Discussions about empowering women in tech come to a boiling point around International Women’s Day, and we’re taking advantage of this incredible momentum to bring you an interview with Helena Torras, CEO and Co-Founder at B-wom. The Barcelona startup has built an app to help women take control of their own health, led by an inspirational female entrepreneur who is proving to us every day that women can do and have whatever they want. We caught up with Helena at 4YFN where she shared with us her thoughts on why women need to be at the forefront of technology, why there is a lack of women in tech in the first place, and what we can do about it.
We all know why technology needs women. Women hold up half the digital “sky”: they make up 50% of all tech users, and they bring a unique perspective to tech that is indispensable for the success of a company. But why is it important for women to be there in tech?
The future is digital. And the future is female. We have to be where the decisions are taken! Everything is about technology, and if we are not there, we will take a step back. That’s why women have to be in tech. If we want to change things, we have to be where the power is.
What do you think we can do in the long run to promote the presence of women in tech? There are lots of different obstacles keeping women from entering into tech careers. What do you think we can do for future generations?
We have a lot to do. First of all, we need role models. We need women who have been down that road, women who have failed and succeeded. We need to see them working every day, being happy and showing us that they can have anything they want. It’s not about being successful all the time. It’s about doing what you want to do.
Second, we have to start with kids. I have two children, a boy and a girl. I signed both of them up for a robotics class when they were three. My daughter was the only girl in the class. All the others were boys, and they had sisters that were at ballet classes. And that is the parents’ fault. Girls and the boys are already being treated differently at such a young age. Of course, the fact that my daughter has taken a robotics class doesn’t mean that she’s going to end up in tech. But she will understand technology, and she will have the option to decide if technology is something that she’s interested in. Otherwise, as a parent, you’re not giving her the opportunity to choose, you’re making the decision for her.
Thirdly, we have to break the stigmas. When you’re watching a movie, and one of the characters is a woman in technology, she’s depicted as a weirdo, as someone very strange and unlike everyone else. Come one! Right now we’re at 4 Years From Now, we’re all in technology and we’re all completely normal! So why are movies making role models look and act different? It influences our perception of women in tech in such a bad way. And this has to change.
We also need to change the language that we use. I’ve talked to recruiters who told me that most of their job ads for tech profiles only get applications from men. It’s because of the way that the job description is written. Women don’t feel like they’re a fit for the position, they think it’s not what they’re looking for, because it doesn’t appeal to them. And it’s a huge problem because tech companies need women! If you have a diverse team, your product and your technology will be better, that’s a fact.
The future is digital. And the future is female. We have to be where the decisions are taken!
How do you tackle this? How do you make sure B-wom is a welcoming place for women to work?
We are five people altogether, four women and a man. And he’s a feminist! Everyone in our company believes in our mission. When you’re joining us, you’re not applying for a job, you’re doing it because you really want to change healthcare for women. Everyone is responsible for and empowered to do their own work and manage their own hours. We have a great culture, we love spending time together in the office. When we recruit, we not only look for skills, we look for someone who is a great fit for the team. We also believe in self-care, in putting yourself first. We like transparency, honesty and we want you to make your own decisions.
Did you have any female role models to look up to when you were starting your journey?
I have so many, I’d rather not try to list all the names. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet amazing women, each one with a different energy, each a role model who has inspired me by doing what they wanted to do. For me it’s not only about success. It’s about waking up to do what you want to do every single day. And when you have these women supporting you, that changes everything. There is a real sorority in the community. Men usually say women don’t help each other, but I disagree. The support I get from other women gives me the power to keep on fighting every day. I have to do it for them too!
I should also mention my father, who, growing up, always supported me and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do. He never treated me as a girl. He told me to go and fight for my dreams.
All the eyes are on women, and when everyone is looking at you, you have the opportunity to change things.
Do you think it’s tougher, being a woman?
On the contrary. I think that today, for us, in our sector, it’s an opportunity to be a woman. Everyone is focusing on what women are doing. If you take advantage of that… No one has treated me badly because of being a woman. I had opportunities that I would not have had if I wasn’t a woman. The tough part is that when it comes to business, people tend to like things that they can relate to – it’s human nature – and since the decision makers are still mostly men, they don’t always understand what we’re trying to do. But there are more men fighting for and supporting women today. All the eyes are on women, and when everyone is looking at you, you have the opportunity to change things.
Read more about what we can do to encourage young girls to get into technology!