How to increase participation of women in technological industry?

On the basis of the results of the Women’s Potential in Technological Industry Report the Recommendations Council proposed a list of changes intended for the broadly-understood stakeholders. Their aim is a better use of women’s potential in the technological industry. The Recommendations are divided into five areas, as the barriers to the development of the potential have been identified on many levels of activity. The postulates related to the presence of women in STEM are organically connected to the postulates related to the prioritisation of the STEM subjects in general, which is clearly reflected in The Recommendations. Due to the level of complexity of the tasks, the implementation of some postulates requires strategic decisions on the central authority level. Others may be realised relatively easily and in a short timescale, by mobilising the social and business potential. Many of them are based on international good practice, inspired by the solutions from the USA, United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia, in line with the recommendations of the EU and UN for this area.

After each recommendation the sectors/institutions necessary for implementation of a particular postulate have been suggested (in parentheses).

The condition necessary for implementation of the Recommendations is cooperation between the shareholders and sectors. Therefore the decision was made to appoint a Coalition for Support of Presence of Women in Technological Industry (and, more broadly, in the STEM area). The Coalition offers a space for increased activity of the representations from business, NGOs, education, science and academics, media and administration implementing the public policy. The Coalition will inspire the “snowballing” changes. For this reason a stakeholder cooperation platform will be created - the Working Group for Recommendations Implementation and the necessary operational knowledge base shall be collected.

The effect of the Group’s work will be a cross-sector initiative to design and implement specific, measurable activities: the Pact for Women in Technological Industry.

Stakeholders necessary for implementation of the individual postulates:

P - state - central/local authorities, the public sector
B - technological business and industry
NGO - non-government social activities sector
E - education (from primary to secondary schools)
N - science and higher education
M/P - media/pop culture
S - social environment


Wise, inspiring, stereotype-free school

  • Priority: STEM. The emphasis in schools should be put on the attractive teaching of science subjects, inspiring fascination with science and technology and on creative and logical thinking - irrespective of the child`s gender. Of course, without neglecting the postulates related to the holistic vision of humanity (P, N, NGO, B)
  • Support for teachers. The key group of influence are the teachers, especially science teachers. Their appropriate professional preparation and providing them with possibilities of constant, geometric development, of learning new, innovative forms of imparting knowledge, of international good practice in this area, inspiring them to be open and creative, should be a priority in the education-related public policy in Poland. An important aspect is building up the prestige of the teaching profession based on - most of all - on better financing, in order to ensure that the profession will be chosen by people with passion and talent who will be able to live with dignity and use their passion for the good of the society. The prestige should be reinforced by dedicated social campaigns. (P, E, NGO, B)
  • Emphasis on ICT competencies. Young people should be taught programming languages and other ways of creating new technologies. An important postulate is to encourage proactive approach — to reassure them that they can influence creation of new technological solutions, not only make use of them. Especially the quality of computer science teaching at school should be enforced comprehensively. (P, E, B, NGO)
  • Stereotype-free school. A systemic approach to ensuring lack of gender stereotyping in schools, from the primary (and preschool) to university level is necessary. Teachers should have access to knowledge concerning the cultural and social clichés related to perception of men`s and women`s place in the society and the influence of these stereotypes on the education process. Prejudices which might discourage girls from taking up scientific subjects and later technological studies and careers in the technological industry should be eliminated, also from the educational communication itself (e.g. stereotype-reinforcing textbooks). Girls should be actively encouraged to improve their knowledge of scientific subjects. In primary, lower secondary and secondary education the subject of diversity should be addressed. Educational authorities should also be prepared on this issue. (P, E, NGO)
  • Effective educational and professional consulting. The problem of lack of mechanisms allowing the young people to navigate the educational offer efficiently and to consciously plan their development in this area should be resolved on systemic level. The students should be familiarised with the technological industry, the basics of working in it, as well as the possible development paths in this area and the skills necessary to develop. (P, E, NGO, B)
  • Role models availability. Extremely important is confronting female students on various education levels with female role models from the STEM area, enabling them to draw inspiration from active, notable women enjoying spectacular managerial or scientific careers in technology. The ways to achieve this include: open door days for women at universities, speed-mentoring with women employed in companies organised in schools or in companies, mentoring programmes, inspirational meetings, webinars, creation of and participation in technological/scientific women`s networks. (E, NGO, B, M/P)

Higher education institution as a space for support of women in STEM

  • Effective platforms for HEI - business and industry cooperation. It is necessary to provide a systemic development of real cooperation between HEIs and business and to create effective forms and platforms for activity in this area. The HEIs should also take into account (apart from the fundamental postulates related to education of thinking people) the job market needs and the industry should actively support the development of the Polish science and help students to effectively prepare for entering the technological industry (e.g. scholarships, paid internships for students, joint research, etc.). (N, B, P, NGO)
  • Support for female students entering the job market. Female students from the technical and scientific study areas should be familiarised with the reality of the technological industry and the chances related to it. Extremely important in the context of the Report’s results are especially the ties between universities and business, dedicated strictly to women — e.g. a mentoring program for women or networking and inspiration initiatives on the interface between these two areas. An important element should be high quality, thorough and licensed professional internships aimed at female students. Platforms enabling the female students to meet potential employers and to learn the particulars of work in a specific area during their studies – not just as formalised internships, but also in a more relaxed form, e.g. shadowing, Open Days for Girls, Female Technological Teas in companies, etc. – should be created. (B, N, NGO)
  • Development of key skills. It is important to create mechanisms allowing female students to systemically develop their soft and professional skills necessary for effective creation of a career in the technological industry and to advance in the managerial structures, such as: entrepreneurship, leadership, teamwork (interdisciplinary and varied), project management, financial skills, design thinking, intercultural competencies, foreign languages, knowledge of how an industrial facility works, personal branding, orientation in the job market, etc. (N, P, B)
  • Engagement of women at the university. In order to implement the postulate of improving the atmosphere at HEIs it is important for the female students, PhD students and teachers of the technical universities to be active and to engage their social potential via networking initiatives and to become role models for other groups (primary and secondary school students). An additional value is a willingness to cooperate and support women by women — mentoring: schoolgirls – students, undergraduate students – PhD students, PhD students – professors, professors – professors or in the administrative area: pro-deans, deans, pro-rectors, rectors, heads of research institutions, committees, other bodies, etc. (N, NGO)
  • Support for female careers in science. Apart from the transfer of know-how and inspiration related to planning a future in the technological industry it is important to program a scientific path for female students in the technical and scientific areas (e.g. the Girls for Science! campaign). Also implementation of the solutions supporting scientific careers of women in the STEM area (a mentoring system at HEIs, career coaching, transparent promotion procedures, salaries monitoring, encouraging women to apply for high positions, appointing them as leaders of research teams, improving the visibility of female scientists in the universities’ communication policies, etc.). In the future they may create science in the area of innovative solutions for industry. (N, P, NGO, M/P)
  • Equality culture at HEIs and in research. An equality training programme should be launched for the academic and administrative staff of the technical universities (and others). It is also recommended to have equal treatment officers at universities, modelled on the German example (Frauen beufragte), and centres for research into the gender aspect in STEM. As far as the research itself is concerned, in technical and science areas it is important to include the gender perspective — e.g. gender mainstreaming, gendered innovation. HEIs should include diversity management in their “education effects”, e.g. in business, economy, public service or managerial studies. An HEI should monitor the development conditions for female careers via research among female candidates, students, graduates, teachers and administrative workers (also on the level of individual faculties /institutes). (N, P, NGO)
  • Talents pipeline1. The technical universities and science faculties of other types of HEIs should maintain and extend the activities aimed at encouraging talented female high school students to study, they should also engage in new forms of linking with education (social programmes, such as Girls for Engineers!, Girls for Science!, outreach programmes: training for science teachers, mentoring for female students — e.g. mini Lean in STEM, joint STEM competitions, science and technology camps (also strictly for girls), Children Universities and other popularisation initiatives. (N, NGO)
  • University image. The technical universities should take care to frame their public communication in appropriate imagery and language — such as do not exclude women. Image creation should avoid traditional, stereotypical solutions and take into account and accept as valuable the “feminine” side of the university: female students, teachers, notable graduates and their achievements and charisma, as well as examples of other inspiring female engineers or scientists, etc. (N, M/P)

1 The American term for the connected containers – from primary school to higher education – related to inspiring and educating talents in the STEM area.

Open society, full visibility of women

  • Socialisation not burdened with stereotypes. "Working on the bases" is necessary in the area of breaking stereotypes and mechanisms of passing the masculinity and femininity models to young people. The starting point should be socialisation that is open, modern and does not limit thinking. In this context work with parents, educators and direct surroundings of girls is the key. One of the important aspects, not readily recognised in the Polish discourse, is the necessity of emphasis on cognitive spatial skills2 for girls, largely determining their engineering or other STEM-related skills in the future. Its important element is discarding the stereotypes related to dividing toys into those intended for girls (related to housekeeping, looks and widely-understood nurturing) and for boys (educational, mechanical, logical, construction). (S, M/P)
  • Men and promotion of partnership. An important element of the social change must be education and improvement of consciousness of men and including them in activities intended to increase participation of women in the STEM area. Also promotion of partnership in relationships (it has positive influence on the shape of a professional career and is the most important factor is achieving true work-life equality). Promotion of partnership, including sharing of responsibilities, should take place via education at school, social campaigns, conscious shaping of the public message (media, pop culture), debates, legal solutions, etc. Also, fathers should be encouraged to really make use of parenthood leave (in 2014 less than 2% of the men entitled took advantage of this opportunity) and to bring up their daughters with the knowledge that they can do anything and their sons with respect for women, their ambitions and right to self-realisation. (S, M/P)
  • Women – leaving the comfort zone. Part of the responsibility also lies with the women, not just the environment in which they operate. Women themselves need to became the “architects of changes”, to become active, to “aim high”, to look for chances of development for themselves, to be ready to leave their comfort zone, to develop leadership skills, to negotiate employment terms competently, to not be afraid to take advantage of chances appearing in their way, to be creative. They need to participate in the everyday life, to engage in changing the anti-women stereotypes using their own example, in wider engagement, in support for other women. To bring up their daughters with the knowledge that they can do anything and their sons with respect for women, their ambitions and right to self-realisation. (S)
  • Including the media. The media and artists should be asked to fight stereotypes in their daily work. It would be good to introduce a plot about a successful woman active in the technological industry into a high quality, popular show in one of the major media channels3, as this might be a breakthrough in social influence. (M/P)
  • Available role models in the public sphere. Female role models must be more visible/available as an inspiration source for young women in the public sphere. A wider presence of female experts in the technological area is necessary in the main media, as well as attention paid to their proper, non-stereotyping treatment by the media. Achievements of women in the STEM area need to be widely communicated. One of the elements leading to increased visibility of the women’s part in development of the technological industry and in STEM in general is propagation of use of female forms of the names of professions related to this area of activity. (M/P, NGO, B)
  • Knowledge aggregation. It is necessary to build a knowledge base for interchange of ideas on the subject of female input in STEM and the technological industry as well as conditions for their presence in these areas. An important element is creation of a non-ideological communication based on scientific sources, focusing on the functioning of gender stereotypes and unconscious bias and their impact on perception of the female role in the society, as well as on the methods of combating this influence. The knowledge aggregation can take a form of, e.g., research reports, institutions, groups and policies monitoring, initiating public debates, inspiring and creation of popular and scientific publications, appointment of research observers and generating an input into the international debate in this area — focused on practice or strictly on science. This knowledge should be open and available, processed in a transparent form. (N, P, NGO, M/P)
  • Role of humanities. The development of a human being should be approached holistically, with no special focus on just the technological aspects. The goal is a society of equal chances and great aspirations, competent, conscious and able to wisely use the chances offered by the new technologies, but not overwhelmed by them. In order to achieve balance the role of liberal arts, especially humanities, must be remembered. Both in a development of a human being and that of the technological industry itself, with its mission of providing solutions meeting the human needs, dealing with everyday problems, the role of a humanities reflection cannot be appreciated enough. Therefore, in order to meet the demands of the 21st century, the STEM area must become a more and more “humanitised” and conscious STE(Art)M space. The reflection over the role of women in shaping this space must be developed. (S, N, P, NGO)

2 According to the American AAUW report "Why so few?" it is the development of the spatial cognitive skills that forms the biggest differences between boys and girls. Also in this area boys, thanks to being used from the earliest childhood to operating spatially with multi-dimensional objects – such as balls, building blocks, reality in 3D games, mechanical toys, etc. – are clearly better than girls. In later stage of development these skills turn out to be vital for development of technical and other skills in the STEM area.

3 The visibility of women in leading roles in the expert media is negligible and amounts to 13% (results of the media monitoring by "Gazeta Wyborcza" and "Feminoteka" in April 2014-March 2015 -, accessed: August 2015)

Change of the companies’ organisational culture

  • Diversity standards. On the organisation /institution level the key issue is implementation of a set of standards which are a condition of establishing the company as a woman-friendly space: regular employment monitoring from the gender point of view, employee promotion monitoring, appropriate procedures in the recruitment process, prevention of discrimination and mobbing in the workplace, including in the strategy the diversity management rule and equal-chances policy. The tools for achieving the desired state may be "diversity audits". Another very important aspect of changing the organisational culture is realisation of the postulate of equal pay for equal work regardless of gender (and other variables, such as age, disability, religion, psychosexual orientation, nationality, race, etc.) and transparency of the procedures related to remuneration. It is recommended to assign these issues to a Diversity Officer. Equality training should be obligatory for directors, managers, directors, committee members, communication/promotion departments and HR. Particular attention should be paid to how the diversity issues are communicated by people representing the company outside, especially CEOs. The diversity standards should also be ensured in the small and medium-sized enterprises sector. (B, NGO)
  • Development of cooperation with universities. Companies should develop intensive activity on the interface with the university world - organise internship and mentoring programmes and campaigns bringing the companies closer to female (and male) students of technical universities (and others). The necessity to take care of functionality of the pipeline for women competent in the STEM area, their capabilities, preparation for activity on the job market, support for the development of their professional perspectives is within the responsibility of wise, socially conscious companies working in a long-term timescale. (B, N)
  • Image of a women-friendly industry. The informational and promotional messages should emphasise the attractiveness of the technological industry as a discrimination-free space, open to women building their professional careers. Also important is disseminating "outside" the message that the company is implementing pro-women measures (pro-diversity) and communicating and promoting good practice in this area. Important and positioning in this context are the ethical/strategic "gestures of will": pacts, undertakings, charters, strategies to support broader participation of women in the technological industry (of course, these undertakings must be realised and bring about specific changes). (B, M/P, NGO)
  • Stereotype awareness. It is important to raise awareness among entrepreneurs about stereotypes related to the presence of women in the technological industry, so that they do not participate in dissemination of such opinions. Helpful tools in raising awareness may be trainings in companies or online and offline themed publications/social campaigns, debates, conferences, etc. (B, NGO)
  • Support for social activities supporting women in STEM. The importance of the events and initiatives supporting women in technology is important. It is vital to present positive changes they help to implement on the job market, in the economy and the society. The companies should engage in social campaigns encouraging girls to focus on education preparing them for work in the technological industry and for entering the job market. They may also consider contribution towards scholarship programmes for talented female school and university students (based on the Intel-Perspektywy programme New technologies for girls). Also female leaders and female experts in the technological area should be promoted.
  • Advantages of the women’s presence. The advantages for the technological industry companies stemming from employment of women and engagement in diversity management activities – especially the business/economic ones – need to be emphasised. Diversity also needs to be promoted as an autonomous value, justified both from the social justice and market point of view (improved competitive edge, support of creativity). The attention should also be drawn to the broader perspective – the fact that acceptance of diversity improves the human capital quality and expands the local and international job market. Further emphasis on the advantages from having a diverse team of employees also appears to be vital. (B, NGO, M/P)
  • Participation of female employees. The businesswomen themselves should participate in creation of atmosphere open to the needs of women in the company, according to the participation postulate. It is important to involve them in searching for solutions in this area, in the decision process itself, enable them to come up with their own initiatives. A very important aspect is the feeling of influence over the goings on in the company and activation of the female employees’ social potential, created thanks to the participation practices. It is an element of a real change in the organisational culture. Also important in this context are the networking structures supporting the development of women’s careers in companies - such as networks, clubs (e.g. Siemens: Gdzie diabeł nie może...) as well as initiatives helping women in developing the highest level of expertise in the STEM area (such as The IBM Women Inventors Community). (B)
  • Solutions for parents ("tailored" in such a way so that both parents can use them). Stronger participation of women in the technological industry also entails preparing the companies to receive them. Allowances for pregnant women (parking spaces etc.), parent-and-child rooms, maybe even onsite daycare and kindergarten should become standard. Even more important is large-scale implementation of work form and time flexibility solutions, as well as appropriate preparation for employees to take advantage of them. Also on the company level partnership in the area of sharing child-caring duties in a relationship should be promoted. Another thing to consider is connecting an employee with a person who used to be in a similar situation4 and can provide advice as an additional support element in return to professional activity after the maternity parenthood leave. It should also be made easier for fathers to use the parenthood leave. Some technological companies, although not in Poland, also offer assistance in caring for elderly persons (e.g. parents) (B)
  • Equal recruitment. In the recruitment process, in published job offers, it is possible to inform about being open to employing women without violating the current legal regulations (e.g. "we are a company employing a record number of women in the ICT industry"). It is important to use inclusive language in such job offers. Activities encouraging women prior to recruitment are also possible ("pre-employment training", professional development courses for women from outside the company etc.), as well as active search for female candidates and encouraging them to apply for the particular job. All this qualifies as "positive action" or "equalising activities". Requiring the head-hunters to also deliver female candidates for specific jobs should be standard. (B)
  • The "bad lady-boss" stereotype. Negative stereotypes burdening the image of female managers should be opposed. This may be done by promoting female leaders in internal and external communication. The companies should also emphasise development of leadership skills in female employees and offer coaching/training/themed groups in this area. Women in the technological industry should be prepared to manage groups dominated by men (good practice may be the female employee training conducted by Intel in the USA in 2009 - Intel's Command Presence Workshop), to be active in company management boards. The skills should be developed as early as during university studies. (B, M/P, NGO)
  • More data. The business sector should take better care to collect data on the presence of women in the technological industry. Especially the data related to employment – from various angles (core positions/technical positions/managerial positions, other) and the diversity policies (Code of Good Practice of the Stock Exchange recommends reporting such data, so does the European Union5). An issue completely unrecognised in Poland is the problem of women leaving the technological industry and suspending their careers. The first step in researching this issue should be collecting and analysing data (the experiences gathered by the American Top Companies for Women Technologists initiative by the Anita Borg Institute). After that – creation of a "pro-retention initiatives" catalogue. (B)
  • Investing in STEM. In a broader perspective a key issue is engaging the companies in the development of the STEM area in Poland and worldwide. (B, NGO)

4 An example of pro-parenting initiatives in a technological company may be those taken up by Google: Mommy Mentors, New Parents Support Group, New Parents Guru Program. Google also introduced a longer parenthood leave for its employees – at this point it should be noted, that even so the parenthood leave in the USA is several times shorter than in Poland or in Europe

5 From 2017, due to implementation of an EU directive, publicly traded companies, banks and investment funds, among others, employing over 500 people, will be obligated to report the so-called “non-financial data” – including gender balance in the supervisory bodies.

Prioritising STEM in public policies6

  • STEM strategy. National Strategy for creation of a high-quality, conscious society and innovative economy by developing skills from the STEM area should be created (modelled on the USA, United Kingdom or Germany). A vital part of such a Strategy should be the postulates related to the necessity of fully activating the potential of half of the society –women. The Strategy should be implemented on the multi-sector level, engaging all the stakeholder groups. The government should appoint a STEM Officer who will act as a liaison for the stakeholders and the as the main coordinator of the strategy implementation - he or she should come from the business or NGO sector. Implementation of the Strategy must also be monitored and evaluated externally. (P, B, NGO, N, E, M/P)
  • Combating the pay gap. Part of the Strategy should be an undertaking by the government to initiate actions aimed at removing the pay gap between men and women in Poland. The public sector should start any such activities on its own side – by salaries monitoring, introducing the obligatory inclusion of the "salary brackets" in published job offers or obligation to implement development and awareness activities in this area (action plans). The public sector may also use its position as the party ordering goods and services to inspire changes in this area in the non-public sector. The institutions meeting the highest standards in this area should be recommended. These activities would support the implementation of the Labour Code requirements - unequal pay at the same position is illegal, but common in Poland (and the whole world). (P)
  • Support for parents. The contribution of the central level into enabling women’s careers in the technological area should be also creating appropriate conditions for full availability of high-quality, inexpensive child-care support and promotion of partnership in relationships as concerns division of child-care duties. (P)
  • Quotas /parities. One of the methods of increasing the influence of women over the technological industry to consider is introducing gender parities or (as a milder version) quotas, i.e. legal requirement to employ a specified number (percentage) of women in management boards or in managerial positions in companies. In particular cases, e.g. in the supervisory boards of state-owned companies and others. 7 The legal justification for this interference may be based on the legislative achievements resulting from introducing the gender quotas on the candidates’ lists in elections. A less interfering version might be a command to truly consider female candidates during recruitment. (P)
  • Data collection. The obligations of the central authorities should also include creation of a system for collecting full data on the presence of women in the technological industry (and, more broadly, in the STEM area), country-wide and by regions, as well as regular monitoring and reporting on the subject (leading role of the Central Statistical Office). (P)
  • Adequate financing. The tasks of the government should include provision of adequate financial support for development of high-quality initiatives supporting greater presence of women in the Stem area/technological industry. Such support should focus in particular on the NGOs and PPP. Appropriate financing will be the main indicator of prioritising the subject of the STEM skills in the state public policy. (P)
  • Special initiative in the higher education policy- "Women in IT". The government should support financially the STEM specialities key from the point of view of the state economic development, where special efforts will be made to entice talented female students. In the first phase those specialities could be from the ICT are, where participation of women is on the average 13% ("equalising actions"). (P, N)
  • Large format promotion and information initiatives. The government should develop (modelled on the "Girls Day - Mädchen zu kun ft stag" initiative, or the Dutch "Girls Day") financial support to organise a large-scale national Open Day for Girls, consisting of events at technical universities, research institutes and technological companies - encouraging girls and young women, from the primary school to university level, to take interest in the STEM area. These activities in their first phase should involve at least 10% of the 7-19 years of age population and should require engagement from representatives of all sectors. The initiative would be a part of a state-wide campaign for support of women’s interest in science and technology (P, NGO, B, N, E)

6 Note: the Central Initiatives level (those implemented with a leading role of the central and local authorities) includes also the initiatives marked with "P" in the earlier descriptions – especially those concerning systemic solutions for school and higher education.

7 An analysis of the 40 biggest companies operating in Poland, conducted by the “Rzeczpospolita” daily, shows that approx. 37 percent among them does not have even one woman in the supervisory bodies, 32 percent have only one.

The group where there is more than one woman in the supervisory board, the state holds shares in majority of the companies. PGNiG, Lotos (33 percent each.) or PGE (37 percent) have already met the equality requirements. This is the effect of the efforts made by the Ministry of Treasury, which is already applying the 30 percent quota in composition of the supervisory boards selected and appointed by the Minister.



31 maja 2016

Okrągły Stół dla STEM

23 marca

Drugie spotkanie z cyklu Śniadania z Potencjałem (FIRMY TECHNOLOGICZNE)

27 stycznia

Pierwsze spotkanie z cyklu Śniadania z Potencjałem (OPINIA PUBLICZNA)


11-12 września

VII Kongres Kobiet - Wielka Promocja Raportu "Potencjał kobiet dla branży technologicznej"

7 września 2015

Premiera Raportu "Potencjał kobiet dla branży technologicznej" w Kancelarii Premier RP

27 lipca 2015

Posiedzenie Rady ds. Rekomendacji
Wypracowanie Zestawu Rekomendacji do Raportu

marzec 2015


luty 2015