Closing the Gender Gap at Sea: The Celebrity Cruises Team

Celebrity Cruises has been making history for years, creating opportunities for women in an industry that has been dominated by their male counterparts for far too long. Lisa Luttof-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, has focused on closing the gender gap at sea since she took office.

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

She believes that having women at the table is key to any organization. She has been a part of Celebrity since 2006, and “paying it forward” by helping other women find their place is something she’s passionate about.

Her commitment to making this happen can be seen across the fleet. Since she became President and CEO, Lisa has increased the percentage of women on the bridge from 3 to 23%. Only a 2% of mariners in the world are women, which makes these ladies and their efforts to carve a place for a more diverse and inclusive workforce even more admirable. These are remarkable women changing the maritime industry and creating opportunities to close the enormous gender gap that exists.

Captain Kate McCue, the first female American Captain of a cruise ship, shares her life as a Captain on Instagram, hoping to get other women interested in life at sea. Nathaly Alban, the first woman to serve as Captain in the Galapagos Islands, has loved sailing since she was a kid and feels that life on land is too simple in contrast. For Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, the first female cadet to emerge from a partnership between Celebrity Cruises and the Regional Maritime University in Ghana, sailing is a dream come true. One she has worked for tirelessly.

For relentlessly working towards closing the gender gap, making history and encouraging other women to join the maritime industry and help reshape it, we honor the women of Celebrity Cruises with the first-ever Hall of Fame Women Ensemble Award.

In 2020 we honor the unstoppable Celebrity Cruises team with the first ever Hall of Fame Ensemble Award

In 2020 we honor the unstoppable Celebrity Cruises team with the first ever Hall of Fame Ensemble Award

Closing the gender gap at sea starts with the CEO

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises is closing the gender gap at sea

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises is closing the gender gap at sea

Red Shoe Movement – Why do women make great leaders? 

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo – I really don’t like to generalize about anyone, including women. What I will say about the women who are the right and great leaders is that they do the same things any other great leader does: They accomplish great things. They have a vision. They get results. They transform their business. But they do it differently because they bring the attributes to the position that are unique to being a woman.  Empathy, emotional intelligence, a higher level of holistic thinking to the problem, diverse voices and thoughts at the table. And leading with their hearts, not just their heads, which encourages discretionary effort from those who work under their leadership – and that’s priceless.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

LLP – My first male champion was the SVP of Sales & Marketing at Royal Caribbean International, Dan Hanrahan. He came into the company and identified me as a person (who happens to be a woman) with great potential. He challenged me to utilize my talents more broadly and moved me into marketing. While I didn’t believe so at the time, it was the best thing that happened in my career and was the beginning of a long and winding journey and experience that all contributed to my ability to become the President & CEO of Celebrity Cruises.

Dan was also my champion by promoting me to my first Corporate Officer role as VP of Onboard Revenue for Celebrity and two years later to SVP of Hotel Operations for Celebrity. He not only gave me different opportunities within Royal Caribbean, but he also continued to champion me after he moved into the President & CEO of Celebrity role. He actually held the same position I hold now before he left the company in 2012. I will forever be grateful to him and he is still a friend and mentor.

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women?

LLP – My first experience with being the first woman to hold a position in the company was in 2005 when I was appointed as VP, Onboard Revenue. I was also the first woman to lead Hotel Operations for Celebrity, the first woman to lead the Marine and Hotel Operations for Royal Caribbean, the first woman President & CEO in our company and C-Suite and the first and only woman to run a Global Marine Organization in our industry (I lead this organization as well as Celebrity Cruises). While I have been with the company for 35 years, it wasn’t until 2005 and the first operational role that I realized that gender inequality was an issue. A big issue. Ever since that day I have felt it is my obligation, responsibility and opportunity to help women advance in areas of our industry and operation that have been historically held by men.

The best example I have of that is that since I have held this position (5 years) we have raised the number of women on our bridges across the fleet from 3% to 23%. Only 2% of mariners in the world are women, so this is a huge accomplishment and my team deserves all the credit for it. We hired the first American woman to ever be the Captain of a cruise ship (she still is) and the first African woman (Ghana) to work on the bridge of a cruise ship. Our efforts in finding great women for our bridges is being celebrated on International Women’s Day (March 8th), when we will offer a barrier-breaking and history-making cruise with an all-female bridge team on Celebrity Edge. No one has ever done this before, and no one else is currently able to do this. We have led the way and the industry. What better day to celebrate this as we celebrate women around the world and all they have accomplished?

Don't miss Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's crown-jewel accomplishment: designing a new ship class: Edge

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Cruises

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Edge

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Edge

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women?

KMC – It is important to highlight and celebrate the “wins,” whether it be small, like conducting their first briefing, or substantial, like performing their first ship departure maneuver.  It builds confidence in the individual and solidarity in the team.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

KMC – Our Senior Vice President of Global Marine Operations, Captain Patrik Dahlgren, and our Associate Vice President Celebrity Marine Operations, Captain Manolis Alevropoulos, who are both fathers to daughters are also leaders and peers who I look up to because of the incredible impact they are making in the Maritime industry by actively recruiting women for positions that were not accessible to them in the past.  As fellow captains, they are pillars of support, career sounding bars and by introducing more women on the bridge, they are bringing diversity and creativity to our teams. This makes my job more productive and enjoyable.

RSM – What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

KMC – The most eye-opening lesson was to be myself, but in order to be myself I had to discover who I was in the first place. That took time and as we evolve as individuals. I’m finding that I’m learning “me” every day.

Nathaly Alban, Captain, XPloration

Nathaly Alban, Captain, Xploration

Nathaly Alban, Captain, Xploration

RSM – How have women helped you along your career? 

NA – My mother was the first woman who has helped me throughout my career, she is the one who trusted me when I decided to be a merchant sailor and supported me in each of the decisions I made. After her, I have met very few women who belong to my operational area, but the few that I have known have taught me that perseverance is the mother of success.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

NA – My champion is my father, who with his constant unconditional support and great patience taught me that a person’s wealth is in his humility. He could never fulfil all his dreams, but he has something that I have not seen in any other person, an ability to forgive and forget easily. He doesn’t know much about ships, but he listens to me carefully every time I tell him something. He has art in his hands, he is a carpenter by profession, and he likes what he does. That is what he has always instilled in me, to love what you do. He is my champion and the advice he gives me has improved over the years.

RSM – If you could suggest one action that organizations can take to accelerate the representation of women at the top, what would it be?

NA – Allowing them to develop their leadership talents within each workgroup, encouraging them to take the leadership of workgroups and, above all, recognizing their achievements.

Closing the gender gap at sea in Africa

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Cruises

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Edge

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Edge

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing towards closing the gender gap at sea and level the playing field for women?

NTA – I am acting as an ambassador for Celebrity Cruises to Regional Maritime University (RMU), Accra, Ghana. So, I mentor young girls at my university in seafaring careers. I raise awareness of the maritime industry by organizing campaigns to reach out to girls in secondary schools. I’m doing this with the vision of closing the huge gender gap that exists in the seafaring programs at RMU. I help Female Graduates from the RMU to gain employment onboard ships; so far, three girls from RMU have been employed by Celebrity Cruises. All thanks to Celebrity Cruises.

I have also organized various “WoMentoring” programs (women mentoring women) where I have connected about 40 girls in my community with women leaders and seasoned professionals with the experience necessary to influence and inspire the younger generations. I have assisted in organizing various women empowering conferences within my community, where I also distributed 1000 copies of the motivational book, ‘Power of the Mind’ by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, to young girls.

RSM – What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

NTA – I have learnt to be patient, determined and never to give up. Perseverance is the key lesson here because it makes me stay focused on the goal my eyes are fixed upon and not to worry about the temporal struggle and pain that will eventually pass over time.

RSM – If you could suggest one action that women could take to accelerate their career growth, what would it be?

NTA – Women need to work hard, persistently and with self-confidence.

 

Cesar Cernuda: Dissolving the glass ceiling fostering full inclusion

Cesar Cernuda’s role as President at Microsoft Latin America and Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Corporation has made him one of the most influential Hispanic leaders and a key player in dissolving the glass ceiling by fostering full inclusion at all levels of the organization.

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

Cernuda began his journey in Microsoft more than 22 years ago, serving as president in the Asia Pacific region. In his current position he supervises a business that includes 35 offices in 21 countries with more than 2,500 employees and 80,000 business partners. In 2019 he was named co-executive sponsor of the Women at Microsoft Employee Resource Group.

Cernuda’s key area of focus is to support the Latin American Region to accelerate its digital transformation with the help of AI.

He graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Marketing from ESIC University in Pozuelo de Alarcón, Spain. He then moved on to complete the Management and Development Program (PDD) at the IESE Business School at University of Navarra,  and a Leadership for Senior Executives program from Harvard’s Business School.  Among other awards, he was honored with the Ponce de León ‘Executive of the year 2019’ award presented by the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce.

For relentlessly working towards full inclusion at all levels of decision-making at Microsoft and their partners, we honor Cesar Cernuda with the 2020 Hall of Fame.

 Red Shoe Movement — What are some of the key traits of a great leader?

Cesar Cernuda Microsoft Hall of Fame

Cesar Cernuda Microsoft Hall of Fame 2020- Fostering full inclusion at all levels of leadership.

Cesar Cernuda — I think the central trait of a leader is serving others. True leadership is not about being at the center of anything, quite the contrary, a leader strives for others to succeed. There are many ways in which great leaders achieve this but there is always that commitment and dedication to helping others achieve their goals and find their best selves. Personally, I believe that curiosity, empathy and a passion for learning really help, particularly when you realize being a leader is a journey and not a static final state.

Fostering full inclusion to help great leaders arise

RSM — Why do women make great leaders?

CC — One of the most important and perhaps complex things about leadership is the fact that there is no single formula for it. Of course, we can see some common trends like empathy and creativity, but leadership goes beyond a list of preconceived qualities; it is not designed but developed, and true leaders are constantly learning and adjusting.

Every time we believe someone can or cannot be a leader we are operating on a fixed mindset and pretty much condemning our venture to fail from the get-go. Personally, I don’t believe men are good for some things and women are better at others. I think people have unique talents and the important thing is to not reduce them to any specific set of traits attributed to gender, race or any other category. Understanding that no group could ever possibly lay claim to such a subtle, human and powerful quality allows true leaders to drive success for others. It is vital that we realize that full diversity of backgrounds –gender being one of the most crucial– is the only field from where great leaders can arise.

RSM — How open is your door for your associates to approach you and what’s the best way to do it? What do you expect people to come with when they ask for a few minutes to see you?

CC — I know people in leadership positions want people to be able to approach them as directly as possible, and it’s crucial to communicate this, but it’s also vital for leaders to develop a structure people can trust. Particularly if you are part of a big organization. It’s always positive to know a leader is aware of an issue and is open to direct engagement, but even the most well-intentioned of statements will pale in comparison to structural action.

Having said that, whenever someone approaches me, I really make an effort to not have a preconceived idea of what they need. Even if it’s someone I work directly with and I can probably imagine what they’re there for. In the end, an open door counts for little without an open mind. Perhaps the only thing I would expect from people is for them to be as honest as possible with whatever it is they need; if there is no honesty it becomes very difficult to solve any issue or situation. With this in mind, it’s crucial to make people feel comfortable to express whatever is on their minds, no matter their position or requirement.

Microsoft women with red shoes

Supporting #RedShoeTuesday in the office or at external conferences and meetings the Central America team of Microsoft fosters full inclusion every week- In this picture, bottom row, second from left, Patricia Mejia, a 2019 Red Shoe Leader Awardee. Second from right, Gracia Rossi, Sr.Segment Leader Central America and Venezuela, both, career-long inclusion champions.

Diversity as our reality: making inclusion happen

RSM — What would you say are the most effective ways to get men to become female champions?

CC — I think we need to understand that it will never be enough to assume inclusion will just happen by itself. Although there is undoubtedly a positive trend in this regard, men need to take this as a personal commitment and take concrete steps towards this, particularly in the business world. Having a diverse team needs to be a priority for anyone who seeks to bring success to their projects. That might be easier said than done as sometimes we don’t realize that we surround ourselves with people who think like us, that is undoubtedly a weakness in any team. As men, not only do we need women in our teams, we need women to lead us in order to achieve success.

Specifically, at Microsoft, we work to get men to be female champions, by educating and encouraging male allies to advocate for, mentor or sponsor women during their career journey. Also, in many cases, like our LATAM region, there are male sponsors of our female employee resource groups who provide perspective as well as advocacy for the goals and objectives of the group.

Cesar Cernuda inspirational quote

Cesar Cernuda inspirational quote

RSM — In your experience, how does having a diverse and inclusive team of executives impact your bottom line?

CC — One must understand that diversity is not an ideal or an imagined state; diversity is simply the best description of our realityFor any company of any size, working within any industry, be it locally or globally, the market they operate in is always a diverse one. Once you realize this, it becomes clear that success and innovation can only be driven by developing a business that reflects such reality, and the only way to build such a business is through an inclusive workforce. 45% of my immediate team is female and the diversity of perspectives makes for richer, more effective leadership. You want to be relevant, successful and thrive? You have to be inclusive.

RSM — At your level of responsibility, what do you spend most of your time on? 

CC — To be honest I try to spend my time learning as much as I can. I’ve been fortunate to have global positions within Microsoft and even though this has allowed me to live and get to know different cultures it has also implied I spend a lot of time traveling. I have always been inspired to help others, so in a way, I am lucky to say that I love to spend time with people and learn about them. Specifically, I like to get to know the people I work with, what their motivations are and the challenges they face. In many cases, you end up talking about more than just work and while it’s crucial to respect people’s privacy and whether they want to share something or not, I personally like to get to know my team as much as I can in order to do as much as possible to aid them in their careers and, therefore, in their lives. I always tell my teams that by “getting the people equation right” you will get the results you need.

Ways to overcome inclusion barriers in tech
Red Shoe Tuesday at Microsoft

Weekly social media postings supporting #RedShoeTuesday #RedTieTuesday are one of the ways in which the organization showcases the commitment of its talent to diversity and inclusion

More women in tech and innovation

RSM — What is Microsoft doing specifically to attract more girls to STEM?

CC — There are some good initiatives that we’ve worked on. One of the best ones has to be DigiGirlz, part of our YouthSpark initiative that aims to help students and youngsters develop the skills they need to lead us into the future. Girls Who Code is another organization we partner with around the US to encourage young girls to learn computer programming. Both organizations play a very important role in terms of exposure that can encourage girls to get into technology. Getting more women into tech is vital if the industry wishes to continue innovating. Through these and other initiatives, we have continued to increase our female representation, but we acknowledge there is still an untapped potential including half of the world’s population in this regard. For an industry like ours, mostly dependent on ingenuity and passion, this is simply untenable.

RSM — In terms of leadership lessons, is there a particular mistake or failure that you now “cherish” because of what you learned from it?

CC — Of course, I have made many mistakes during my career and I still make them and will make them. However, in order to learn, you first need to be humble enough to acknowledge your mistakes. It is not always easy to acknowledge or even recognize mistakes as it requires courage, self-confidence, and humility. One of my biggest lessons was years ago when I started managing teams. I hired a person who was not qualified for a specific position. He didn’t like the job, was being overworked and was not having a good time – naturally, he was also not delivering on job expectations. My team eventually approached me and pointed out that I was not doing my job by keeping a talented individual in the wrong place. They opened my eyes by sharing how my lack of leadership and decision-making ability was affecting everybody since the whole team depended on delivering those. As he was reassigned I learned how important it is as a leader to ensure you have the right people doing the right job and how to help different individuals work together as a team.

Explore key diversity and inclusion strategies at leading companies

 

2020 Perfect Vision on Gender Equality

The year is 2020. The time is now to make gender equality a reality. Here’s how you can engage with likeminded individuals around the world.

Just as the World Economic Forum set Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators “to create global and national public-private collaboration platforms (…) to address current gender gaps and reshape gender parity for the future,” many organizations have set their own gender equality goals for 2020.  For our company it’s a big year as well. With the motto: 2020 Perfect Vision on Gender Equality, we are rolling out the 3rd annual “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas,” a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality global initiative.

We've been Ringing the Bell on the 7 Seas, a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality Global Initiative since 2018

We’ve been Ringing the Bell on the 7 Seas, a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality Global Initiative since 2018

Why do we ring the bell for gender equality?

A few years ago, UN Women, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges, IFC, Women in ETFs and the World Federation of Exchanges created the “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” to “raise awareness of the pivotal role that the private sector plays in advancing gender equality to achieve SDG 5.” (United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.) With this mission in mind, every year for International Women’s Day, March 8, (or close to that date) women ring the bell at stock exchanges worldwide.

Considering that the Red Shoe Movement’s mission is to accelerate the representation of women at the highest levels of leadership, it was only natural for us to support and echo the UN’s initiative with one of our own.

Ringing the bell in Tel Aviv

Ringing the bell in Tel Aviv

Ringing the Bell on the 7 Seas

I’m sure you’ve heard that water represents 71% of our beloved planet Earth. This invaluable fluid substance never sits still. It’s constantly moving dynamically connecting us, nurturing us and making life possible. It’s the world’s connective tissue bar none, a true example of a global force with the power to erase distances and differences, and to bridge all gaps.

And since water has long been associated with emotion and intuition (starting with the Greek philosophers Empedocles and Plato,) it has also been associated with the feminine. No wonder then, that we call our initiative “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas,” the best way we know to communicate that gender equality is an issue that affects us all, and only by having men and women working side by side will we achieve success.

On International Women’s Day we echo the UN’s Ring the Bell for Gender Equality. We extend an immersive, hands-on invitation for everyone to grab their bell and join the worldwide conversation. We will be ringing the bell once again on the 7 seas and the 7 continents with a large number of partner organizations and millions of individuals. 

RSM Gender Bell 2020 commissioned to visual artist Scherezade Garcia

RSM Gender Bell 2020 commissioned to visual artist Scherezade Garcia

Debuting our 20/20 RSM Bell

From the beginning of our initiative the bell has played a key role. From the CEO of the company to guests, executives, associates all ceremony participants are invited to take turns ringing it.

We felt it was time to elevate the bell to an art piece and in doing so, conveying the message that this is no ordinary object but the symbol of a collective call to action. To achieve that, we commissioned Scherezade García, a unique visual artist with the kind of synergy you can only dream about. Born in the Caribbean, in the Dominican Republic, Scherezade moved to the island of Manhattan where she resided until years ago she moved to Brooklyn. Both the sea and the issue of inclusion have been a constant thread in her artistic exploration, culminating recently in her Liquid Highway series. For our project Scherezade created Chromatic Current, a painting that now graces our limited-edition bell collection.

Scherezade Garcia with RSM 20/20 Bell

Scherezade Garcia with RSM 20/20 Bell

“The sea is the liquid highway and the keeper of our ancestral memory. It carries our stories, our DNA, our memories, and our history. With this project I aim to imply the universal connection and the fluidity of our identities and our lives,” said Sherezade about her work. “The RSM 20/20 Bell is like a brush that I dipped inside my paint and it came out dressed up by the sea. When people ring it, they are calling upon all the stories that we weave together when we sail through the planet’s oceans. The sound has the remarkable power to unify us, men and women pulling together towards gender equality.”

Grab the Bell for a Perfect Vision on Gender Equality

Grab the Bell for a Perfect Vision on Gender Equality

Ringing the Bell on the 7 Seas with You!

Our Smart Lead & Celebrating Partners

For this year’s exciting celebration, we are joined by Honeywell, our Smart Lead, ranked 77 in the Fortune 500 list, a company that produces commercial and consumer products, engineering services and aerospace systems. And by our amazing Celebrating Partners: Microsoft, Ultimate Software, Lexus, the Panama Canal Authority and the California Maritime Academy.

Gender equality for our time

You can already see how for the new generation, the one Greta Thurnberg leads (more so now that she’s Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year,) gender equality is a given. Young people today don’t even understand why we need to have this conversation. Inclusion is part of their make-up and gender fluidity one of the tenets that support their understanding of inclusivity. Yet, until there’s a full generational replacement in the workplace, several different generations will continue to work side by side for many years to come. So, the challenge of reaching gender equality in pay and in leadership positions will remain one we all need to address.

“Ringing the Bell on the 7 Seas” is a fun, yet truly effective way to raise global awareness while encouraging everyone to actively engage with one of the key issues of our century. Join us, our Smart Lead and Celebrating Partners by grabbing your bell and wearing your red shoes and ties. Let’s make some noise together. Sound carries strong and clear across the oceans.

Shantaa Foster rings the bell for gender equality

Shantaa Foster rings the bell for gender equality

Our Founding Sponsor 

Joining forces with Celebrity Cruises was a no-brainer. A company led by Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, a CEO set on changing the industry by making gender equality a priority, its ships started ringing the bell in every corner of the globe with the Red Shoe Movement on March 8, 2018. That first year, my team and I joined Lisa onboard Celebrity Summit at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale while the rest of the fleet as well as Royal Caribbean Offices joined from their own locations.

In 2019, we boarded the Celebrity Reflection anchored in front of Cayman Islands in the Caribbean Sea and then took a small tender to reach the Celebrity Edge, which was strategically positioned only a couple of miles away. After leading the morning bell-ringing ceremonies on each ship, we sailed on the Edge to Fort Lauderdale and took part of one of the Red Parties that Celebrity hosted on each vessel. We were joined by Ultimate Software, our Tech lead, a company that offers Human Resources software solutions, who carried out bell-ringing ceremonies in 18 locations from Singapore to Toronto.

In 2020, we recognize Celebrity’s leadership with the first RSM Hall of Fame Women Ensemble Award honoring four of their leaders: Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Captain Kate McCue, First North American female captain of a cruise ship, Captain Nathaly Alban, First Ecuadorian Captain of a cruise ship and Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, First West African Bridge Officer.

 

How to get more girls into STEM & keep them in tech careers

For the last few years there’s been an increased focus on how to get more girls into STEM fields. But that’s only the first step.  But if organizations want to be successful in the not so far away future, keeping young women interested in tech careers is just as critical.

Programs to get girls into coding, engineering, robotics and other STEM fields are beginning to make a difference not only in the way young women view learning about technology, but also in them considering a job in the tech world after graduating.

Start early to get more girls interested in STEM. Photo Credit: Andy Kelly- Unsplash

Start early to get more girls interested in STEM. Photo Credit: Andy Kelly- Unsplash

Wanna Know How to Get More into STEM? Early Introduction to Technology

Some studies show that toys can teach children important skills. Yet, contrary to what you might think, it seems that toys are actually getting more gendered than ever.  Girls continue to be targeted with more and more princesses that foster stereotypes that tend to stick with young girls, and boys with building sets that tend to encourage engineering skills.

According to Reshma Saujan of Girls Who Code, girls are “afraid of trying something they might not excel at right away.” This makes it easy for them to lose interest in things like coding, which is a process of trial and error where mistakes are not only unavoidable, but completely necessary. Teaching girls to be brave from an early age, to allow themselves to make mistakes and try new things, seems to be a key ingredient in keeping them interested.

Parents and educators play an essential part in keeping girls interested and helping them develop both skills and confidence. You can help by encouraging a balance in your kids’ toys and choosing activities you can do as a family on a regular basis. Remember, it’s not about taking all “girly stuff” away, but rather about introducing a larger variety of options and truly sending the message that anything is possible if they work hard and persevere.

Educators will have to find new ways to help girls connect with STEM subjects, providing good role models, creating programs that cater to their particular interests. They should also encourage girls to keep trying, not shy away from competition and to use their voice. The “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t working and, unsurprisingly, girls need to be given work they can be passionate about to be lured out of their comfort zone.

Offer girls toys that encourage building things- Photo Credit: Rick Mason- Unsplash

Offer girls toys that encourage building things- Photo Credit: Rick Mason- Unsplash

Closing the “Interest Cliff”

But it’s not just about integrating girls into programs that have been largely built for boys. It’s necessary to develop better computer programs in schools with different options that appeal to a more diverse group of students, with projects that girls can be invested and involved in. Studies show that girls do stick around when projects are personally relevant.

A Microsoft-conducted survey found that young girl’s interest in STEM fields peaks when they’re 11 or 12, and drops significantly between 15 and 16. This “interest cliff” happens in some places around the world where young women get the message that these fields are not for them.

So, you can help avoid this interest drop by encouraging your girls to:

  • Plan vacations that have a volunteering component such us building homes, schools, etc. Organizations such as TECHO are ideal.
  • Organize trekking trips that include geological or botanical exploration. They can prepare ahead of time information about the sites they will visit.
  • Visit hands-on science museums.
  • Visit engineering-heavy plants such as NASA’s Space Center in Houston, Boeing in Seattle, etc.
  • Find conferences and movies with inspiring female protagonists. (Hidden figures, for example)
  • Look for programs where they can meet other teens who are also interested in robotics, engineering, programming, etc.

Stay involved and reward your daughters’ efforts. Remind them often how important it is to try even when the outcome isn’t always successful. And even most importantly, encourage them to keep trying when they make mistakes.

How to get more girls into STEM fields. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Digital Content Production- Unsplash

How to get more girls into STEM fields. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Digital Content Production- Unsplash

Game Changers to Get More Girls Into STEM 

Creating opportunities for young girls to meet women to look up to is also ideal. Some studies show that girls are 17% more likely to feel powerful working on STEM activities if they personally know a woman in these fields. Finding motivation not just in education, but in the future ahead.

It’s encouraging to find that programs looking to get more girls into STEM and hooked on coding from an early age have become more and more common, with platforms like the Girls Who Code Movement, Canada Learning Code, Microsoft’s DigiGirlz and the African Girls Can Code Initiative by UN Women, an Africa-wide program that aims to  empower girls through digital literacy and coding.

There’s also Kode with Klossy, a scholarship program created by model Karlie Kloss sending girls aged 13-18 to coding camps where they can be mentored by female leaders in tech.

And social media movements such as #ILookLikeASurgeon and #ILookLikeAnEngineer are also sources of inspiration.

Initiatives like Girls in ICT Day and the She Can STEM look to empower young women with an interest in STEM fields and encourage them to stick around, introducing them to role models in their fields of interest. These success stories can sometimes make the difference between choosing a career in these fields or giving up.

A New Kind of Education in Tech

Some software schools are trying to find new ways of tearing down inclusion barriers and shift the numbers in their classrooms and, hopefully, the workforce.

To achieve this, the Holberstone School of Software Engineering, for example, has an automated application process built on a challenge that can take 8 to 80 hours to complete. It’s built for beginners and ignores the applicants’ background, ethnicity, gender and experience to focus only on the motivation of the person taking on the challenge.

To get more girls into STEM fields and help them stay in tech careers will take a village. There are some hopeful signs that we are taking steps in the right direction.

Tearing Down Inclusion Barriers in the Workplace to Narrow the Gender Gap in Tech

One of the biggest challenges the tech world currently faces is coming up with new ways to narrow the gender gap that exists at big tech companies, both in executive positions and programming. Tearing down inclusion barriers is key to create a world we are excited about.

The lack of diversity in executive positions and programming is a noteworthy problem because it means that these voices and their invaluable insights are not being heard. Change is taking time. According to some studies, the stats for women who earn degrees in computer science are still pretty low. The numbers are even lower for young women who choose to go into computing jobs and even worse for executive positions in Silicon Valley companies.

But while the talent is out there, it needs to be lured out of its hiding place and nurtured and seduced with a brighter future for a more diverse tech world. One with possibilities for young women with an interest in fields like programming.

Tearing down inclusion barriers to narrow the gender gap in technology. Photo Credit: Karl Pawlowicz -Unsplash

Tearing down inclusion barriers to narrow the gender gap in technology. Photo Credit: Karl Pawlowicz -Unsplash

The Importance of Tearing Down Inclusion Barriers

Leveling the playfield in technology and creating a future we can be excited about has a lot to do with tearing down inclusion barriers that have allowed a pretty homogeneous group of people to occupy the big offices at tech companies for years. These barriers have kept others from reaching their full potential and holding progress back.

According to Monique Morrow, president and co-founder of Humanized Internet, it’s more important than ever for people in the technology world to make sure their teams are “diverse in thought and reflect the recipients or benefactors of the technology”. Emphasizing that it’s important to shine a light not only on women, “but also people of color and various diverse backgrounds via film, social media”.

More diverse teams not only serve better an organizations’ clients but they can help prevent unconscious bias within programming and even AI. (Think about recent controversies about facial recognition programs racial biases due to the homogenous  team of programmers who trained the algorithm.)

So it’s critical that organizations make Diversity and Inclusion a real priority and set specific interventions to overcome implicit biases when hiring and promoting.

Tearing down inclusion barriers. Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle Unsplash

Tearing down inclusion barriers. Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle Unsplash

 The Rise of Remote Work

Remote work is among the many ways in which technology has made life easier. There are some simpler, positive aspects of working from home, but there’s more to it than comfort or avoiding long commutes and traffic. A remote workforce can also play a critical role in tearing down social, geographic and physical barriers, making it easier for more diverse teams to come together naturally and for team leaders to avoid any issues of predisposition they may consciously or unconsciously have.

Working remotely also creates job opportunities for people who in the past would not have been considered for the role.  It pays no mind to location and allows a special flexibility in schedules that, in many ways, is unique to our day and age. This also makes it possible to focus on the work that’s being delivered and the proficiency of employees.

For women who take up on the role of primary caregiver of their families, remote work can open a world of possibilities and make it easier for them to grow and compete in the fast-evolving tech world.

It's important to focus on narrowing the gender gap to include more women in tech. Photo Credit: Marvin Kuhn- Unsplash

It’s important to focus on narrowing the gender gap to include more women in tech. Photo Credit: Marvin Kuhn- Unsplash

 Digital Fluency and Alternative Recruitment

 While women are still fighting for their much deserved spot in the world of tech, the tools and initiatives to tear down barriers and help companies operate outside the stereotypes are becoming more readily available. Finally, the recruitment process has started to change to give way to a more inclusive workforce.

Increasing number of companies have adopted automated processes in recruitment, employing algorithms that eliminate biases. These programs overlook variables like gender, past titles, years of experience and even names and last names making it possible for candidates to be hired based on skills alone. Companies like tilr.com go as far as skipping the interviewing process to provide its clients with background and skill ratings of their hires.

This makes it paramount for women to work on honing their tech skills and mastering “digital fluency”. The extent to which women can comfortably embrace new technologies plays a key role in narrowing the gender gap. Female leaders can and have thrived in the business, but education is key in the process of reaching those spots.

Together we should work on reducing the gender gap in tech. Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder-Unsplash

Together we should work on reducing the gender gap in tech. Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder-Unsplash

A future we wish to have

Creating a more inclusive workforce is, not surprisingly, a crucial aspect of creating a world we are excited about. Until there’s a better balance in the world of tech, the views, opinions and needs of a considerable part of the population (half in the case of women) will continue to be ignored in a digital era that needs them.

However, there’s hope. Hope in education, platforms and companies that have what it takes to change and inspire change in others. With opportunities being created in spite of how easy it may be to feel hopeless sometimes. It’s a process. An ongoing fight.

Morrow sees opportunities in spite of how easy it may be to “paint a dystopian world”, and she seems to feel optimistic about the future of young women in tech in fields like healthcare, cybersecurity and privacy: “There is so much to do and I am personally excited about the possibilities to truly create the world we wish to have not the one we would like to avoid!”