When I first moved to Brussels, I was working for a telco operator. One day, I found myself at a high-level event where my co-workers kept introducing me by saying “this is Natalia, she’s so pretty” until at some point I couldn’t helping adding “…and I’m also really intelligent”. I will always remember this experience throughout my career because it was the first time I realised what it meant to be a woman in a male-dominated working environment.
I then moved on to work at TagTagCity SA, a start-up developing a smartphone application, where I have been working as a lawyer and team leader for two years now. The company is all about entrepreneurship and innovation – a completely different world which was new to me then, and which I today believe is a good example of where we might, or should be headed.
We started off with four staff – two women and two men – and were all treated as equals. My boss, who is a man, was very supportive from the beginning.
The company entrusted me with the responsibility of representing us and our project at conferences and workshops, and that is how I started to participate in competitions.
For start-ups, competitions are essential. They provide you with a platform that you can use to show that your project can make a difference.
The InnoApps competition for young developers, organised by the European Young Innovators Forum with Microsoft and Huawei, was one of those occasions for us. Their special prize for women got me thinking; I realised that the challenge today is not so much to foster recognition for women, but to get them involved in the first place. The prize should not be given to someone because they are a woman, but acknowledge that equal opportunities are not a reality everywhere yet.
I think education, motivation, and integration are key. Initiatives such as InnoApps, ICT clusters or the study trip to Iceland organised by the Women in Parliaments Forum can be decisive by starting a butterfly effect: creating opportunities and sharing experiences with other women and men makes you ask the right questions and also prevents you from getting too comfortable. There is still a lot of work to be done, and it concerns every single one of us, not just politicians.
In the end, it comes down to the old adage: we must strive to be the change we want to see in the world.Huawei Europe