Blog: ProRail sponsors the next generation of IT professionals

Blog: ProRail sponsors the next generation of IT professionals

2024-06-24  Blog Evy KalkerFriday 21 June 2024 14:45

I solved the mini Rubik's Cube again in no time and the maze key rings were quickly busted, but the Beta Olympiad, on the other hand, is unbreakable in my memory. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Nod if warm memories spring to mind now too.

Where are you nodding now? Behind your screen surely! You went into IT, and in a while many of the girls from all high schools who are now participating in an Olympiad will do so too. Because this year, at the end of July, the European Girls' Olympiad in Informatics (EGOI) will take place in the Netherlands (Veldhoven). A great opportunity to inspire girls with talent for IT and to put the IT sector on the map as a diverse and inclusive field.

After all, of course it is fun to get away from school for a while, solve crazy and challenging puzzles, and come home with lots of stories and funny gadgets in a gift bag. In hindsight, however, it was mainly meeting like-minded people that made the most lasting impression. Not being the one student who has just finished the homework too eagerly, or who asks that extra question too much, but discovering that there are more people who enjoy a technical subject, and that there is much more than the exercises in the textbook. Olympiads are traditionally aimed at inspiring and motivating secondary school students for science subjects. I myself participated in a maths competition for the first time in first grade and enjoyed doing so until my final year. This ensured that I never hesitated to pursue a technical study or career after that.

It's especially exciting that I am now involved in sponsoring the EGOI as an IT professional from ProRail!

Because it remained striking during the years that I let my 'inner-nerd' free on similar competition days: I was one of the few girls. Most members of CIO Platform Nederland will recognise this within their ICT organisations. At ProRail, for example, we are proud of the increase of women within ICT from 16% to 18.1% in six years. Yes, you are already nodding, recognisable figures. Too bad, because this is how we miss out on a large part of the workforce in a scarce labour market, mainly due to preconceptions about the field and a lack of representation. In maths Olympiads, the effect of a separate competition for girls showed that more girls participated in the overall competition. The computer science version followed in 2021 with the first European Girls' Olympiad in Informatics, which this year thus will take place in Veldhoven. And don't let the name fool you, the competition takes place in Europe every year, but the teams come from 50 countries from all over the world. 

Apart from the sponsorship, ProRail also contributes to the programme of the competition week. With a workshop of the 'Beavers and Badgers programme', we will demonstrate that IT can be both socially relevant (will the trains run tomorrow?), and ecological (beavers and badgers undermine the tracks), and that it doesn't just take place behind the computer (using a drone to track down the setts). Many factors come into play when it comes to the study and career choice of girls, but one of the reasons for not opting for the science, technology, engineering and technology (STEM) field is that girls often have too limited an image of the sector (see vhto.nl, expertise centre for gender diversity in STEM). You really don't have to be a techie like me to go into IT! We also supervise the introductory games at the beginning of the week with a group of female colleagues. This way, we show that there are plenty of role models with different (IT) professions within a tech company. In order to also introduce IT students from mainly Eindhoven University of Technology (TUe) to ProRail, in addition to the technical delegation, we invited our colleagues from HR to make contact with the women who are close to the labour market.

We are very much looking forward to seeing all these young enthusiasts competing on the virtual competition field and are full of anticipation as to which delegation we may present a prize to! This way, we as an organisation and IT department can do our bit to create a more diverse and wider pool of IT professionals.

Are you nodding again now and are you excited? If you want to know more about this event, girls in IT, or the how the sponsorship works, don't hesitate to contact me (linkedin.com/in/evy-kalker/).

Evy Kalker
Manager M365 & Power Platform
ProRail

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