Female Tech Heroes role models #6 – Nur America: ‘It is important that women make empowering decisions from their true selves’
Apr 23, 2020 12:27:01 PM. By: Anna Mazur
Knowing how it feels to be a woman in a tech environment, senior tech expert and founder of NEWNESS, Nur America would like to help women make the right choices from their true selves by sharing her own experiences and mentoring. In her opinion, instead of accepting decisions imposed on them, women should propose other options and negotiate what will work for them.
The coming months we will introduce female and male role models who act upon increasing diversity in the tech industry. By telling their personal and career stories, we can inspire and learn from each other.
You’ve built a very diversified and extensive career in tech, from researcher to Director Business Development in leading tech companies, and it’s been 10 years now since you found your own company, NEWNESS. How do you look back at your career so far? I enjoyed my career in the corporate world. I was able to undertake senior management positions, and I am grateful to my colleagues and leadership, who supported me. However, after having started a family, finding work-life balance became very difficult. This is because responsibilities in private life are not equally shared. Women carry more responsibility at home, whereas men do less. You find yourself keeping up with male colleagues who do not have similar challenges and pressures.
Given the circumstances, I felt I had to find a solution to attain work-life balance, so I decided to start my own company. I thought about becoming an entrepreneur also before throughout my career. Therefore, this felt like the most natural step to make. This enabled me to be in charge of my agenda and have flexibility needed to achieve the balance. I look back at my career with a satisfaction that I undertook different roles and endeavors, and I have been successful at them. At the same time, I think I might have achieved more, if I handled the circumstance at work and role division at home differently.
Did you as a career mother feel pressure from the outside? I did feel pressure from outside. As a career mother, you have less time to spend with your child. You rely on external help. Since we did not have family nearby, I had to rely on day care and baby sitters. Other parents arrange things differently. You feel pressured by the reactions from the environment. For example, I used to travel a lot when my son was very young and I felt pressure from school when they would say: “We know when you are travelling, because at those times, your son is withdrawn.” I let this impact me and found myself making compromises.
Why is it so important to teach women to deal with this? It is important that women are aware of these external pressures and do not allow these to influence their decisions and choices. Otherwise, we make decisions based on fears, and not on a true self. We need to be resilient, strive for equal responsibilities at home, make partner choices accordingly and negotiate better conditions at work. Then we can have it all, both have a career and be a mother. We need to learn to come up with creative solutions and make counter-proposals. The boss would be interested to find solutions and create win-win situations.
You are an active mentor for the VHTO, a Dutch national expert organization on increasing participation of girls/women in science & technology. Why is this so important for you? The orientation for STEM studies starts at high school with profile choices, hence mentoring young ladies at that age is important. You can inform and inspire them, share experience about what they can later do in with career after technical studies. I give examples from my work on how technology enables innovations, like 3D food printing, home automation, AI algorithms to diagnose disease at early stages, city farming, wearable sensors, and sensor to decrease food waste. Having experienced what one can achieve with technology, I would like young women not to miss out on it and make informed decisions. Furthermore, the percentage of women in tech studies is still limited in The Netherlands and this has to increase. There is more and more need for people who master latest technologies. Women needs to be part of that. I believe that women need to have knowledge of technologies and innovations, which will be important during their career to achieve top positions.
Talking to these young ladies, I understood that they sometimes have the perception that working in a lab or behind a computer might be boring and lonesome. Therefore, social interaction is very important for them in a work environment. Also, women would like to pursue careers where they make a contribution to the society. Hence, I tell them examples from my career across technical areas, where I collaborated in teams or worked closely with customers. I explain how tech work can be rewarding once you bring solutions to problems. Above all, I explain that achieving sustainable development goals will require innovations made possible by technologies. Hence, the society needs them to make a contribution with their knowledge of technology.
We are delighted to announce that Nur will hold a workshop and a mentor session at the Female Tech Heroes Conference in December 2020.