4 min. read
Celebrating Diversity – Today & Always
Speech by Anne Kjær Bathel, Founder & CTO ReDi School of Integration
For IWD 2023 we decided to gather 300 women and allies in tech to do one thing: celebrate them.
On March 3rd 2023, the Xena Women In Tech Awards took place in Berlin (get to know the winners here if you haven’t yet). During this very special night, 3 guest speakers took the stage and today we are very proud to share with you Anne Kjaer Bathel‘s speech. A great reminder of diversity as a driver for innovation.
Sit back, enjoy, and don’t forget to celebrate your favourite women today (and always).
“Ladies and gentlemen, between and beyond,
We are exceptionally privileged sitting here in this beautiful location, surrounded by wonderful people. First and foremost: a big thank you to Xena for putting on this grand event and celebration!
But, as Spider-Man’s wise grandma said: “with great powers comes great responsibility” and in the real world, in the 21st century I’d add: with great privilege comes great responsibility to use the wisdom and knowhow represented in this room to make a real difference and stand up for those not yet, sitting next to us. That’s the way that we can all be real-life super heroes!
The evidence is clear: diverse teams are not just “the right thing to do” – it is also the “smart” thing to do.
Research from Harvard Business school, McKinsey, Credit Suisse, and many others have shown that diverse teams are having a higher return on investments and are more innovative. This is both the case when we look at diversity in gender and ethnicity. Diverse teams have less biases and can therefore avoid being blindsided by groupthink, they bring more ideas and new solutions to the table. But I’m sure you know already that! You have probably even referred to some of the numbers in your own speeches. The truth is, we know it – but still – far too little is happening to representation in our industries and our society!
The world we live in needs new ideas to solve life-threatening challenges like lack of inclusion, climate change, rising inequality, pandemics, and the war now on European ground, to name just a few.
We work in the tech sector because we know how powerful and scalable tech solutions can be. But it is also our responsibility to ensure that this powerful tool is being used to serve all of humanity and not just the privileged few.
At ReDI school we taught more than 5500 refugee and migrant kids and adults last year, of those 65% identify as female. Yes, those numbers are possible, if we set our minds to it.
But one of the interesting things I’ve seen is the difference in how girls and boys learn tech skills. The boys are to a large extent happy to sit down and explore tech, the girls ask “why” and want to understand what tech can be used for. Their motivation is different. They tend to see tech as a means to an end, and not as the purpose in itself.
Off course I know it is a stereotype, and every child is different. But it stands out to me and I believe women have a significant role to play in tech, making it a force for good, solving real problems, and not just making money, moving fast, and breaking things.
Another thing that stands out to me is how our female learners tend to doubt their skills, and focus on the things they cannot do, instead of the all things they already can do. Our lacking confidence is unfortunately a big barrier that we have to deal with, but also work in spite of. The good thing is it keeps us grounded and open to learn.
We need to have courage – In the true meaning of the word. Cor is the Latin word for heart. We need to have courage to step outside of our comfort zones and follow our hearts!
In advance of writing this speech, I talked to Christina, one of our ReDI students who thanks to our Partnership with Xena, now works as a data analyst at HelloFresh. When I asked her what made the difference and gave her courage, she immediately talked about role models. From the cyber security officer’s talk that inspired her to study at ReDI, to Female volunteer teachers who had encouraged her and shared their own learning paths with her, to ReDI program managers encouraging her to apply for jobs. She spoke about great women at Xena who prepared her for job interviews, and great women at HelloFresh showing her that she can succeed as a woman at HelloFresh. Seeing is indeed believing, we can be what we see – but it takes the commitment of a village to raise the next generation… also in tech.
We are all role models and allies in this room and we have an important role to play in investing in the next generation.
If “each one teaches one” then this room would be double the size next year. And if our mentees start also teaching others, then we are starting a movement that can get to exponential growth fast!
Should you want to mentor or teach some of these next-generation women in tech, come talk to me afterwards. We need you and the world needs you to step up. I’m sure we can make it – if we do it together!”