FEMALE REVOLUTION – Girls in Tech Gibraltar is shifting the female techie stigma

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Gibraltar’s reputation as a prospective technology hub is rapidly strengthening and the understanding that it presents a unique and high quality offering in the fintech and gaming sectors is certainly “getting out there”. The government’s “full steam-ahead” approach to promoting Gibraltar’s forthcoming blockchain regulation has resulted in immense interest from crypto and blockchain-focused start-ups, many of which are packing their bags and heading to the sunny shores of our peninsula.

Initiatives like Girls in Tech Gibraltar are further strengthening the Rock’s position as a keen tech innovator that is consciously boosting its capable workforce, with a particular focus on driving more females into the technology industry. And why not? It’s a breeding ground for creativity, collaboration, growth and development and offers so much opportunity to travel and work in different tech hubs around the world. The Gibraltar branch of the global initiative has a very specific events-led philosophy, and since its inception earlier this year, has seen a huge amount of interest from within the community. “When I moved to Gibraltar five years ago, I realised there wasn’t so many women working in the IT offices within the companies here. Also there wasn’t many tech events going on,” founder of the Gibraltar Girls in Tech branch, Cristina Turbatu reveals. Cristina has a rich background in software development. Having worked within the remote gambling industry for five years, she has stints at BetVictor, Odobo and Playtech under her belt.

GiT Peter & Cristina with Playtech COO Shimon Akad

Spreading the message

The wider Girls in Tech movement is a global non-profit entity that was founded in 2007 with the intention of creating a worldwide community of female techies, and offering them a place to communicate and drive innovation. Its secondary aim was to open the tech sphere to women everywhere and trigger the understanding that a career in tech is wholly feasible for anyone. Understandably, a number of Gibraltar and Marbella based online gambling companies have jumped at the opportunity to support the local initiative. “The first company we started talking to was Playtech. They decided to become a grassroots sponsor for us as they saw value in what we could execute, because we didn’t have a track record at that point. They also believed in addressing the various biases when it comes to gender equality,” co-founder Peter Mares divulges. Reflecting on his time at former gaming start-up, Odobo, Peter insists he saw very few female candidates apply for tech roles.

A platinum sponsorship of the movement has been snapped up by Marbella-based Gaming Innovation Group, which drives its own female-forward recruitment process and is aggressively pursuing its own gender equality strategy. “Because gaming is a very dynamic field of technology and everyone is pushing the boundaries, having diverse teams addressing these social issues is very important,” Peter comments. GiG CEO and founder Robin Reed, reiterates his company’s drive for gender equality, and although it is a difficult task recruiting tech staff in general, he is particularly eager to close the gender gap in his company, and, he says, he is well on his way to doing so.

Girls in Tech Gibraltar TEAM

Driving diversity

Diversity is the driving ethos for the group, although they strive to bring technology to a wider audience of women, the group warmly welcomes any males that are interested in expanding their reach into tech. “I’ve been following the Girls in Tech initiative and I really liked their approach to increasing the diversity in companies while also promoting technology and innovation. I really liked that they were very inclusive and didn’t exclude men from the organisation. Our events are open to everyone. The focus and the target is for women to approach some of the challenges we face in the industry,” Cristina adds. As with many well-constructed, new movements taken on in Gibraltar, GiT has experienced an impressive response from the community. Cristina says the team has grown significantly thanks to a myriad of volunteers approaching her with the hopes of offering up their own unique tech skills. These were of particular use during the recent two-day boot camp that taught attendees how to assemble a blog website with programming language, Python. Tasked with the promise of teaching 24 novices the complex coding skills. “Most of [the participants] came in without any experience in coding technology so we started from how coding actually works. They were able, in two days, to not only build a backend system application in Python, but also deploy it on a global repository, and be able to push their information online on the servers and the building the front-end of the website applying different styles and also working a bit with the databases so that they can read their online website dynamic data,” Cristina comments. “The goal of the boot camp was for them to create a blog for themselves and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find out from some of our mentors that some of the participants have continued at home and kept up momentum, challenging themselves to finish without the help of any of the mentors.”

 

Women in Tech – stories speakers
Women in Tech – stories speakers

 

Can you hack it?

It’s precisely this keenness that continues to drive the team to produce more events and further extend their reach. In truth, despite their busy working lives in the thoroughly competitive gambling industry, Girls in Tech Gibraltar is one of the more active local groups, and a rapidly growing following is evidence of that. “We try to balance out the portfolio of events with performance presentation style events, like Women in Tech and TechTalks, to active participation events where people walk away with new skills and knowledge,” Peter tells us.

Next on the agenda is a charity hackathon that will actively help the community as teams battle to develop programmes that will target specific local charities and make them more easily accessible to the community. The global event haltered slightly to give it a local spin, and, as ever has generated huge interest from within the gaming industry. Girls in Tech Gibraltar is looking to recruit teams of coders willing to take on the challenge later this month and it certainly aims to be another Rock-wide event that will extend the group’s reach even further into the community.

Bootcamp mentors

Finally, I probe the founders on the state of Gibraltar’s tech workforce and whether we are any more or less female driven that other tech hubs in the world: “What I think is safe to say is that Gibraltar’s gaming and fintech industries are no different to what’s happening across the world, it’s just a problem that is experienced everywhere and Gibraltar is suffering from the safe [gender] ratios at the moment, until sustainable strategies are put in place to improve that situation. These are already happening and we are encouraging individuals to not only feel empowered but also to encourage our corporate bodies to pay attention and realise this is important and needs to be addressed,” Peter rightly comments. In Gibraltar’s case, however, the tight knit community value undoubtedly goes a log way in aiding that cause and fully spreading this crucial message.

photos | Radek Ostojski