A few years ago, and even today, when talking about computers, programming, and software development, the first stereotype that comes to mind is that of a computer geek: a person (usually male) with weak social skills who is smart, disheveled, obsessed with computers, self-taught, and works around the clock.
But that is not an accurate depiction. Nowadays, it would be difficult to identify all the different roles available in tech by looking at someone’s physical appearance.
Tech roles are as varied and different as those performed by these four women with technical backgrounds who today work in BBVA’s Engineering and Organization unit: Jennifer Sesmero, computer engineer, head of training and talent attraction in Corporate Security; Natalia Heredia, telecommunications engineer, head of cross-functional network projects in Architecture; Berta Gómez, physicist and expert data scientist on the Advanced Analytics team and Ilse Anahi Esquivel, computer science graduate, who works at the data center in Mexico, as part of the Infrastructure and Operations team.
These four professionals agree on one thing: we need to believe in ourselves more. “I don’t like to generalize, but in many cases, girls tend to suffer from imposter syndrome more, are more insecure, and tend to think things through a lot more. On the other hand, although there are many exceptions, boys tend to be more confident and believe they are more capable than they actually are in some cases,” said Berta.
“Girls tend to suffer from imposter syndrome more, are more insecure, and tend to think things through a lot more”
Few people are probably aware of the key role women played during the development of computer science in the 1980s. In early 1984, 37% of computer science students in the United States were women. Similar figures were found in Spain, where 30% of the students were female in 1985. However, in subsequent decades, these rates dropped by 12 to 15% in Spain, according to data from a research conducted by Juan Julián Merelo and Cecilia Merelo.
“When I started to study Computer Science at the European University of Madrid in 2003, I was the only girl in the first course. In subsequent courses, there were three or four of us because some joined later. Thanks to that experience, we became close friends and have been friends for almost 20 years,” said Jennifer.
Natalia had a similar experience: “Since I started in Telecoms, I have been in a world where we were in the minority. But that did not affect me at all. On the contrary, I believe that as women we can contribute extra value in the scientific and technological world, innate capabilities that we possess and know how to enhance.”
Computer and telecommunications engineers and engineering physics
“Change, not always doing the same thing, continuously learning, and doing something innovative that required constant renewal, that’s what I liked,” said Ilse.
Berta, however, was inspired by her high school physics teacher: “He told us that he would teach the classes as if they were at college, and I loved it. I loved having to make an effort to detach myself from everything, to have a comprehensive view and, based on that, solve any kind of problem,” recalled Berta.
Today, the percentage of women professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is around 30%, a figure similar to the early days, so there is still a long way to go to achieve equality.