whose: Isabelle Ringen (34)
what: An entrepreneur, including the leader and founder of the “TENK” organization that works to inspire girls to shape the future with technology.
Why: One of the initiators of the Girl Tech Fest organized in Oslo on Wednesday this week.
Hi, Isabel! What exactly is Girl Tech Fest?
– That’s exactly what the name suggests! One annual day where we throw a tech party for 10-year-old girls. The day is filled with workshops where they can access programming websites, build robots, solve world problems and launch rockets – along with a concert, dance and science show. Our goal is to show them how fun technology can be, how many opportunities there are, and to expose them to good role models in the industry.
Fabulous! What is your role in all of this?
– As a leader and founder of TENK, in 2015 I was one of the initiators of the Girl Tech Fest initiative along with a group of other fanatics.
Why is this day important?
Technology is already a huge part of our lives, and will remain so to an increasing degree in the future. There is generally very little diversity in the technology industry and in technology studies today. If we want to be able to meet the future needs of technologists and at the same time ensure that these technologists represent many different needs, values and views in the population, we must start hiring early.
Studies indicate that there is a significant information gap regarding what technology studies and careers entail, and that many people choose not to use technology because they do not know enough about the possibilities. This day is important because it inspires them to see what lies behind technology, teaches them what it can mean to work with technology and helps open their perspective. Not the least of which is showcasing a variety of industry role models.
Why do you think that is the case? That more boys work in technology than girls?
– It’s a complex problem, but the most important thing is that it can be solved. In the 1940s, women were the typical “programmers” in the aviation industry and the armed forces. Women were actually called “computers”. The first computer was built by Grace Hopper and the first program was written by Ada Lovelace in the 19th century. But then two things in particular happened in the 1980s: Tech professions became prestigious and high-paying, so men flocked and women disappeared.
– The second thing that happened is that when the first computers were marketed to households, they were put on the market as a kind of game console for men. The machines were placed in the boys’ room and gave many of the boys experience with computers. When these girls came to university, the girls did not have as much experience and dropped out. There has been a very significant decrease in the number of women in information technology studies since 1984.
– This negative trend spread in the image that the world gradually acquired from technologists. The media and entertainment industry’s portrayal of techies are white men in hoods, who aren’t typical role models for young girls. As male dominance solidifies, it tends to become less woman-friendly in all respects—be it what toys are made for children, how studies and subjects are presented, what the culture is like in the workplace. It wasn’t resolved overnight, but it’s moving in the right direction.
Oh, that was educational. What was your relationship with technology when you were young?
I belong to a unique generation that knows life before and after everything went digital. As a kid, I found tech gadgets and anything that could live wonderfully. By live I mean electronic games and games that have personalities or can be programmed to do things. But I probably didn’t think about the fact that I have an interest in technology. I probably noticed mostly on a subconscious level that the world was about to evolve, but unfortunately I didn’t realize that I could take part in shaping it myself.
– If I had known earlier, I would have chosen to study technology. It’s also part of my motivation to show these young girls at Girl Tech Fest all the exciting things out there in the tech world, because it’s a show I hope I get to have myself.
You are also currently with the series “Power women Norway” on Viaplay. Why did you agree to participate?
– I considered it a unique and interesting opportunity to present the projects I’m working on and talk about issues I’m passionate about in front of a wider audience. At the same time, the timing was good, because I want to work more in the television industry and am now developing concepts of my own. It was also an important factor that I admire the other women who were there, I was really proud to have shared the screen with them.
After all, the series has received some criticism, including for being a bit tame, and for some things seem contrived. How do you react to criticism?
– I expected the series to receive a lot of criticism, because that’s the case when you put on a series with a rather bizarre English name on pink posters all over town of five ladies with big smiles. But standing up to criticism is the other side of the privilege one gets by being given the chance to talk about fan affairs and projects on different platforms. But the series is neither contrived nor fake, although of course there are many hours of footage cut down to just a few minutes.
We also take some regular questions. What book meant the most to you?
– A book I will never forget by famous author Dale Carnegie, Live Life Without Worries. Carnegie puts typical human fears into perspective and takes a realistic, rational approach to stress and unnecessary negative energy as a result of anxiety. I give him a lot of credit for the fact that I am a very low stress person.
Who was your childhood hero?
– my mother and my father.
Is there something you regret?
– No, because if I had not lived my life exactly as I have, I might have lived a different life today. And I love life!
Who would you rather be in the elevator with?
– Put it in. And I wouldn’t let him out until the war was declared over.
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