International Girls In ICT Day 2024

This International Girls in ICT Day, Thursday 25th April, is focused on the theme of leadership and we’re joining the celebrations by inviting Here I Am founders Laura Scanlon, CEO and Vitória Silva, COO to share their tips for women and girls joining the industry.

Girls in ICT body

Here’s what Laura and Vi had to say when the team at Here I Am interviewed them on their experience of being a woman in ICT.

As a woman leader in ICT, what advice would you give to young women wanting to break into the field?

Vitória: I'd love to share some friendly advice with young women looking to break into the field:

  • Find mentors: Find mentors - regardless of gender — who can offer guidance, support, and insights from their experiences in the industry. Mentorship can be a real game-changer, helping you navigate challenges, make wise decisions and progress in your career.
  • Embrace lifelong learning: The world of ICT is always evolving, so it's important to keep learning and growing. Stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, trends, and developments through ongoing education, certifications, and online courses.
  • Challenge stereotypes: Don't let outdated stereotypes about women in ICT hold you back. Be confident in your skills, expertise and achievements.
  • Support other women: Celebrate the successes of other women in the field, share resources and opportunities and advocate for gender diversity and inclusion in ICT.

What improvements have you seen for ICT opportunities for women and girls since you began working in the field?

Laura: My career has focused on improving ICT opportunities for the world’s most excluded women and girls since the beginning of the ICT4D revolution in circa 2014.

Then, anything we did involved giving girls phones and teaching them how to use them. But their progress outpaced our training, and soon they were one, two, many steps ahead of us, ingeniously hacking their way forward. Then if a girl had a mobile phone, she was perceived to be a commercial sex worker.

Now, largely girls have phones, and every day I’m amazed with what is achieved using a hand-me-down phone and a few dollars of data credit.

What unique challenges have you faced as a woman leader in the ICT industry, and how have you overcome them?

Vitória: As a woman leader in the ICT industry, I've faced some unique challenges, starting with the underrepresentation of women, especially in leadership roles. I advocate for fairness in these positions, not just within ICT but across all industries. Laura and I have been fortunate to connect with incredible women in this field, forming a network of mutual support.

Another significant challenge I've encountered is navigating biases and stereotypes prevalent in the ICT sector. There's often an assumption that women are less competent than men and/or that certain roles are better suited for men.

At Here I Am, we consistently challenge these stereotypes by delivering excellent work and striving to be part of the solution. Since day one, we've taken concrete steps to promote diversity and inclusion, addressing these challenges head-on and creating a workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.

Have you ever felt imposter syndrome and how have you overcome it?

Laura: I don’t have a degree, yet I’ve lectured at Harvard, Oxford and MIT. Always wearing disco pants and Nike AF1s. So, initially, I definitely felt imposter syndrome compared to my academically high achieving peers. At first I equated this to being less, but soon I realised it's not less — it’s different. Now I know that half the things I have done, I probably wouldn't have believed were possible if I had all the knowledge that other people have.

As humans, in our resistive state, we can slip into reference anxiety - ‘what does everyone have that I don’t?’. Instead ask ‘What do I have that’s unique? And how can that add value to this problem we are facing?’.

Imposter syndrome isn’t always a bad thing. It’s natural to find yourself in situations that you aren't 100% equipped to deal with. Imposter syndrome can be a self-reflective nudge to recognise what's missing, and to bolster your skillset or team into an even stronger place. It can provoke growth and progress.

What work-related accomplishment are you most proud of?

Vitória: I can't choose just one, but let me highlight three aspects that truly fill me with pride as Here I Am's COO:

  • Founding and shaping Here I Am: Collaborating closely with Laura as the COO and co-founder has been an extraordinary journey. Together with our team, we've built something truly special — an organisation where collaboration, ethics, creativity and commitment on making a positive impact are ingrained in our every action.
  • Operations & processes as enablers of great work: Every day, we strive to enhance our operations, processes, and ways of working. We remain flexible and adaptable because these elements are designed to facilitate our mission and uphold our values. I'm particularly proud of the recognition our operations and processes have received from the partners we collaborate with — it's a testament to our commitment to excellence.
  • B Corp Certification: Attaining B Corp certification marks a significant milestone for us. It underscores our genuine dedication to purpose and responsibility across all facets of our operations. This certification aligns us with a global community of businesses committed to making a positive impact on the world, and it's a source of immense pride for our entire team.

Laura: I used to work in the private sector as a brand innovation strategist, but left that world to join international development, and woefully under prepared for how different it was going to be.

The private sector is taught to sell dreams and take risks. The international development sector is taught to design for the worse case scenario and be risk adverse. It was a really difficult transition for me - and my new colleagues, but I persevered, and now I consider myself an expert in ICT4D.

I’m proud I made it, and hung on to some of the private sector's bold optimism. I'm also incredibly proud of what Vi and I and the team have created with Here I Am. It’s very special and hopeful.

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