The day we entered the third millennium was the beginning of the era of sustainability. Waste management, increased social inclusion, decreased
environmental impact and fostering transformative change form the basic assumptions of sustainability. And as the world continues to grow, the question of systemic change remains unanswered. The word “sustainable” slowly loses its meaning as capitalists continue to use it for their own gain. For one, sustainability in a social context was first practised in response to human rights. Although it isn’t apparent, sustainable development can only be realised when all people are given equal opportunities to achieve their aspirations. However, women’s rights are still an issue, particularly to those who are associated with the technology industry.
Comes Nadira Mohd Yusoff, CEO of Nadi-Ayu Technologies, who has always believed in the potential Malaysian women have to do great things. Unfortunately, women are not taking their own initiatives to progress despite the obvious technological shift. More surprisingly, they include those who were technically trained during their tertiary education. “They either opt out or dwell into different fields, which is good too; but technology is rapidly influencing the development of every sector. If women continue to ignore these changes, they are going to be left behind.” Foreseeing the possibility of this negative outcome, Nadira began running her own entrepreneurship development programmes for women until she stumbled upon Girls in Tech (GIT).
What does it mean to be the Managing Director of Girls in Tech and what made you volunteer for the position?
GIT is a global non-profit organisation that focuses on the engagement, education and empowerment of women in technology. Since its founding in 2007, it has successfully accelerated the growth of women entering the high-tech industry and building startups. But most notably, it has managed to overcome challenges most NGOs are unable to. I was inspired by its strategies to run training programmes, create awareness and advocate policies. And looking at its approaches, I saw a glimpse of our future, which was the reason I approached them to bring the chapter to Malaysia in the first place. And that was about three years ago where they they appointed me as the Managing Director, so that’s when Girls in Tech Malaysia begin.
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What role does the local society play in empowering the girls and women who are passionate about technology?
We need to start shifting the gender perception from an earlier stage. From how parents treat their children, to how boys and girls work together in schools – it takes a generation to change a generation. As much as we’re promoting women in technological fields, if we’re not cultivating that kind of accepting environment from a young age, will it really be effective? And in terms of education and exposure, there needs to be a step outside of the current school curriculum, which is very exam-based. We, at GIT Malaysia, have been working closely with schools to expose students to the Maker Movement and change parents’ perception on allowing their children to participate in activities and start creating stuff. At the same time, I wish more women who are in tech or/and leadership roles would come out and talk about their achievements to empower women or girls out there.
What is I4H and can you elaborate your vision for I4H?
Impact4Humanity (I4H) is our local chapter’s mission to encourage women to take a stand and be part of a global movement by combining businesses with a positive mission. Of course, every venture must not only be profitable but also be backed by solid, sustainable business models. It is also a signature programme under the Startup & SME Promotion Year 2017, which is supported by the Ministry of Finance and Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC). It is GIT Malaysia aims to use I4H as a platform dedicated to exploring ideas, building prototypes and developing ventures based on social innovations that can benefit at least one million global citizens. The exciting part is when those selected projects will have the opportunity to have their prototypes developed, receive early funding and showcase their work at the Global Entrepreneurship Community 2017.
What are the challenges faced in the Impact4Humanity (I4H) campaign and how are you planning to overcome them?
Although the programme seems fool-proof, it does have its own challenges: matching technologies to the sustainable development goal areas as well as getting the corporate partners to really understand the objective while working with other entrepreneurs. There is no doubt that both parties have their own distinctive mindset but as time passes, they were able to compromise and work hand-in-hand to achieve the common goal. The most inspiring fact about GIT is that every member is doing it on a voluntary basis. However, they’re no less committed as they are passionate about the cause and that is enough to fuel them to push boundaries. That being said, I still hope to reach out to a greater market because I strongly believe that everyone has a role to play in shaping the future of the community. Sadly, as an NGO, we have limitations when it comes to our ability and capacity to go out and pitch. Therefore, we’re focusing more on strengthening partnerships in order for us to have better outreach for this programme. And this is how GIT facilitates: by connecting various ecosystem players and corporate partners to support and facilitate at every point of the value chain towards a positive societal transformation. Through partnerships, it maximises our awareness, ensuring our effort is able to reach out to a wider audience. At the end of the day, we see our partners as advocates and ambassadors for I4H.