Giving Voice to Women in Tech

The Women in Tech Forum 2019 set new records and debuted its Voice competition.

"We need technology more and more, but still men are developing the technology we use," noted Marjo Miettinen in her keynote speech at the 2019 Women in Tech Forum at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on October 2019. Miettinen chairs the boards at both Ensto and the Technology Industries of Finland.

“The target of Women in Tech, which is coordinated by Technology Industries of Finland, is to inspire more women in the technology industry and to stimulate discussion about the choices and factors related to study, occupation, and career,” says Pia Hänninen, Ensto's Head of Brand and Communications, “and that’s why Ensto has been involved in the organization from its very beginning.”

Twelve minutes, twelve-hundred participants

Interest in this year’s Women in Tech Forum was stronger than ever. Within 12 minutes of opening online enrollment, the event booked its maximum-capacity crowd of 1,200 participants.

Founded in 2012 by five tech power ladies – Marjo Miettinen, Anne Stenros, Mervi Karikorpi, Piia Simpanen, and Pia Erkinheimo – WIT members share a core belief that diversity leads to better innovations and enables solving the big problems of the world.

While every year participation has grown, this year the organization decided to give women in tech a literal voice, partnering with Ensto and MySpeaker to organize the WIT Voice competition.

“Women in Tech Finland wants a more diverse technical society. We want to speed up the cultural shift in Finland and encourage women to work in tech industry,” says Piia Simpanen, Head of Growth Programmes at Technology Industries of Finland.

André Noël Chaker, Chairman of the Board at MySpeaker, says diversity is directly related to better corporate performance. “The more voices are heard, the more chances we have to succeed. I believe that this is less a gender equity issue than one of sustainable business performance.”

A spokesman for Women in Tech

Nine finalists were chosen from participants who submitted a maximum three-minute video speech entitled “I love tech because…” The nine speakers were then coached by Kamilla Sultanova (public speaker and workforce diversity consultant) and Aku Varamäki (cofounder and partner at Workday Designers), with final presentations made on the Ensto stage during the Women in Tech Forum. The winner was selected by a panel of professional judges, with a third of the vote given to the audience.

"Women in tech need role models and new ideas about what is possible to achieve as a woman in tech," says André Noël Chaker. "They did not disappoint us! All nine finalists were just splendid examples of women making a difference in tech."

The winner was Galith Nadbornik, with a speech entitled “Embrace your weird,” about her experience of coming to Finland from France 14 years ago with one bag and an accent. Nadbornik, educated in finance, never intended to work in technology, yet she says that tech saved her multiple times. After the financial crisis of 2008 caused her finance job to vanish, she was enthusiastically taken back by a tech company she’d worked for before. Attempting to understand what her contribution was to tech, despite her lack of a technical education, she posed the question to her colleagues, who told her she asked weird questions that helped make the code better. “My difference,” she says, “was that I made the team stronger.”   

Currently the CIO of Finland’s Lindström Group, Nadbornik’s Voice victory will not only elevate her profile within the tech community, but it put her at a mentoring session with Finnish tech power brokers Sari Baldauf (Chair of the Nokia Board starting April 2020) and Marjo Miettinen.

A speech can change a life

Marjo Miettinen’s ambition is to continue to develop the Women in Tech network, with the agenda of taking part in the bigger diversity discussion. “I encourage you all to make bold and untraditional choices in order to pursue your interests and dreams.”

Those bold choices are surely personified by speaking coach Kamilla Sultanova, a native of Uzbekistan and consultant and speaker on workforce diversity, employee- and youth engagement who, speaking on the Ensto stage, summed up the importance of women speaking out: “Storytelling is a human rights issue. It isn’t everywhere in the world where you can share your story.”

Sultanova offered the observation that “One speech can change another person’s life.” Galith Nadbornik, as well as the other eight finalists, are now charged with this task.