"There are so many things that women did which formed the basis of ICT, but you do not hear about it." This issue was highlighted by Sidone Reyes at the She Leads Tech forum at the UWI Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.
Hosted by TT's ISACA chapter, the event featured women in the field of information and communications technology (ICT) who spoke of their experiences and desire to increase female representation in ICT.
Describing the event, TT's ISACA chapter president Rita Purdeen-Nandlal said, "She Leads Tech is a global effort to empower women in ICT and raise awareness about the gender gap."
The initiative was developed by the global non-profit ISACA network, which which focuses on IT governance.
Sharing her journey of becoming visible in the field of technology was gender activist and director of iGovTT Jacqueline Morris. Appointed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the development of an internet governance panel and serving on a series of local and international technology governance boards, Morris said her journey was not easy.
Noting opportunities will not always be readily available, she urged young girls and women with aspirations to an ICT career not to give up, saying, "Volunteer for working groups. Give it as much time as you have."
Saying "You never know who's going to see you," she reminded young women about the power of networking.
Manager of IT services at the Central Bank Louella-Anne Edwards said the effort to get more women involved in ICT begins at home.
"This a truly a significant point, especially how we parent our girls."
Cautioning parents to be wary of the messages they send, she urged, "We have to raise our daughters to lead."
Edwards encouraged parents to engage their daughters in ICT by sending them to camps with activities such as robotics, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In schools, workplaces and communities, she called for a change from "mentoring to womentoring."
In a message to men she said, "Women do not only need the support from each other but they require the support from male counterparts."
Working with a team at the UWI to study artificial intelligence (AI) which adapts to cultural variations such as AI devices recognising dialects, lecturer in computer sciences Dr Phaedra Mohammed urged young women to "become an expert in an area." By doing this she encouraged them to focus on their passions and make a difference.
"What matters is what you can do."
Reyes, a UWI student who studies IT and researches the history and impact of women in ICT, believes women add diversity of thought to the field.
Being female in a male-dominated course of study at UWI, though intimidating at first, did not discourage Reyes from quickly finding her voice, as she said, "It was a challenge, but I accepted it." Asked what advice she would have for other young women entering the field, she said getting out of one's comfort zone is important.
"My comfort zone was reading at home, but I had to push out of it."