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Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling - September 3, 2020 - 0 comments

Meet Martina Zammit

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?

My day starts very early in the morning with my radio show on Vibe FM, which is a morning show primarily aimed at helping people de-stress while they’re stuck in traffic. This sets the mood for the day as my co-hosts and I always have a good laugh during the show, which in turn it fills me with a dose of energy and positivity. It is actually therapeutic, in a way that it gives me the inner power to push through my day with a smile, irrespective of the challenges and issues I might be dealing with.

Once the show is over, I go on to wear the Gadgets hat. I usually start off with a quick catch-up meeting with Nadya, the team’s Production Manager, and together we plan out the day and operations, from client handling to creative brainstorming sessions. I am blessed to have a team that believes in the Gadgets brand as much as I do. We are a very small team, but definitely one with big dreams.

‘Gadgets’ strives to be the pace-setter when it comes to reviewing and discussing the latest innovations. How did you get to where you are today? Did you always have an interest in technology?

We set up the company in 2008, mindful of the fact that we are living in a world where new technology is pushing the world into different dimensions. We could see that technology is evolving at a very fast pace and we knew that it would form an essential part of our lives. Whether we like it or not, humanity relies on and is heavily involved with technology. Phones, washing machines, laptops and so much more.

Being heavily involved in the media and TV industry in Malta, the first idea to start informing and educating the nation on technology was by having a TV show. To this end, we immediately agreed that infotainment was the format that would help us achieve our aims. Our idea was to share tech news and info in an entertaining manner in a way that would give people a fun and easy means of grasping technology and innovation.

We came up with a TV production whose aim was for people to experience technology and innovation. Gadgets grew into a brand and a household name with the ideal platform for suppliers to showcase their latest products, and for viewers to learn all about them. Gadgets are for all the gadget geeks out there, but also for all technophobes to become familiar with the technology that drives the world we live in today.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

The reality is that more men than women work in the tech industry in Malta, and I think society plays a vital role in this regard.

We really need to stop putting labels on everything and on everyone; we need to stop saying ‘this is for girls’ and ‘this is for boys’ – we need to cultivate a stronger sense of equality, especially with the upcoming generation.

I think a number of women feel somewhat belittled whenever we have these types of discussions about the low number of women involved in certain sectors. The retention of the status quo makes it quite difficult for attitudes to change, but the fact is that women can and should do whatever they ought to do and above all whatever they believe they should do.

Who are your role models for women in tech?

Caroline Paris is someone I really admire. She studied engineering in the early 2000s and is now a qualified computer scientist and coder. She has worked for tech giants like Spotify and was once a speaker at a Google event. People like her are definitely an inspiration to young women with big aspirations who may need a bit of a push in the form of a role model to help them achieve their dreams.

Martina Zammit

How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women? Would you say from your own experience, that you’ve seen improvements in diversity over the years?

We need to look into the tech industry being more inclusive for women on the basis of four facets.

>> Drastic societal and cultural changes are necessary. Children are immediately exposed to toy shops and children’s clothes shops that are divided into the girls’ and boys’ sections. Typically, lego sets and action figures are for boys, while art and crafts and kitchen sets are for girls. From a very young age, children have these rules already set for them and are conditioned to think that certain things are exclusively for boys, while others are for girls.

>> What is the situation like with education? Are women applying for tech-related courses? It seems to me that there isn’t a big enough drive for girls and young women to be looking into the possibility of going for tech jobs. It is pretty clear that girls have been focusing on job positions that are considered more ‘female-oriented’ such as social work and teaching. We need a much bigger national effort to encourage more girls to get into fields of study and of work in the world of science and technology. As things currently stand, it is clear that tech jobs are considered to be for men, such as the guy who comes to your house to fix your computer. Sadly, I think many people would be surprised if that guy happened to be a woman.

>> This takes me to another point: employability. Are women with the necessary skills applying for tech jobs? I believe the percentage of women studying computer science or software development has increased, but many of these women end up eventually deciding to do something else. Sometimes they might realise that the tech world is different from what they thought it would be, but other times there are serious concerns regarding flexibility. Not surprisingly, this often occurs during the child-bearing years.

>> And finally, there’s the question of whether women actually retain their tech jobs. Because the number of women in the tech industry is very small, a woman working in this field ends up being one of very few, if not the only woman in the office. This can be somewhat intimidating to some women and can cause them to hold themselves back from attending important networking and industry events.

This complex issue requires a properly thought out national strategy that would seek to address the matter on different levels. It would also be unfair to say that things have remained unchanged over the years. The culture in the tech industry has evolved, of course, and I do see progress. Nowadays, I see more women showing interest in working in tech, and people I encounter are definitely more aware. Networks and groups to the likes of the National Council of Women of Malta, Missintech and Women in Tech Malta are incredibly important and their work has been invaluable. They bring together stakeholders, elevate the discussion and inspire people to come together. These groups and platforms are aimed at like-minded people to connect and work together towards a common goal while promoting successful role models for us all to aspire to. Role models are extremely powerful because they have the capability of demonstrating young talent career trajectories that some may not have known are necessarily possible.

The discussion has progressed and become multi-faceted, as equality and diversity have grown to become more integrated into overall company strategies. We need to be promoting the notion of more women joining the industry, as well as motivating them to stay on.

Companies need to evolve to attract more women in order to enhance their talent pool. It is important for companies to be aware of the talent they manage to attract and the skills that they’re missing out on. Teams with diverse experiences and backgrounds build the best products and services.

Technology moves so fast, how do you keep up to date?

This is, of course, no easy feat; we often get caught up in our own bubble, missing out on certain tech developments, but I think two very good ways of staying current are by setting up Google alerts to keep up with what’s happening in the tech world on a daily basis. And I find that another extremely effective way of keeping up to date is to attend networking events, where you are more than likely to meet people from various backgrounds working in the industry.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?

Reflecting upon what I have learnt over the course of more than a decade in this inspiring yet challenging industry, I would encourage others to stop doubting themselves. My advice would be: ‘Believe in yourself – just go for it; it’s okay to make mistakes, move forward anyway and don’t be anxious about not having all the perfect answers’. For women today and especially those who may wish to join the tech industry, I would say: ‘This is your time. If you find yourself in a context where a company doesn’t understand how valuable a female graduate is, you have one simple solution – search for opportunities elsewhere; like the world, the marketplace is your oyster. There are plenty of alternatives out there in terms of companies that would appreciate your skill sets. Looking back, if I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be: take the opportunity to learn as much as you can. Constant learning is key to your growth and progress.

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