Stories of female hackers: meet Irene Gómez, director of Open Innovation at Telefónica

And you, what do you want to be when you grow up? According to a report by the CYD Foundation for the year 2022, the total number of women enrolled in universities represents 56%, a figure that drops to 30 percentage points when we talk about engineering. The degree with the fewest women enrolled with 14% is Computer Engineering.

With all the technological innovations that are to come, and all the professions that will be created in the digital field in the coming years, it is essential that women participate 50% in technology. Unfortunately for now it is not a reality and if we ask ourselves why the students do not prefer engineering careers, for example, one of the causes that they always mention is the lack of female role models in the sector.

For this reason, today we are going to present one of them, because Irene Gómez, director of Open Innovation at Telefónica, is undoubtedly a benchmark in the technological innovation sector. In addition, she is a woman with a management position in a key area such as open innovation. She also thinks that:It makes no sense that we are not a fundamental part of the construction of the world to come. We are half the population. We cannot allow ourselves that the world that is to come does not contemplate women”. In a casual and very inspirational talk, he has told us the path he has traveled in his career so far, because surely he still has a long way to go.

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Discover how Irene Gómez was inclined towards a STEM career

Although she wanted to study Fine Arts, in the end she turned to technology because she really liked the idea of ​​building things, and has always had that intrinsic need to set challenges ahead. Irene Gómez is a Telecommunications Engineer. Although she still likes to paint with her hands, technology gives her the possibility to create, but with her mind, thus allowing her to keep that creativity in her professional field. One of the things that she became aware of during her career, were the almost infinite possibilities that training in technology entails.

She tells us that, in her childhood, the inclination of girls towards STEM careers was not encouraged and that it was biased through play. She states that very few girls in her class did anything related to technology. But she liked the idea of ​​projecting herself in laboratories, setting up networks, for example.

The study period

It was she alone with the support of her family who began to look for universities. When she entered university to start her studies in engineering, she realized that she was a very masculine world. She says that during the first year the girls felt that they did not fit in, and that the other students treated them as if they did not know.

He also affirms that once people were not approving and they were, they themselves broke with this stereotype. In the end, a group of very diverse people was created, who worked together. She states: “each contributed with their differences. If bias existed, I didn’t care, you have to do things the best you can”.

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For Irene Gómez, it is important to highlight that one of the greatest risks is that we put barriers on ourselves. She says that it is essential to know how to see the opportunity instead of the weakness: “If in an environment you are the different element, it is a super opportunity. You can take advantage of that diversity that you bring.”

The importance of breaking the limits that we set for ourselves

In the labor stage, she admits that women have had more challenges when making a hole for themselves. But it seems more important to emphasize that, “you have to grow professionally from what you are, not from what you are supposed to be”. It seems to her that many times the women who reached high positions had a masculine style of authority. For her it is very important, “that it is not about copying the forms of leadership of others, it is about making things shine from what you are.” She is very hopeful because the type of leadership is changing, and she says that the leadership that some women bring is very powerful.

In any case, for Irene one of the most inherent problems that prevent women from growing up, “is that women judge ourselves a lot, in a harsher way than perhaps our peers. Let’s not trip ourselves up, that we should love each other more, let’s not put so many limits on ourselves, because others don’t do it “. For her it is important that we break down these barriers, because they prevent us from moving forward. She says that she has always been very motivated by her experiences with her colleagues, and seeing the effort of the women she had by her side. She also thinks that it is a mistake to sacrifice things that are important in your life, and that we should not give up.

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blurring barriers

Irene is convinced that the technological storm that is to come, as the metaverse and related technologies, will blur the barriers between tech and non tech professions. For her, technology will be the enabling base for what is created on top of it, which allows people who are not so “techies” to be able to participate.

For her, it is “an ideal setting to encourage people who feel that they do not have the capacity to be in technology, that it is no longer a barrier, that they can already have a presence. Because, for example, a psychologist can become a data scientist to analyze her patients. Every time things are going to be more linked.

The future that is yet to come

For Irene Gómez, with the rise of the new worlds, there is an opportunity to create what is to come in a different way: “the world will always have the same bias, if we do not participate equally”. She is of the opinion that, perhaps in the not so distant future, we no longer have to talk about bias within technology. She thinks that the types of careers that there will always be will include a technological factor.

To encourage girls to study STEM careers, she says that it is essential that they try, experiment with technology and give themselves the opportunity to explore: “it is essential that girls do not put barriers, but that they see yes, technology is for them. Encourage them to experiment and challenge themselves. That they make them see that programming is not only used to program a video game, and that they see how powerful technological tools are”.

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He expresses it wonderfully in an image: “Many times we see the mountain and think that we cannot climb it. When you are under the mountain your perspective is very small, when you get higher you see possibilities and you already decide where you want to go”. So, from here we are going to encourage all the girls to discover what they want to be, but trying everything, so that they really find their vocation.