Inspiring Costa Rican Women to Join the ICT Field

Image source: http://sulabatsu.com/files/branding/logo.png

Image source: http://sulabatsu.com/files/branding/logo.png

Electronic and medical equipment exports have surpassed agricultural exports in Costa Rica, pointing to the importance of the ICT sector in the country. Despite the promise of this field, only 20% of ICT employees in the country are female. There is a particular problem with women dropping out of ICT programmes. Also, many of the private sector tech companies have less flexible work schedules with longer hours that often preclude mothers’ employment in the sector.

In response to this gap, the Sulá Batsú cooperative helps women follow ICT career paths. Last year, the cooperative held the First Women’s Hackathon project, which involved 40 women. One team, TechnoWomen, designed an tablet app for students with autism or learning disabilities aimed at improving their communication with both their teachers and families, which will officially launch soon.

The cooperative also seeks to inspire girls between ages 10 and 14 to join the ICT field through Girls and Technology Clubs. This helps teach girls ICT skills from an early age, as well as address stereotypes in the community surrounding women and ICT.

The president of the cooperative, Kemly Camacho Jiménez, understands the challenges women in the sector face. During her university degree in computer engineering, she was the only woman who finished her course. “I remember the harsh environment very well,” she says. “The way the teachers approached the class was really rude. They would try to scare us into thinking we would fail.”

She disagrees both with this callous pedagogy as well as the demanding professional ICT culture in the country. However, she acknowledges that many companies are changing their practices to improve women’s working conditions. “I think these companies realize that they really need women for innovation. Because to be innovative, you have to have different minds thinking about your projects, especially in ICT.”

Source: SciDevNet