Cambodian Women Take Up Technology

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In a traditionally male dominated sector, more Cambodian females are breaking the mold and taking up technology as their chosen career path. B2B Cambodia speaks to one woman who is helping drive the movement forward.

“Mobile penetration and internet adoption in Cambodia have increased remarkably in the last five years,” states Channe Suy, who is in charge of project development at technology company InSTEDD.

Coupled with this growth, which Suy says is “lighting up” the industry across the Kingdom, is a noticeable rise in the number of women who are smashing the stereotype that this is an industry mainly for males by studying IT rather than accounting or administration.

“In the last five years, society has become more open and there is more demand for technology professionals in the market,” she adds. “This contributes to attracting more women to study IT as well. The technology industry has historically been seen as a more male dominated sector. This is true everywhere, not only just Cambodia.”

However, despite the rise in female professionals entering the market, there is still more room for growth, with the number of women studying IT being much lower than men.

In a bid to boost the market and encourage more women to pursue careers in IT and technology, a number of measures have been put in place. In March, the first WomenTechMaker event saw about 50 female software developers gather to share their thoughts, experience and coding practices.

And recently, Suy teamed up with Sikieng Sok, a teacher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, to launch Cambodia Women in ICT. The aim of the group is to provide a place where women involved in the industry can share their experiences, network and support each other.

“I strongly encourage women to study an IT degree and also to be active in the technology community,” Suy, whose job involves developing solutions to social and educational issues affecting developing countries through the use of technology, says.

Helping to recruit women into the industry is the fact that workers are among the highest paid professionals in Cambodia and there is a high demand for workers in this global industry. Also, Suy says, many technology companies are giving high priority to women in order to balance gender equality in their teams.

But being a woman in a male-driven industry comes with its challenges, with Suy claiming often females have to go that extra mile to prove their capability. “Cultural issues set barriers of perception towards women when working with male team members,” she states.

“A woman needs to prove that she can do the task the same as a man. When climbing the career ladder and taking on a managerial role, she has to work even harder. This path, at one point, will hit a ‘glass ceiling’ – an invisible yet real ceiling, which is very hard for women to cross.”

Despite this, she believes the tech industry remains one of the most open with less gender discrimination when compared with other industries.

But it’s Suy’s determination, forward-thinking and top skills in her profession that have helped her rise to the top of her game. She was hand-picked to be a software developer during her third year of undergraduate studies, and went on to win a scholarship from the Indian government to carry out a Master’s degree in Computer Application in Bangalore – a city famous across the globe for its technology and IT industry.

And with the sector growing in Cambodia at a rapid rate, this is a market that Suy believes will carry the country into the future as its importance in contributing to Cambodia’s economy expands.

Proof of its popularity can be seen in events such as Startup Weekend, which has taken place annually for the last three years, becoming bigger each time.

The National SME Business Competition is another example of engaging young, talented Cambodians in the startup arena. To date, the annual competition for Cambodian university students has seen technology startup companies become the most common type of business participants choose.

 “The concept of technology startups is very new to Cambodia but I think it is a great fit for our culture as Cambodian people in general are very entrepreneurial,” Suy says with confidence.

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