Only women can drive change in the IT sector
Women in Digital is an award-winning tech enterprise that encourages women working in the tech industry – and inspiring them to become leaders. Evelyn Seltier talked with the CEO, Achia Nila, about her drive for empowering women in a male-dominated sector.
Why did you become the CEO of a tech company that supports women in the IT sector?
Growing up I never thought about gender issues. That changed on my first day of university: I was shocked to be the only girl studying computer engineering. There were only two other female students in the entire university – and in all of Bangladesh, there were hardly any women working in the digital space.
During my second year, I applied for my first job. Then I saw that women were only accepted for graphics. Coding was a complete ‘no-go’ zone for them. I had to fight for my first job, but I got it. Again, I was the only woman in the coding department. There were many challenges, but the more time I spent working in that field, the more I understood the obstacles women face.
It broke my heart to see society judge our existence, our capacity, and our dreams based on one thing: our gender. I knew then I had to bring more Bangladeshi women and girls into technology — to empower women and girls through technology. This is how my organization, Women in Digital, was born. And in my company, women are not treated differently.
Please tell us more about the specific challenges that you have encountered.
There are basic challenges such as gender. To start with, I am a woman. Not only that, I am a tech woman and an entrepreneur. To add to this, I am working for women and am running an organization with women.
Times have changed. It is time to admit the fact that women can manage both home and work. Women in Digital will constantly work on this. More specifically, to bring more women into the digital space, they need access to tech education, the internet, devices, jobs, income, and people's mindset.
There are some women who manage to start their journey in the tech industry. But they remain at an entry-level job because they face a hostile environment. If we had more women at the policy level who could help create a women-friendly business environment, maybe things would change.
You have joined the International Telecommunication Union as international IT expert and the first person in Bangladesh selected for this position. How do you see your role as a woman leader?
It is very important that ITU supports women in leadership, who inspire other women to take on these roles. Despite my position, at external meetings I am still at times judged based on my nationality and my gender instead of my capacities.
I feel a constant pressure to prove myself. Women often must push through internal and external barriers to find the confidence to express their ideas. For women in business, it may be a challenge to trust in the unique aspects of female executive presence and acknowledge them as personal and organizational assets. More women should be engaged in leadership positions, especially at the policy level to make a real difference.
What are your plans?
When I started Women in Digital, I focused on the international market. This is how I was selected for the International Trade Centre’s Netherlands Trust Fund project in Bangladesh. This project has supported me a lot in growing my business internationally.
Now I would like to replicate my business model in other countries. In the end, we need more women in tech and only women themselves can do this.