While women are woefully under-represented in most tech industries across the US and Western Europe, Romania and Bulgaria have become a pioneer in gender equality.
But what makes these former communist countries the leading model for gender equality in the worldwide tech industry? Let’s take a dive into the Romanian tech culture in order to understand how this country managed to become a pioneer for women in technology roles.
The IT sector has a big problem – Romania has the answer
In 2018, Romania ranked second among Eastern European countries with the highest percentage of businesses owned by women. Almost 30% of companies in the country have a female owner.
That is impressive if we look at the percentage of women in the tech sector in other countries like the US with just 20%, the UK with 18%, Italy with 16% or Germany with 17%. Even in Japan, a country globally renowned for its contribution to the tech industry, female developers make up just 13% of the workforce. That is less than half the number of Romanian female tech workers.
So, what’s the secret?
Eastern Europe’s tech industry has for a long time been more inclusive than its Western counterpart. It’s no surprise that the first 4 countries with the largest number of women in tech are from Eastern Europe. This phenomenon is usually credited to a history of socialism in the East Block, which placed women’s workplace emancipation at the heart of state ideology.
One other explanation for the high proportion of Eastern European women in technology is the communist legacy of excellence in science, mathematics, and technical education. Also, under the socialist culture, it was compulsory for women to have a job in addition to caring for their children. Consequently, many women in post-socialist countries combined full-time tech jobs with domestic tasks. Their daughters are now following in their footsteps.
In the educational system, the curriculum is more focused on “exact sciences” like math or physics. Even in middle-school, the Romanian curriculum has more math hours/week than in other countries.
The culture and values of these Eastern European countries have created the perfect environment for gender equality.
There are IT companies in Romania where women are in the majority
Maybe for other countries, this may be a shock, but in Romania, there are quite a few companies where women represent the majority of the workforce. From female owners to leading positions, women are taking their share of the industry.
Perhaps Silicon Valley should take note.