Our Women In Tech forum is an online community addressing equality in the workplace. As part of a series of interviews, Jessica Wilson, our DEI Program Manager, spoke to Estelle Places, Manager at PwC Germany, about her experiences.
What led you to pursue a career in tech and what challenges have you overcome?
My curiosity and passion for continuous learning definitely played a role. The dynamic nature of the tech industry offered the perfect environment for me to constantly develop my knowledge and skills.
From an early stage, I made a deliberate decision to merge my tech expertise with a focus on sustainability. This alignment allowed me to work on solutions that contribute positively to our planet, a topic that has always mattered to me as I, personally, need to have a job that matches my personal values.
However, pursuing this path hasn't been without its challenges. The tech industry is ever-evolving, presenting both exciting opportunities and formidable obstacles.
One significant challenge I've encountered is the complex landscape of regulations and compliance related to sustainability. Navigating this space requires a deep understanding of legal frameworks, which can be daunting.
Nevertheless, I view these challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation, pushing me to adapt and excel in this dynamic field.
Do you think diversity and inclusion has improved in tech over the last few years?
Yes! In my daily interactions and experiences, I've observed a more pronounced presence of individuals from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups.
I notice how companies are increasingly recognizing the value of fostering inclusive environments, which is reflected in their hiring practices and initiatives to promote diversity.
This shift towards greater inclusivity is encouraging, but there is still much work to be done. We must continue to actively promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the tech industry to ensure that it becomes a lasting and integral part of our culture.
By doing so, we can harness the full potential of diverse perspectives and experiences to drive innovation and positive change in the field.
Do you think the rise of remote and hybrid working has helped improve inclusion?
It has, for sure, undeniably contributed to improving inclusion in the workplace. I've witnessed numerous inspiring examples, particularly among women in leadership positions, who have been able to leverage this newfound flexibility to their advantage.
Historically, balancing leadership roles with other responsibilities has been a significant challenge for many, often acting as a deterrent in fields like consulting. Besides, remote work has also created opportunities for disability inclusion and for increasing the awareness for digital accessibility, and has thus had a positive impact on inclusion
Seeing these positive changes also encourages me personally as I envision my own career journey in the future. When my partner and I decide to build a family, knowing that remote and hybrid work options exist and are embraced by the industry gives me confidence that I can continue to pursue my career ambitions while fulfilling my responsibilities at home, all of that being flexible.
This shift not only promotes greater gender equality, but also empowers a wider range of talent to participate actively in the workforce, creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.
What's the best piece of advice you've received about working in tech?
To never stop asking questions. In the tech industry, you often collaborate with specialists who may struggle to communicate in non-technical terms.
Early in my career, this posed a challenge for me as my background was in classical business. However, I persisted in seeking clarity by asking questions until I fully grasped the subject matter.
This approach not only helped me bridge the knowledge gap, but also earned me respect from my technical colleagues. They appreciated my commitment to understanding and knew I wouldn't settle for unclear explanations.
Ultimately, this advice has been invaluable, not only for my own growth, but also for fostering effective communication and collaboration in the tech world.
Do you feel that the responsibilities of childcare are more even now than they were?
This is a complex question, and I can certainly see three key aspects to consider. While I'm not yet at the point of starting a family myself, I believe it's crucial to ensure that the person I choose as my partner is someone I can rely on, not just in terms of childcare but in all aspects of life.
Additionally, it's essential that the employer I choose provides flexible solutions to accommodate family needs, and I'm fortunate that mine does.
However, the third aspect, which concerns regulations, local politics, and the availability of childcare options in the city, is a concern I share with many. Obtaining a "Kita" spot, for example, can be challenging, related to the lack of staff. It's an issue that personally worries me.
To address this, I believe companies can exert influence, but that the greatest leverage lies in politics and the framework conditions. It's encouraging to see that the topic is becoming increasingly prominent, and efforts are being made to improve the situation.
By advocating for improved child care infrastructure, regulations, and supportive workplace policies, we can work towards a more equitable distribution of childcare responsibilities, making it easier for working parents to balance their professional and family lives.
Racial diversity and LGBT+ rights are equal challenges to gender equality in tech. Do you see all diversity and inclusion as one struggle or as parallel issues with their own unique facets?
I believe that diversity and inclusion encompass both shared struggles and unique facets. It is essential that all diversity groups feel a sense of belonging and are not subjected to discrimination based on their differences.
Personally, I am deeply engaged with the topic of women in technology, as I serve as one of the Munich office leaders for our PwC “WeIT” network.
Historically, achieving gender equality has been a long and challenging journey, involving the gradual dismantling of patriarchal norms and providing women with the same rights as men. Significant progress has indeed been made in this regard.
Conversely, issues related to LGBT+ rights and inclusion are relatively more recent in terms of legal and societal changes. I've observed in my everyday life that both firms and society as a whole are making efforts to promote integration and acceptance within the LGBT+ community.
While there are similarities in the broader struggle for diversity and inclusion, each group faces its unique challenges and timelines for change. It's our responsibility to advocate for and support all marginalized communities to create a more inclusive tech industry and society overall.
What is the biggest change you'd like to see in the tech industry to support women?
The most significant change I'd like to see in the tech industry, which is also relevant across all sectors, is a concerted effort to encourage and support women in pursuing digital-related pathways from early education through professional careers. This involves making digital education accessible and inclusive at all critical life stages.
Starting with the schooling system, we should prioritize equipping young girls with the digital skills and confidence they need to thrive in a tech-driven world. This should continue into university education, ensuring that STEM fields are welcoming and supportive environments for women.
Additionally, during professional life, we should focus on making vocational training (“Ausbildungen”) financially and time-wise accessible to women who may be seeking to transition into tech roles. By addressing these aspects comprehensively, we can create a more-inclusive tech industry that truly supports and empowers women at every stage of their journey.
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