Engaging Women in Tech: The Cambodian perspective

The challenge of getting more girls and women into the tech sector is a global one. The lack of role models, the lack of parental and school support, and a sometimes toxic and masculine work environment are all factors that need to be addressed; and many people in Cambodia are thankfully seeking ways to overcome this!

With the recent publishing of “Factors affecting women engaging in tech careers in Cambodia” by Development Innovations and USAID, Geeks in Cambodia thought it was high time to write something on the topic, and showcase some of the great work in Cambodia to boost women in tech!

The report is clear about the problem currently facing the recruitment of more women and girls into the tech sector in Cambodia.

“[In Cambodia] women only account for 8.5% of students in information-technology-related post-secondary programs. While the same barriers affect women in the tech industries across nations, additional pressures, institutional and cultural constraints prevent young women from pursuing career advancing opportunities in the tech ecosystem in Cambodia.”

And yet, the report also highlights clear ways to help address this situation, namely by identifying where current students interviewed in the report gain their interest in what subjects to study at university. “At School” was found to be the most important way students become turned onto tech subjects, suggesting that increased focus in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — subjects across the country will be a successful way to get more girls into tech.

With companies like Smart Axiata and Prudential Cambodia including STEM support in their CSR strategies, it is clear that the importance of improving these areas of education in Cambodia is understood. The next challenge is to further encourage girls and women to take part.

“The youngest focus group participants were more positive and perceived fewer barriers in reaching their career goals beyond their own persistence and hard work. To maintain this optimism, support their learning and career objectives, school age girls need to continue to see themselves reflected in the media,” the report notes.

At Geeks we like to think that coverage such as Technovation, women entrepreneurs and the Equals in Tech awards is us doing our part, but we have taken this suggestion to heart and will strive to further celebrate and promote successes from women and girls in Cambodia’s tech field. And there is great news to promote all the time. As Somaly Pech, COO at cashless payment provider Pi Pay told attendees at the SHE Investments conference recently, 63% of Pi Pay’s senior management are women, and 44% of all staff, which is something we were very pleased to share!

Development Innovation’s Chief of Party Kate Heuisler explained to Geeks that they had already taken the findings of their report to heart, and were working on a Facebook-based tech talk show showcasing Cambodian women in tech, in addition to their popular #IAmRachana social media initiative.

“We also always look for opportunities to highlight leading women in tech through our events and on social media. Video content, especially stories about Cambodian female innovators, has been extremely popular.”

Impact Hub Phnom Penh, home to some of the most exciting tech and startup programmes in the country, including the SmartStart and Toyota Challenge, regularly brings together some of Cambodia’s most promising young minds, explained Kim Kosoma, PR Manager at Impact Hub Phnom Penh.

“I would say that roughly 40% of our applicants are women, and they come from a range of diverse backgrounds including medicine & nursing, law, mathematics, engineering, graphic design, and more. Every time we interview female teams we are blown away by their bold ideas and motivation and we are lucky to work with what we would consider to be some of Cambodia’s most courageous and determined young women.”

The Development Innovations report finishes with some clear suggestions on helping to get more girls and women into tech, and we hope that everyone reading this will follow them as best they can:

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Geeks wishes to congratulate everyone working in this area in Cambodia, and please let us know how we can further assist!