Water and food engineer, human-robot educator and tech-ethics engineer. The professions of the future will have some strange, rather fascinating names, words to decipher if we are to understand the new world just beyond the horizon. The fourth industrial revolution has only just begun, robots will become an everyday presence, two children out of three will grow up to do jobs that don’t even exist yet. For girls, though, one certainty does exist, and it’s called STEM.
Many may not yet be familiar with the acronym, as proved by a show of hands among the hundreds of female secondary school and university students who packed the Enel auditorium on 17 April for an event called Women in Tech, held for the fourth consecutive year by Enel Global Digital Solutions to help eliminate gender disparity in the technical and scientific professions.
The new STEM jobs: an opportunity for all
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the subjects girls still too often shun, rendering themselves ineligible for the professions that are emerging today and will predominate tomorrow. Although the future is as yet unclear, days like Women in Tech can help shed a little more light on what is to come by presenting female success stories, offering positive role models, making predictions about the shape of work in the future and rewarding those prepared to commit themselves to diversity and inclusion. All under the gaze of Pepper, a robot that had already played an important role last year, strangely quiet this year after one of the speakers asked, “Who teaches the Peppers of today? And who will teach those of tomorrow?”. If the software codes are written mainly by men, how can the technology of the future become more inclusive?
“Seven million jobs will have been created in Europe by the year 2025, mainly in the fields of science and technology,” said Carlo Bozzoli, our Group’s Head of Global Digital Solutions, in the opening address. “If girls don’t take advantage of this opportunity it will be a problem not only for them but also for the corporate world.” In his “photograph of a changing world” Mr Bozzoli invited his listeners not to fear the future, because the digital transformation will bring many new jobs and “a new collaboration with robots will develop”. According to Luisa Arienti, CEO of SAP Italy, “this digital revolution will give you girls the opportunity to take a leap forward, it’s all down to you: there are no limits to what you can achieve.” Take, for example, successful entrepreneur Luisa Spagnoli, the child of a poor family, or Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, who took out a patent that anticipated today’s wireless technology. Over the course of the day, the list was extended to include the achievements of other female role models, from the chemist Marie Curie to biologist Barbara McClintock, neurologist Rita Levi Montalcini and astrophysicist Margherita Hack.
Female success stories
These names that have gone down in history were given added lustre by the presence at the event of some more contemporary success stories – six managers who gave invaluable advice inspired by their own experiences. Lucia Chierchia, Managing Partner of Gellify, invited the girls to “follow their dream” because “the real startups are you” in a world where constant study will be needed, as well as the ability to provide increasingly hybrid, multifaceted skills. Floriana Ferrara, a Master Inventor at IBM Italia, told her audience not to be afraid of change, because it will bring into being professions that currently do not exist. Jobs that Marina Ruggieri, lecturer in telecommunications at the “Tor Vergata” University of Rome, tried to predict. Unsurprisingly, many are linked to climate change, a problem that the “Greta generation” has realised is immediate and alarming – for example, resource sustainability engineers (water and food engineers); experts in the mathematical consequences of melting icecaps (polar engineers); body engineers connecting the internet to sensors in and around the human body; human-robot educators who will facilitate collaboration with robots; and tech-ethics engineers, who will analyse the ethical implications of technological transformation.
“Learning will be your form of liberation from conditioning,” said Katia Sagrafena, co-founder of Vetrya, a company where women form 47% of the workforce, while Claudia Pingue, General Manager at PoliHub, the Milan Polytechnic’s startup incubator, noted that “for women, being an entrepreneur is an opportunity, not a need like it is for men.” Monica Parrella, General Human Resources Manager at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, reminded her audience of the risks of how the social networks can increase the gender stereotyping and bias that could condition the Peppers of tomorrow.
Women in Tech: the importance of networking
The final story was that of Linda Serra, co-founder of Work Wide Women, the social learning platform that won the Women in Tech challenge launched by our Group in late November on the Open Innovability platform. It is a web community, a networking app and a video game designed to foster girls’ interest in the STEM subjects. “It provides a fun, simple approach to setting up networks among women, just like men do with five-a-side football,” said Giulia Genuardi, Enel’s Head of Sustainability Planning & Performance Management, before the prize-giving, with the symbolic signing of a very real 20,000 dollar cheque that will help the project grow. “Diversity of thought is an asset even if women aren’t different,” said Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer for our Group, as he awarded the prize.
The final piece of advice came from Nicoletta Rocca, Head of People and Organization for Global Digital Solutions, with some very striking words. “Girls, the princess syndrome is a scam. Fight for other women too, the network works best.”
Together is better, and it also helps to face the future with confidence, because, as Margherita Hack reminded her audience, “In life there’s nothing to fear, only to understand.”