In virtually all Swedish high school programs there is an equal split between male and female students – except for the technology program. Here only 20% of students are female, which means only 20% of those who go on to study technology at university are female and only 20% of those employed in the tech industry are women.
The new UF company, called Jämställt Teknik, wants to change this by encouraging more girls to apply for their high school technology program. The company was founded by 18-year-olds Aja Tomic, Julia Izarra and Ebba Hampusson, who are all in their third year of the technology program at Minervagymnasiet in Umeå.
“We want to bring about a change in the gender distribution of the technology industry. We know from tech companies that the ambition is there to recruit more women. We also know they want to change attitudes towards technology”, says co-founder Julia Izarra.
Now Umeå technology companies Konftel, Umeå Energi, Ålö, Algoryx and Komatsu Forest are backing the UF company.
“We are always happy to collaborate with initiatives that might increase the number of female engineers in the future, as this will make it easier for us to create a more balanced research and development department, which will affect our products in a positive way”, says Peter Renkel, CEO of Konftel, a company with its roots in Umeå that today develops video conferencing products that are sold around the world.
He confirmed how challenging it is to find female engineers who want to work with hardware and software for embedded systems.
“You have to be introduced to technology quite early on in high school to stand a realistic chance of studying it at university level,” says Peter Renkel.
The three student’s business concept is based around visiting classes in high school to inform students what it is really like taking the technology program. They also create Instagram posts specifically aimed at girls in high school. The posts contain everything from facts about the labour market and female role models in the technology industry to what it is actually like to study and work in the technology industry.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the three students have had to rely heavily on digital solutions to spread their message, for instance by ‘attending’ remote classes. Had the pandemic not struck the UF company would have also offered study visits to leading technology companies and conducted various technology experiments.
“The companies that have chosen to cooperate with us will all contribute to showcasing future opportunities within the technology industry. Together we want to broaden the general image of technology as a career path for high school students. The real life experiences of the companies involved complement our own experiences from the technology program really well. Hopefully, together we can give a true picture of the technology industry as a whole – and break one or two prejudices along the way,” says co-founder Ebba Hampusson.
The three students have Jennie Ekbeck, CEO of the renowned Umeå Biotech Incubator, as their mentor. She believes their idea represents a ten-year investment, because that’s how long it takes before girls who chose the technology program in high school to be formally educated at university and go on to work in the technology industry.
“The girls have done an incredible job and I am really impressed they have managed to attract the attention of such major and reputable technology companies in Umeå. The whole industry wants to see more women employed. To achieve that you have to start engaging early on. It will be interesting this spring to see which high school programs have been chosen. I am absolutely certain this initiative will contribute to increased gender equality in the technology industry,” says Jennie Ekbeck.
For further information, please contact:
CEO, Umeå Biotech Incubator
+46 90-15 49 77
+46 70 671 17 34