sms sudamerica

Women in Technology: a look at the past and the future

At SMS Sudamérica they want to change the world for a more egalitarian and gender-inclusive one. To achieve this goal, this technology solutions provider first had to evolve from the inside out, starting with the promotion of its young CFO, Soledad Verdinelli, to the position of CEO. With these credentials and as part of a series of actions underway to contribute to the social network of which they are a part, SMS Sudamérica organized in late April the “Women in technology: A look at the present and the future“at the Cyan Americas Towers Hotel in the City of Buenos Aires.

“In May we celebrate 36 years of life, and this is the first event we do that is not associated with a technology tool or a product,” highlights Carlos Kumpel, president of SMS Sudamérica. “We are a company that is migrating, that is changing its way of seeing things, and we are learning to listen, to look, to smell, to feel what is going on around us. Even though we are a technology company, we believe that the social fabric is changing. So today it is inconceivable for us to understand the management of a company without a model of integration or diversity”.

Perhaps the most important of these actions is SMS Sudamérica Academy: an educational program of the company aimed at people who do not come from Technology, where they are trained and developed in different roles related to the area. The idea is to prepare them for promotion in a sector that is in high demand, with significant income and expectations of professional growth. This initiative is supported by foundations such as Commitment / Potrero Digital (yes, the same one sponsored by film director Juan Campanella, with the support of both the production company Mundo Loco and the National Fund for the Arts, and inaugurated back in 2018 a first digital education node in the “La Juanita” Cooperative, in the district of La Matanza), and Fundacion Pescar (a project that started in 2003, with the support of Asociación Conciencia and Universidad del Salvador).

At the same time, SMS Sudamérica is also concerned about the planet and the carbon footprint that the organization itself is leaving on the environment. SMS Sudamérica is offering its SIGRA system (Environmental Risk Management System) to companies and municipalities. At the same time, the company’s commitment is to achieve carbon neutrality in the short term, offsetting its own emissions by acquiring green bonds.

A meeting for inclusion and diversity

The meeting was opened by Carlos Kumpel and Soledad Verdinelli, and the first presentation was given by Georgina Sticco, co-founder of Grow – Género y Trabajo, who analyzed the reasons why girls, young women, and women are not able to enter jobs related to technology. In this order, she presented the concept of a “broken pipeline”, a metaphor that summarizes how women (but also people with different gender identities who are a minority in society) are losing interest, or are being expelled from the different professional and training instances around the so-called “hard sciences” and technology. In Argentina, according to the Permanent Household Survey cited by Sticco, the participation of women in the Programming and Consulting sector has remained at around 20% over the last six years. Going further back, in the training stage, it can be seen that women represent only 30% of the student body in technical schools and 34% in those with a computer science orientation. In the long term, this lower presence means that these women and numerous minorities are not well represented, for example, in the algorithmic models used by companies such as Facebook or Google. A McKinsey study (prior to the pandemic) indicated that if women were on an equal footing with men in terms of working conditions, the country’s GDP would increase between 11% and 26%. “If we think about that future, which will be even more technological, and to which we women are not reaching (and not because we don’t want to, but because the environment is not allowing it) we are losing as a country and as a region,” said the Grow specialist.

The highlight of the day was the panel made up of Vanina Bustos, Digital Factory & Data Manager of SMS South America; Carolina Biquard, executive director of Compromiso / Potrero Digital; Silvia Uranga, general director of Fundación Pescar; and the CEO of SMS SMS Sudamérica.

“It is very difficult for a woman to think, from the outset, of studying engineering or some of these careers (linked to the hard sciences). But if she starts by taking a short course, and grows in training, the chances increase,” Biquard said. Ultimately, this is the type of training that Potrero Digital is committed to. “The digital world allows, in a very short time, young people to study and produce,” he added. “This year we had set a goal of giving 3,500 scholarships (a similar number to last year), but at this point in the year we already have 7,000 scholarships given.” Durante la pandemia, el porcentaje de mujeres que estudiaron con los cursos de Potrero superó el 60%, aunque más recientemente se volvió a un balance 50-50. Currently, the entity is promoting Potrero Tec: a company formed by Senior Technology professionals, with Semi Senior and Junior students. “Here as a woman, I feel challenged to prove that we can build a company as solid as the work we do at the foundation,” Biquard concluded.

In his turn, Uranga highlighted the capacity of technology as a tool to reach the farthest corners of the country. Thanks to a wide network of alliances and partners, Fundación Pescar has a presence and operational capacity throughout the country, to which, during the pandemic (after overcoming some cultural barriers) virtual training was added. In this training network, 60% of the trainees are women. “We always say that you have to study to work and work all your life to study. SMS Sudamérica Academy gives young people who graduate from our courses, as may also be the case of those who graduate from Potrero Digital, the opportunity to build a career path. That career path has to be with equal opportunities. We can all do it.

During the closing round of the panel, Bustos recommended analyzing the place where each young person will develop professionally, regardless of gender. “There are companies that only care about you doing the task they need you to do, and you can’t project yourself. These are totally infertile grounds for professional development.”

“Being women, I think it is important that, when we have a space from which we can decide, we accompany all those women who are trying to join a Technology company or any other position with decision making. And it is also important that they are encouraged, because many times, due to these biases, we are not encouraged. And that men accompany them because this is teamwork. We work much better as a team,” said Verdinelli.

Note by: IT Sitio