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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday March 4, 2019

Women in culture and tech: Eva Fog, founder of tech organisation DigiPippi (and much, much more)

In the lead up to International Women's Day (8 March), we speak with an expert in children, gender and IT, Eva Fog, who is a consultant, opinion leader, writer and educator. She is the Founder and Chairwoman of DigiPippi, an organisation which aims to bridge the gender gap in technology (oh, and WonderTech Summit Denmark's Role Model of the year 2018). We discover the importance of empowering girls in tech and why 'nice' and 'perfect' need to leave our professional vocabularies.

From Eva...

I founded DigiPippi in 2015. It is an initiative for girls aged seven through 13 years that teaches girls technology on their terms, using female tech role models. Basically, we don’t teach technology. We help the girls enhance their existing interests with appropriate technology in an all-female environment, and it works wonders!

I’m also a self-taught tech geek with a little too much creative thinking and a desire to change the world.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I am balancing three crucial topics:

  1. Helping girls attain technological interest by using their own interests and volunteer female role models. This is a task performed in the DigiPippi organisation, with the help of a board and 60+ female volunteers and we’re preparing to start up clubs for the first time! Very exciting.
  2. Advocating and educating about female equality and importance in tech by giving talks, acting as a consultant and writing about it. I’m writing a small book about how gender equality as we are seeing today came to be historically and, how we can make changes. It’s based on the work I’ve done over the past nine years to help bridge the gender gap, and I’m looking forward to sharing it in 2019.
  3.  Educating children in general, as well as their parents, teachers and business leaders how to live their best life with technology. I call it digital upbringing.

All these tasks are in my educated opinion part of the whole, that will help us reach a better future. I work towards awareness and creation as opposed to oblivion and consumerism.

How did you get into your field?

I would like to say circumstances but I’m not sure that describes it. I was introduced to computers in 1990 and it was love at first sight. I had an uncle that worked in tech and he kept providing my mother, brother and I with computers, and I looked up to him. The only problem was that no-one saw me and my interest, so nobody guided me in a technical direction. I did it all on my own, being ‘the girl’ with the males until I was in my mid-20s. I tried to get a tech education but failed to find a residency, so I just lost hope and left, continuing to be the ‘tech girl’ and feeling so alone in it.

When I met other women who understood me, it was such a relief, and for once I wasn’t the odd duck. I was just me. After an accident, I was helped by the government to pay for an education and became the least tech thing possible - a Waldorf/Steiner pedagogue. To me, the mix made perfect sense, and in the period from 2009 to 2015 I worked my mix of tech and Waldorf in public schools. It was here I found that nothing had changed in 20 years. Girls still weren’t perceived as tech-savvy and there were no female role models for them. So then I got stubborn and worked to change that. After initial tests between 2013 and 2015, I founded DigiPippi with the help of the incubator program through Reach for Change Denmark. I thought I was just going to make workshops for girls but ended up starting a system change. And that’s the change I’m advocating worldwide, leading by example instead of just talk.  

What are the challenges for women in the workforce today (in general or in your sector)? What can be done to improve matters?

The perception of women and tech is that they are not a match. The unconscious biases we encounter from society, media and our own upbringing have taught us that tech is for males. Specifically, an unwashed, cola and chips-consuming male, sitting alone in a dark room with a computer. The lack of visible female role models is staggering, and the cultures in both the educational system and businesses help to keep the biases alive. We have been taught technology for the sake of technology, being fascinated by the thing rather than the reasons for its creation - the tasks it can perform to make life better. Too many products are designed to fit men but then exclude women. Too few women apply for education or jobs because they doubt themselves and their abilities, even though females are very capable and continue to be better educated.

The solutions are not easy and it will take a long time to really make a difference. It is, however, possible, and that’s where the work we do at DigiPippi really matters. Role models are key. Especially same-gender role models.

For the young girls, it’s all about showing them - not telling them - that they are good enough and that they can change their world as well as help others using technology. Also giving them access to heroes, that show them these exact things in the media and in schools.

Students in a Digipippi workshop, Eva Fog, Denmark, 2018, CC BY-SA
Students in a Digipippi workshop, Eva Fog, Denmark, 2018, CC BY-SA

For the young women, it’s about cultivating the reasons why they should have an interest in technology and making sure, that the educational system is ready to let them learn.

Female professors and gender diverse classes really help, as well as making real-life applications instead of theoretic.

For the women, they need to know that they are role models for the younger generation and they need to meet female mentors/role models that can help them. Companies need to have inclusive work environments and in many cases encourage women to apply for better positions in the workplace.  

In the end, if females are supported in not being perfect, not being ‘nice’ and are provided with an environment to belong to and thrive in, we are doing the best we can at the moment.

Do you feel that women are sufficiently empowered and present in leadership positions?

Unfortunately not. The statistics I keep reading are very clear: women seldom advance above middle management and getting them there is in itself not easy. It seems that a mix of women not putting themselves forward, men hiring other men, females abilities being undermined and downplayed, too few female leaders and unfavourable work environments for women who have families are some of the main problem areas. Having talked with women in upper-level management, the stories they tell me support this. We have a work culture that still favours men with late night meetings, golf meetings and so forth. It’s natural to like the company of people similar to yourself, but it works against diversity and progress.

Also, some women who have reached upper-level management hold on to their positions for dear life, as they are now ‘the woman’ (the only woman) with not much possibility of other women advancing without costing ‘the woman’ her job.

What message would you share with women in the sector today?

Believe in your own skills and strengths. Accept that you are flawed because that is the human way. And just do stuff! Yes, it will most likely freak you out to cross your comfort zone but fear shouldn’t stop you. Fear doesn't go away, so it's important to make it a driving force and not a hindrance. I’m scared every time I do something new. I doubt myself way too much. I also keep going despite - or maybe because - of this.

Find others to lean on and don’t fear the sisterhood that clubs and organisations can provide. Find and embrace them.
It’s never about pushing aside men or taking over. It’s about gaining equality, and that requires a level playing field, which we still haven’t achieved. But we can each contribute to the change.

Each person is a potential role model for someone else, so if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for others. But just do stuff.

What digital communities or networks do you find rewarding?

I am fortunate enough to have created my own network inside of DigiPippi, where I find my daily strength and support. I’m a part of Women in Tech, both locally and internationally, as well as being part of a group of tech women that all work for the same cause as I. Also, I've just been accepted into an exclusive network called BRIDGIT formed by the global Reach for Change organisation.

Who (or what) inspires you at the moment?

Right now my role models are Michelle Obama, Anja Monrad of DELL EMC and Melinda Gates. These women are what I aspire to be in kindness, power and generosity, and I hope someday to get to meet them all and tell them about my work. I’m fortunate enough to know Anja already.

Otherwise, my continued inspiration is the girls. I don’t think I have the words to describe what it feels like to see a girl come out of her shell, eyes glimmering, and see her embrace her own power. It happens at every workshop we’ve ever had, and that’s what keeps me going. Changing just one girl's self-esteem - that’s enough.

Want more? Visit our exhibition Pioneers which highlights the lives and achievements of historical European women. Visit the full list of profiles for the Women in Culture and Technology series - we publish three profiles per week throughout March. 

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