I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Andreea Wade, who will be speaking to a large group of secondary school ladies in Tullamore during the Midlands Science Festival…Here’s what she had to say!
When did you decide to work in a technology related field and what inspired you?
I started coding when I was 15, continued to do so until I was 19… and then decided I wanted to be a journalist. My career took a different route then but I remained interested in technology. After a few years of journalistic work – from radio to TV and magazines – I changed paths again and went into advertising, subsequently going for another degree, this time in marketing. A few years later I went on to study design and then…training.
The sum of all my passions and curiosities brought me back into technology, a field I love due to all the possibilities it presents !
Why in your view are science and technology so important in society today?
The importance of science and technology is demonstrated by the unconscious use of it in our
everyday lives. Our academic, professional and personal lives are all supported by science and
technology. We build, we communicate, we share and we learn using various technologies and the
science behind them. It has been said that we are now existing the Technology Age and entering
the Human Era. This refers not to the end of technology but to the empowerment of people to
create, to build freely and openly by making use of existing technologies. There is a movement –
organic, natural – in making both science and technology more accessible, from coding to biotech
and so on. It is important thus to acknowledge that regardless of ones path in life, you can’t escape
technology and on the contrary you can make use of it to expand your horizons, to bring added
value to whatever space your passion lies in. The field of technology is not a remote space, it is to
be found everywhere!
Why is it important for those working in science and technology to take part in such events as the
Midlands Science Festival?
I would say it is crucial and it is so for a number of reasons. Taking part can mean different things:
you can bring in your organisation, your academic entity and share your work, you can take part as
a speaker and again, share your work, some of your knowledge and observations within your
particular field and more importantly… you can inspire. You can be a role model. I think it is the
duty of those working in technology and science to ‘’translate’’ their work to the rest of the world
and especially young people. We all need to make a conscious effort to humanise these fields,
bring them closer to our everyday realities. Connecting with others is key and I think it is also
important to acknowledge that an event like the Midlands Science Fest presents great
opportunities for creating an impact in places and on people you don’t normally have the
opportunity to. Dublin is a tech hub rich in events and happenings and it is easy to lose sight. And
so again, I think it is our duty, as people who are committed to adding value to the tech or science
communities to go the extra mile. Or, in this case, the extra 66 miles or so, haha!!
Can you tell us a bit about Women in Technology (WITs) and your involvement in this group?
Women in Technology and Science (WITS) is an active forum for women in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM). Now in its 24th year, WITS has a proven track record in
delivering initiatives that improve the recruitment and retention of women in STEM roles. WITS is
also a strong advocate for celebrating the past and current successes of women in STEM.
Members come from a broad range of backgrounds within STEM. WITS members range in age
and experience from third level students to some of the country’s most eminent senior academics
and business people including those who have retired from the workforce. I am very proud and
honoured to be part of the WITS Executive. My involvement started last December and hopefully it
will continue for a long while. We are very open to new people joining us, men and women in
STEM and also, always open to help. We have spent 2014 working on our strategy for the next few
years and we can only hope that what we came up with will add value to the community and will
help towards achieving gender balance and eventually real diversity within STEM
Are there are any specific challenges for women in technology now?
There is only one answer to this and unfortunately it is: Yes. This is a topic I could write a book
about. Again, unfortunately. Where to start? Perhaps with the past… which is still the present. For
example, the number of female CIOs has remained static at 14% for a decade. The situation in the
EU is currently worse than developing nations and the US, where the proportion of women in
leadership roles is higher. Gartner research data showed women occupied 11.2% of technology
leadership roles in Europe, the Middle East and Africa compared with 18.1% in North America,
13.4% in Latin America and 11.5% in Asia. We need role models, we need support, we need male
allies but we also need our voices heard. What we don’t need is bullying, death threats and overall
sexism. All these things are unfortunately happening and we need to acknowledge them, face them
and address them. There is no way around this and as uncomfortable the process might be for
some, change often is uncomfortable. But change IS happening and there are a lot of initiatives
around gender balance and overall diversity so yes, things are looking up. Personally, I have no
choice but believe that and continue my work around supporting women and creating platforms for
more female voices to be heard. I am always open to conversation, always open to meeting new
people and getting involved in things that accelerate change so… if anyone has ideas or needs
support – please talk to me. All my work in this space is volunteer work and I truly appreciate
people and organisations who want to offer their help.