The role of Women in international trade and disruptive technologies

On the occasion of International Women's Day we wanted to celebrate the increasing presence of women in sectors such as the technological and the international ones. According to the study "Women and Trade. The role of trade in promoting Gender Equality", carried out by World's Bank and International Trade Organisation, companies that start exporting incorporate more women, specifacilly a 33% more than those firm that don't.

The report indicates also that, after a company commercial opening to international markets, wages in manufacturing sector corresponding to women increase an average of a 5,8% and, in top level of exportation industries, the possibilities for staff women to get an official contract are high. In regard to technological sector, it continues the battle for a deeper gender equality. A study of the Observatorio de Igualdad y Empleo argues that only 19,8% of digital positions are occupied by women and, corresponding high charges in technological companies, only 16%.

In order to dive into the question, we have interviewed two women with great expertise in international trade and technology, Elisa Carbonell, General Director of Internationalisation at ICEX and Concepción Díaz, AI instructor, Big Data and Machine Learning at Google. We have been shared by their experiencies, opinions and vissions about the incorporation of women to these sectors

Elisa Carbonell, General Director of Internationalisation at ICEX

Elisa Carbonell (General Director of Internationalisation at Icex) is graduated in Law from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and possesses a Master in Business Administration. We respect to her professional career, she has worked within the public field in financial matters for Competitiveness, Industry and Economy Ministery, as well as in Commercial and Economic Office at Spain's Embassy in Colombia as counselor. Considering her current position and wide grounding, she has told has more about the importance of exporting SMEs internationalisation and the growing femenine presence in international trade:

1.     ¿How was your career until you achieved to be General Director of Internationalisation for companies, breaking the "glass ceiling" in management?

Belonging to Administration's Team of Commercial technicians and economists, I have had an opportunity of assuming responsabilities throughout my career, which has been rather wide ranging, in my opinion. I became general director after having been consultant helping one government's vicepresident, one ministry and two Secretary of State in Colombia. I have been economical and commerical counselor for Spain's Embassy in Colombia and assistant manager in Public Treasury's legal and financial policy. Each of these positions meant to me big challenges and greater teachings as a professional back in the day. I think that, this path, has helped me to prepare for this new chapter at ICEX, which demands a good team management, adaptative and listening skills in order to try the best service possible to spanish companies during their internationalisation.

2.  Being internationalisation responsible at a well-known institution such ICEX, what pieces of advices would you give to other women who want to work in exportations sector, internationalisation or foreign trade?

I would tell them the same as to a man: working in international business has complications with personal conciliation, due to forced trips that includes. Nevertheless, I would also tell them that it is a fascinating sector. Internationalise a firm is innovate. Going abroad to compete in foreing markets is playing in another league. A constant search of new markets, local partners and new clients.

I would tell them that internationalisation is expensive and mistakes made can make the situation even more costly. ICEX is there for achieving a cheap international for business: we save time, money and avoid mistakes. I will tell them to call us.

3. What is your opinion about the growing incorporation of women in international trade and how do you think it will evole in the next years?

New sectors have that have emerged as an answer to the current economical situation have already shown a higher presence of women. Two examples are digital health and cybersecurity that have more and more importance in our economy. Concurrently, more traditional sectors and those in which Spanish companies a international references, as infraestructures, they are increasingly incorporatin women in their international decision-making departments.

Concepción Díaz, AI and Machine Learning instructor at Google

Besides, we had the honor of have Concepción (Conchita) Díaz Cantarero, telecommunicactions engineer and with superior studies regarding Artificial Intelligence and Business Administration. In these last years, she has worked for Google in the field of Big Data and AI, apart from a lot of experience in technological divulgation and a great interest for femenine incorporation into ICT sector.

1. Tell us about your experiencie in Google, do you thin Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are actually such disruptive technologies that will end up being an important part of our lifes and careers?

Absolutely. Before focusing my career in Big Data and AI, I had worked in data nets field. I was born with a heart problem and some years ago I was asked by my cardiologist if I wanted to try with a experimental treatment based on a subcutaneous device to monitor my heart at all time and notify in case of urgence. These kind of solutions had provided me with a lot of autonomy and safety, improving my life quality. The same this has done for me, it can also be useful for millions of people worldwide. These kind of treatments are based on AI and Big Data. That is the reason why I decided to focus my career on this sector.

It is part of our personal lifes, it facilitates us to see audiovisual content in different platforms, including moving on to another, it helps us to geolocalize us on a map in order to reach our destionation, even with Google Maps, we now can know the most sustainable way possible. But it is not only in domestical field, in professional and company levels, and this has a mutual benefit, Big Data and AI has contributed a lot to improve e-commerce, and we must not forget that many business have outlived thanks to these tecnologies during the pandemic.

Another aspect that interests me a lot, sometimes unknown, is the huge amount of Big Data and AI projects created to solve big problems that the society face with, such as natural disaster predictions, enhance unable people quality of life and follow-up of a desease expansion in order to speed up its elimination. It is a revolution that has barely started and I consider it is going to be a fundamental piece in anybody's career bonded to technological sector.

2. In your career, you have also developed your communicative skills, do you think is positive to inspire other women to discover Big Data and AI fields through technological divulgation, where they have less representation?

Two things I am passionate for are technology and training. Due to this, for 20 years of professional experiencie I have being working as IT trainer. It is still frustrating to me the low number of female students in my classes. In fact, in AI the percentage of women is 22% and that is something we must modify. We need to mentor new women generations and explain them that, in many cases, the most innovative and powerful researches in Big Data and AI fields are impulsed and carried out by fantastic women as the pioneer in Social Robotics, Cynthia Breazeal, or the opioneer in Artificial Intelligence Fei-Fei Li. It is important to make visible these women who have been references for new generations to be able to feel identified and stop relating professionals careers as masculine or femenine.

Pioneer women in maths and Artificial intelligence

3. Throughout your career, you have been granted with various awards and merits, and worked as trainer in various projects. Tell us about them, is there any of them that you would highlight or any that has a special significance for you?

The one I got more excited about was an entrepreneurs award organised by Caixa Fundation that recevied 14 years ago. They awarded a new business line eTIC@ that I developed within a startup created by me, which focus was on social labour rather than in technological one, giving solutions for sanitary sectors (line e-health), climate sustainability (greenIT), dependent people or more affected by digital impact (e-inclusion, which was the most awarded line), One of the motors that inspires my life is to expand the fact that, with tecnology, we can make an extrodinary impact on the society, promoted the growth of amount of women in this sector.

Elisa and Concepción are not only great professionals in International Trade and technological sector nationally, but also represent femenine talent internationally. They are both the embodiment of perserverance, constance and hard work. To them and all women, happy International Women's Day!


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