. For example, mothers on maternity leave. Working in IT allows us to work flexible hours, home­office or part time. In addition it is very well paid.

Veronika Eningerová, one of the participants of a CzechITas workshop stated: “Participation in these workshops has helped me not only with the technology but it has it helped me get back my lost IT confidence after 4 years on maternity leave. I had the opportunity to present my dream project and get feedback. Now I am many steps ahead in the realization of this project due to CzechITas.”

The range of our main partners has recently been broadened with Konica Minolta and Impact HUB, who are promoting our workshop series. Furthermore, we have received a CyberGrant from the Microsoft for Programming Academy, which is focused on elementary and high school pupils. We also have a partnership with Eaton, Adastra, Active 24 and many other companies like AT&T, Qest, Economia, Avast, Dixons Carphone, YSoft, and RedHat. More than 2,000 girls have applied to the courses we prepared; we have a very valuable database including 700 graduates. More than one third of them return to our workshops regularly. Our workshops have been, so far, completely free of charge and the interest in attendance is increasing. We are planning to create a membership program with community­based learning for everybody…including for boys.

Do you see discrimination against women in IT in the Czech Republic?

In general, I don’t see it. It takes time to build respect in this, rather male, field at first. But when a girl shows that she understands IT and that she is interested in the technology, then the IT community is very open. People are sharing knowledge within our community and boys are helping girls. This is how it works at our courses, for example.

What activities from abroad inspire you?

We, CzechITas, were inspired by Berlin Geekettes. They are more like a community and they support girls who are already in IT. We were inspired by Girls Who Code from the United States as well, who put on presentations and workshops in IT. We draw inspiration from both.

What else can be done to support diversity in business? The US­-based 500startups, for instance, invests in startups co­founded by women. Dave McClure says that “Investing in women and minorities is no social mission — there’s money there.”

There are many women’s groups inside companies, as well as organizations outside, that promote diversity. Also, the EU itself is trying to introduce quotas globally. I think it is necessary to look into this issue more deeply and to encourage even the smallest initiatives that are more natural and closer to women. Companies abroad have already invested in such communities, and the same trend started in our country. Together with GoodData and Keboola, we support the DataGirls project.

When will we see a world in which people will not distinguish between doing business with men or women ?

Nothing is just black or white. Even due to the fact that males and females have two completely different archetypes. But it is important to approach people without prejudices and judge them according to their own skills, not gender. The world cannot be ideal. Society is still evolving and there is always space for improvement. We are in a world of technology and in 15 years IT literacy will be a necessity for almost every profession. There will be so many positions that require it, it will not be feasible to fill these jobs with men only. We, CzechITas, want to show women and girls what they are able to accomplish with technology. Whether they choose the IT field as their profession, this will be their own free choice.