Technology is changing all our lives, but without the female perspective we risk designing a poorer, less innovative future. Enel is launching a challenge for the best startups and small enterprises founded or run by women. The challenge is called Enel’s Women in Tech and it’s open until 31 January 2019 on the Open Innovability crowdsourcing platform.
What is Enel’s challenge, exactly? Our Group has been included for the third time in four years in Fortune’s Change the World list of companies that are doing precisely that, by changing everybody’s quality of life from a social and environmental point of view. How can we build a more inclusive and diverse energy sector? How do we bridge the gender gap in energy technology by helping the best female entrepreneurs to succeed? Women in Tech attempts to provide an answer by targeting women-only startups and enterprises that meet these specifications – they must have been in existence for fewer than 10 years, employ a maximum of 100 staff, own technology or solutions in the commercialisation stage and that are ready to be tested and possibly applied to Enel’s operations.
“Enel has chosen to encourage female entrepreneurs, offering them the opportunity to present their ideas and promote them worldwide. The best idea will be assessed for a collaboration with the company, and will receive a sought-after prize during the gala evening organised to give it greater visibility,” says Ernesto Ciorra, the Group’s Chief Innovability Officer.
Reflecting the true Open Power spirit, the challenge aims to make a practical contribution to four of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 5 on gender equality, as well as SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
Women in Tech: diversity as a value for business
The belief at the basis of Women in Tech is that diversity is a value, for business too, that our Group promotes at all levels. “Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s in our interest in the context of business growth,” says Francesca Di Carlo, our Group’s Head of People and Organization. “It is crucial that all our staff, in whatever geographical or business area they are operating, realise that discriminating against a person because he or she is different means losing a potential talent that could have contributed to the growth of the Group, also through a productive exchange of ideas.”
This is what drives Enel’s commitment to policies and monitoring the results of access to selection, career development and related increases in salary. Our Group also promotes programmes pairing female students with experienced female professionals and incentivises the employment of women.
Diversity makes a priceless contribution to innovation, too, says Ciorra, because “it creates cross-fertilisation and enables growth – different viewpoints and experience help make everyone richer, building on the principle of collective intelligence that lies at the heart of the creative spirit and innovation.”
“True diversity, however, isn’t down to the presence of more women or people of different sexual orientation, religion or culture in the company – diversity means having the courage to promote a culture of freedom and dissent within the company”
Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer at Enel
How to bridge the gender gap
Two thirds of the jobs of the future will be in the field of science and technology. It is predicted that 756,000 new jobs based on digital skills will be created in Europe by 2020. And yet the number of women studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is still low, especially in the Mediterranean countries. This gender gap has a negative impact on career prospects and deprives industry and research of a valuable asset: there are still too few female startups.
As Ciorra explains, “almost all household products are chosen and bought by women but designed by men, which means the input of a female point of view is needed in order to improve the experience, usability and appeal of the product. This is only one example of how companies are depriving themselves of the crucial added value that women can provide. What’s more, even though technology has no gender, it’s not clear why this concerns men and why there are so few women on STEM courses. All this is impoverishing the sector.”
There are many reasons why STEM faculties are unattractive to female students. Two in particular, says Di Carlo. “The lack of role models to provide inspiration and the fear of making mistakes and putting yourself on the line. The family pressure that leads girls to believe right from when they are small that they have to be perfect (by getting top marks at school for example), creates a deep fear of risk and failure. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play hard and aim high. This prompts them to take more risks, simply because they are used to doing so. In other words, girls are brought up to be perfect and boys are brought up to be brave.”
“Lack of courage is one of the main reasons why women are under-represented in STEM subjects and in positions of power, wherever you look”
Francesca Di Carlo, Head of People and Organization at Enel
In such an environment it is easier to see how important the challenge launched by Enel’s Women in Tech really is – promoting the best women-only startups not only to enrich the energy sector but also to close a gap that every day makes the world a poorer place.