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More girls into IT: often a battle with teachers and parents

Although the trend is improving, young girls still need to be encouraged to pursue STEM professions - science, technology, maths or engineering - and then build a career in these fields. To change this mindset, the Women in Science Association is organising Girls' Day for the 13th year, where young people can take a look at workplaces where this knowledge is used in everyday life. Two telecoms companies, Yettel and CETIN Hungary, are taking part for the third time in the career guidance programme on 25 April. We spoke to the HR directors about the challenges.

Szalai Enikő Yettel vezérigazgató-helyettes-

No women's track?

While the trend is improving, it is parents and teachers who are sometimes the ones who break young girls' interest in real or STEM fields (that's science, technology, engineering and mathematics), says Enikő Szalai, deputy HR director at Yettel. "As much as the trend is improving and it is becoming more and more accepted that women are working in IT-technology, it still happens that teenage girls are discouraged by their parents or teachers to pursue such a career, saying that it is not a 'female' career. That's why we are delighted to be joining Girls' Day for the third time this year, because it gives young people a hands-on experience of jobs they would most likely not otherwise have the opportunity to do. Everyone is texting, chatting or talking on their mobile phone, but perhaps few people realise how many areas of work are involved. We hope that by showing students how we work and introducing them to the world of mobile technology, they will be able to use the experience they gain here as a basis for career choices and job searches."

We hope that by showing students how we work and introducing them to the world of mobile technology, they will be able to use the experience they gain here as a basis for career choices and job searches.

Erdélyi Emőke, HR Director of CETIN Hungary, also highlighted the lack of a supportive environment and the importance of supporting girls in this age group and showing good examples, as career choices are most often decided in secondary school. "This is particularly true for women in what is currently a male-dominated field. This is also confirmed by the fact that in Hungary the share of women in employment is 47 percent, while in the field of information technology and telecommunications it is less than 31 percent (KSH, for 2023)."


Erdélyi Emőke HR Director of Cetin Hungary: girls should be shown career paths already in secondary school

As the world, technology and with it the labour market are changing extremely fast, HR leaders say the focus should be on continuous learning, flexibility and skills that will always be needed, even with the rapid development of artificial intelligence. "Examples of such interpersonal skills and capabilities include non-routine problem solving, adaptability, complex communication and interpersonal skills. In addition, self-awareness and self-confidence are of paramount importance, as they help us to understand ourselves better, to do our work more efficiently and to build better relationships," emphasised Emőke Erdélyi.

If you manage to combine individual interests with the needs of the world of work and current trends, that is the most fortunate situation, although it is still difficult to predict the skills and abilities needed for the future, according to Enikő Szalai. As she says: "Typically, those who build on their existing skills and are open to new things and willing to experiment, learn and change can be particularly successful. In the world of mobile technology, it's not easy to make predictions - who would have thought 20 years ago that we would be reading the news on our phones or buying bus passes and parking tickets on our mobiles?"

With mobile technology, it's not easy to predict.

Sustainability, working environment, artificial intelligence

In response to the question of how to appeal to young people, and in particular young girls, for tech jobs, HR directors highlighted a number of factors. Among others, Enikő Szalai, Deputy HR CEO, mentioned sustainability, that young people care about what their workplace does for the environment and what kind of working environment it is in. Flexible working hours, a diverse and inclusive environment and the opportunity to develop are also important to them. "For young women, as for men, it is also important what kind of development opportunities a company offers - this could be work experience on a current project or even the possibility of obtaining formal training and certifications. We see that the latter is a clear deciding factor for applicants for IT jobs. We strive to ensure that young people who come to work with us gain insights into exciting new areas such as artificial intelligence; for example, we recently set up an AI squad where employees experiment with the use of AI. But I could also mention the area of customer service, where we are currently testing a solution based on AI.The feedback is that these are very powerful motivators for those who are engaged in the topic through their individual interests."

And Emőke Erdélyi highlighted the company's targeted mentoring programme. We also have a number of colleagues who joined us as trainees."

This year, on Thursday 25 April, the Women in Science Association (NaTE) is organising a Girls' Day programme with more than 60 activities for girls aged 12-18 in 19 municipalities. They can learn about robotics or the basics of artificial intelligence, try out a driving experience, see what an accident scene with drones looks like or get an insight into how mechanical engineers design the car engines that will be on the road years from now. They can also get answers to questions such as what sustainable aviation looks like, what exactly happens in a cyber-attack, or how a woman CEO (Chief Executive Officer) in an IT company spends her day. The programmes are free of charge, but registration is required and can be done at lanyoknapja.hu/programme-list.

Young girls can also find it inspiring to see female leaders in an organisation, showing them what career paths they can take, even in STEM professions. "CETIN is in the technology sector, and in the B2B space at that. Yet, we can say that we have more female leaders working in our company and we have a female CEO at the head of our company. This is a great example to show girls who are about to choose a career. The presence of female leaders can be inspiring and can show that it is possible to build a successful career in the technology sector, regardless of gender,"

Enikő Szzalai mentioned the possibility of an internal career path and even a career change. Within the organisation, it is important that if we have the knowledge and competencies in-house for a newly advertised position, we give you the opportunity to progress. But we also have many examples of people who are open-minded, who, after a period of time in one area, after appropriate retraining, go on to a career in a completely different area of the company."

Both HR directors highlighted the benefits of a diverse, inclusive organisation, which, in addition to employee well-being, has a positive impact on business performance and the company's potential for innovation and adaptability. And in a fast-changing world, it is also important for employers to be able to sustain certain values. One of the foundations of this is being able to do a job, regardless of age, that has meaning, value and impact on the world.

The opening photo shows Enikő Szalai, Deputy CEO of Yettel

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