The importance of role models for women in technology

International Women’s Day 2024 provides an ideal platform to highlight the importance of female role models in technology, reduce gender stereotypes and encourage innovation and ambition.

Although enterprises are addressing the gender gap in technology, there is a long way to go. Women accounted for just 33% of the total number employed in the European Union’s high technology sectors in 2022, and the situation is not improving. There are still large gender pay gaps and it is difficult for women to reach managerial positions in digital sectors.

The technology sector is currently facing a major skills shortage, and unfortunately, it's missing out on a vast talent pool by not actively encouraging and supporting women to pursue careers in technology. If Europe, for example, could double its share of women in the technology workforce to around 45% by 2027, it could shut the door on the talent gap and fuel a GDP growth from 260 billion euros to 600 billion euros.

Role models are crucial to getting women of all ages to enter the technology field by reducing gender stereotypes and inspiring women to engage with the sector. The lack of role models in technology reinforces the perception of a sector that does not provide a career path for women.

Despite an increase in women in leadership roles, for example, women are still in the minority compared to their male counterparts. Across the entire technology spectrum, the number of women in leadership roles has fallen, currently sitting at 28%. The dropout rate of women in the digital sector is higher than men. This is particularly true of those between 30 and mid-40s – prime ages for professional development. Difficulty juggling a family life and a career due to a lack of workplace flexibility is one of the most cited reasons for women leaving the sector.

Orange Business is dedicated to promoting gender diversity in leadership positions and has been making significant progress toward its goal of having 35% of such roles held by women by 2025.

Attracting, engaging and retaining women in technology

A lack of women working in technology results in under-representation and exclusion in specific areas, such as AI, where a lack of diversity can lead to gender bias. Bringing more women into IT has never been more important in terms of technological advancements and closing the growing digital skills gap. Hiring more women onto teams provides a different and valuable perspective.

Attracting more women requires positive role models that help shape career goals and show that it is possible to have an excellent work-life balance and a family while forging a successful career. Women can feel intimidated entering a male-dominated arena. Having positive role models and experiences to draw on is paramount.

There is no escaping the fact that having female role models in technology will significantly increase the desire for other women to work in the industry. Here at Orange Business, for example, we have a female chief executive, Aliette Mousnier-Lompre, who exemplifies this.

Seeing women in these roles is believing what many thought was impossible, possible. The more female role models we can spotlight working in technology, the more we can help diminish stereotypes and provide them with a great career path.

Here, several Orange Business employees explain why they think role models are invaluable in providing guidance and support for women in – or looking to join – the exciting world of technology.


Nashwa El Tahlawy quote

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Question: Who are some inspiring women that you look up to, and how have they influenced your personal and professional life?

[Nashwa El-Tahlawy]: Wangari Maathai, or “the woman who planted one million trees,” and her work as an environmental activist and for women’s economic empowerment. Global change makers like her shaped my mantra from a personal or professional lens, which is to take the initiative to lead, drive the change and inspire paradigm shifts.

Moshira Marzouk and Noha Fayed are ever-present anchors who taught me to embrace adversity with open arms, knowing that within every obstacle lies a chance for growth and transformation, and that has been my modus operandi (M.O.) career approach ever since.

I am awed by the many brilliant women across the world who undertake struggles with an unwavering passion to make a difference.

Question: What advice would you give to young women who are looking to develop careers in technology?

[Nashwa El-Tahlawy]: Technology is dynamically high-powered, so overnight success or placid growth is more often than not just a myth that needs dismantling through stories of owning the pauses, shifts and long-term goals. It's all about resilience. So, make it a habit to “show up, shape up, stick it out until the finish line.”


Aïcha Janan quote

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Question: Are there areas or initiatives in your current role at Orange Business that have helped you or other women toward gaining gender equality?

[Aïcha Janan]: As Head of Americas Sourcing and representing Orange Business in negotiations, I am often the only woman in the room. In a situation like this, having confidence in yourself is key, and speaking up will carry you through. I feel empowered to be myself and want to serve as an example that women can succeed in a male-dominated field. I have had great mentors along my career path who have motivated me to realize my full potential, and I like to do my part to give back to women I mentor to do the same. As the saying goes, “empowered women empower women,” and those are words I strive to embody every day.

Question: What advice would you give to young women looking to develop careers in technology?

[Aïcha Janan]:

  • Don’t let the naysayers distract you
  • Work hard
  • Be persistent, and let your work speak for itself

I have taken that to heart in my career and still believe in those values. I encourage women pursuing a career in tech to acknowledge that, at times, the journey will be harder than it would’ve been for a man, so buckle up, power through and try not to give up. Surround yourself with people who challenge you and focus on building a strong network that can help you grow your career in tech as well as provide you with a sense of belonging and empowerment.


Dina Hassan Mohsen quote

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Question: Who are some inspiring women that you look up to, and how have they influenced your personal and professional life?

[Dina Hassan Mohsen]: Margaret Thatcher. She was the first woman to hold the British Prime Minister position and the longest-serving one.

Being a woman was never a block in her ambition, and by developing a very strong character and having a clear vision, she kept developing her skills, from earning a degree in Chemistry to studying law, and never stopped trying until she earned the respect and trust of her nation. She was the Iron Lady.

Thatcher's personal and career development influenced her life ambition. She firmly believed in having a clear vision and never giving up despite the struggles she faced. Being a woman should never stop anyone from achieving their goals. Margaret Thatcher's success as an Iron Lady inspires women to overcome any obstacle and emerge victorious. I, too, am determined to win my battles and become an inspiration for other women.

Question: What advice would you give to young women looking to develop careers in technology?

[Dina Hassan Mohsen]: Set your priority in life to wake up every single morning feeling happy and healthy, then believe that the ultimate investment you should focus on in your career life is gaining knowledge – “Knowledge is Power.” Set a target to gain one piece of information every single day in any field: technology, society, environment, history, finance, service, the universe, fun facts, etc.

Keep developing your skills and acquire more; for each milestone you achieve, celebrate your development achievement, and congratulate your newly developed version by believing that, “The sky is your limit.”


Mandika Ushina RAM quote

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Question: What milestones or achievements have you accomplished in your career that you are most proud of, and how have they impacted your life and the lives of those around you?

[Mandika Ushina Ram]: In my career, two significant milestones stand out for their challenges and the positive outcomes they fostered in me and my team.

Firstly, establishing the Total Energies dedicated service desk for videoconferencing solutions represents a milestone I hold in high regard. Spearheading this project required meticulous planning, relentless dedication, and the swift assembly of a 12-person team capable of providing top-tier customer support, all within a demanding six-month timeframe. This endeavor honed my leadership and project management skills and instilled a sense of unity and purpose among the team members. We overcame numerous obstacles together, fostering a culture of resilience, innovation and mutual support that has had lasting effects on our professional growth and the quality of service we deliver.

Secondly, creating the Performance & Quality team within my organization is an achievement that fills me with pride. From the outset, we embraced agile methodologies, incorporating workshops, team meetings and governance structures that revolutionized our approach to tackling complex issues. This initiative has improved operational efficiencies and outcomes and cultivated a transparent and collaborative work environment. Adopting these new ways of working has empowered my team, encouraging creativity, fostering professional development and enhancing job satisfaction.

Both achievements have profoundly impacted my life and those of my colleagues. They have reinforced my belief in the power of teamwork, innovation and agile leadership in overcoming challenges and achieving excellence. These experiences have enriched my professional journey, providing me with invaluable skills and insights while creating a more engaged, productive and fulfilled workforce within my organization.

Question: What advice would you give to young women looking to develop careers in the technology field?

[Mandika Ushina Ram]: Embarking on a career in technology, a field historically dominated by men, requires courage, resilience and, above all, belief in one's capabilities. My advice to young women is to embrace these challenges with confidence and determination. Remember, your unique perspective and skills are invaluable assets that can drive innovation and change within the tech industry. Do not let fear of judgment or failure deter you from pursuing your passions. Instead, be bold in your ambitions, steadfast in your goals and authentic in your actions.

Seek mentors and allies who support your growth and remember that every setback is an opportunity to learn and advance. Above all, believe in your potential to succeed and contribute meaningfully to technology. Your journey may inspire the next generation of women in tech, making it crucial to pave the way with optimism, hard work and an unwavering commitment to your dreams.

Maria Lehtman
Maria Lehtman

Maria works with the transversal International Marketing team, specializing in employee and executive social media advocacy and blogging at Orange Business. She has extensive experience working with international transformation programs in the telco industry in Sales, Consulting, Professional Services Management and Marketing roles. Maria is a passionate photographer and a bestselling author who loves nature and empowering hope and inspiration.