Many years ago, a scientist working for a global company convinced their boss to give them the staff, the money and the time to start a project that there was no apparent need for, that had no definite chance of success, and that would cost millions of dollars to implement.
That project, unknown to all but a few of the employees, was ultimately the difference between the company being destroyed and it flourishing to become one of the world’s leading tech companies. That company was Huawei, and that scientist was a woman – He Tingbo.
She saw that Huawei needed to develop a “plan B”; a way to survive if the US decided to try to kill the company by cutting off its supply of chips. A graduate of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Ms He joined Huawei in 1996.
She rose through its ranks and is now, although still virtually unknown outside China, one of its most senior scientists and one of its most senior executives.
She alone had the vision – and the know-how – to develop the technology that would ultimately mean Huawei no longer needed to rely on US manufactured components for making its equipment. Her “plan B” has become “plan A”. The fact that she is a woman is important, now more than ever, in my opinion.
It proves that women must be on a level playing field when it comes to the tech world – as well as other area of life - and more than that - they can be technology leaders. But it only happens when we create equal opportunities, break down barriers and put inclusive policies to work.
"To be blunt; women need role models in the tech sphere. They need to feel that they can shape the world of the future and be part of the conversation"
For example; here at Huawei, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman. If you have an idea, a talent, something to say, you can speak and be heard. We take the issue of work-life balance seriously too, which is why we support our female tech stars if they want to be star mothers in their private lives as well.
We support women on maternity leave and when they return, so that they can resume their careers, because being a parent should not be a career ending choice. And to be blunt; women need role models in the tech sphere. They need to feel that they can shape the world of the future and be part of the conversation.
Technology, I firmly believe, must work for everyone, and must represent the requirements and desires of us of all. Women need to be an integral part of our shared technological progress. This is why it’s important that stories like that of Ms He are heard and shared.
The barriers to women accessing and having careers in the tech industry must be broken down. This needs to start at the grass roots level, through education and training, giving girls and young women the opportunities and skills to enter the tech world.
This won’t happen overnight, but Huawei wants to do what it can to encourage this transformation. For example, over 11 thousand female students have participated in the Huawei ICT Academy, which partners with leading universities to give young people hands-on training with the latest technologies.
And on the 4th of March, we are hosting our first “Women in the Digital Era” symposium in Brussels, bringing together speakers and contributors from the world of science, business, academia and politics to discuss key issues affecting women in this new tech-dominated age.
I sincerely hope this will be the first in a series of opportunities that we will have, to make women feel that they are welcome in, and a key part of, the tech industry. Our aim is to inspire a new generation of women to enter the digital world. The phrase “You can’t be what you can’t see” is as true now as ever.
Only by championing the already existing tech women and scientists and their achievements can we inspire a new generation of women to join the digital world and contribute to its direction and its values.
We are seeing some justified updating of history already, with women finally being recognised as scientific pioneers in so many fields. Through our #HuaweiI4Her initiatives, we want to propose concrete ideas to truly unlock the potential of European women and girls interested in science and technology.
Sometimes the fight for equality starts way before entering the professional world. It starts in schools and colleges and on social media, when our daughters and sons get their first mobile phones.
"Huawei will play its part in trying to encourage and inspire young girls and women to become scientists, tech experts, innovators and leaders of the digital age. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"
It’s as simple as this: our daughters, just like our sons, need to feel that they can be a part of this new tech world, not just consumers of it. I believe that if we are to truly leave no one behind in this fourth industrial revolution, then women must be at the forefront.
Our industry has a long way to go in bringing true equality to the tech sector, but Huawei will play its part in trying to encourage and inspire young girls and women to become scientists, tech experts, innovators and leaders of the digital age. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
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