The jury was left with a hard choice: Around 160 female graduates from 25 countries competed this time for Deutsche Telekom's Women's STEM Award 2021. Now the decision has been made. Hira Siddiqui emerged as this year's overall winner.
It is always exciting anew. And always moving. Huge joy at the winnings, and contagious enthusiasm for STEM: For the eighth time, Telekom presented its awards for the final theses of talented female graduates. MINT stands for mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology.
The aim of the awards: to highlight role models and, above all, to get more women interested in these subjects. I had the privilege of interviewing this year's overall winner for telekom.com. It was a long and, for me, very interesting conversation in which I again learned a lot. In my eyes, Hira Siddiqui is just such a role model. The 25-year-old already completed her bachelor's degree in Pakistan, then her master's degree at the TU Dresden. Her topic: credentials as a service (CaaS). She loves software and blockchain and is fascinated by the fact that the best digital developments can reach an audience of millions. Get to know her and her topic better in the interview!
Sure, as a man I'm out in terms of award, also my education had nothing to do with STEM. But I've been in a technical industry for a long time now - and the topic of women in STEM professions touches me. Because after many conversations, their barriers to entry are becoming increasingly clear to me. Not everyone finds it easy to enter what used to be male domains, to bring in their perspective. I also find that difficult in some circles, but I don't think it's comparable here.
Diverse view needed for human-centered technology
Perhaps there are certain codes that boys are given from home and from an early age? Codes that make them more confident, especially among their peers? Codes that carry over into their professional lives? Take start-ups, for example, which apply for venture capital in front of investors. Among investors, double standards are applied, Alexander Hirschfeld, head of research at the German Start-up Association, tells the FAZ: "Women are perceived differently in the process of pitching, of presenting their start-up: While men who go a little further out on a limb are often described as courageous or willing to take risks, women are more likely to be attributed with inexperience or naivety in such situations." Statistics show what this leads to: 70 percent of startups in Germany are run by men. Another question is whether it is really accepted among women that they also fill the role of mother in addition to their professional role. Or that they are addressed far too little with STEM topics from an early age, from the toy industry to job ads and the media? What's likely is this: there are multiple reasons why women are underrepresented in STEM subjects and professions in many countries. Yet, Hira aptly says, the brains are the same after all.
Tech companies like Telekom can't afford such hurdles for women, either on the board or among employees. We're committed to human-centered technology - #HumancenteredTechnology - and it's not the result of homogeneous groups, but of diverse people in a team. Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example: “Hardly any technology reflects us creators, us humans so much as AI. Our data, experiences, thinking but also our prejudices. Therefore ist is so important to have female STEM talents who take care of that topic, think about it and develop interesting solutions”, emphasized Claudia Nemat, our Chief Technology & Innovation Officer, as she congratulated all the winners. She is a physicist and patron of the Deutsche Telekom Women MINT Award. Mixed teams are not only important at Deutsche Telekom. Just look at the universe: Just 65 women among the 560 people who have already been up there, starting with Yuri Gagarin exactly 60 years ago. Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) puts it in an exemplary way with regard to research in space: "This means that studies - in medicine, for example - are carried out on the average man. The resulting data is then also applied to women - with sometimes fatal consequences when we think about the dosage of medicines."
In my job, I often talk to female software and artificial intelligence specialists, inventors, engineers, and enthusiasts who want to change the world. This has changed my perspective. Their enthusiasm infected me, and I too take away a message for conversations with younger people in private circles: Look around at what the world has to offer you. Don't exclude anything from the outset. Claudia Nemat often appeals to everyone at our company to remain curious, and she summed it up at the awards ceremony as well: "Curiosity is so much at the core what drives us humans." Also role models are so important in this. Here's another role model from the awards ceremony, among all the other honorees: Chathurangi Ahangama from Sri Lanka, awarded the special prize for participants from emerging countries. She created an exciting application for "Li-Fi," or light as a transmission medium in telecommunications - specifically, a working system for music and other audio transmissions. It makes people take advantage of the properties of light: low radiation, sufficient capacity, reliability and range. Exciting.