Andra Levite Riga TechGirls
Andra Levite
Address of the First Lady, Andra Levite, at the opening of the Riga TechGirls and Latvian Investment and Development Agency international hackathon ‘Women. Technology. Sustainability’

Good evening, dear Anna Andersone, dear bright, young by age and young at heart, participants of the “Women in Tech” hackathon, ladies, and gentlemen,

In 2021 United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”.

The pandemic has impacted everyone around the globe, however, there is evidence to suggest women have experienced a different set of hardships – having to shoulder even more responsibilities at work and home than before.

While International Women’s Day celebrates the true social, political, and economic achievements of and for women, there is no reason to be complacent, but rather an incentive to detect areas that need further action.

Just remember the brave women who struggled for an International Women’s Day more than a hundred years ago. They did not ask for flowers, they demanded fundamental human rights such as the right to vote and to be elected, reduced working hours, and responsible family planning.

The technology sector has experienced significant growth. Empowering sustainable innovation and responsible entrepreneurship is promising economic prosperity for all of us.

During the last decade in Latvia:

  • the number of people employed in the ICT sector has doubled,
  • the number of ICT companies has tripled,
  • computing jobs offer some of the highest salaries,
  • but a majority of employers in the technology sector are facing a serious shortage of available talent,
  • and sadly, only every fifth employed ICT specialist is a woman.

To make matters worse, overall trends suggest that women’s representation in this sector has been more or less stable at a certain level over the last nine years, without convincing hope for rapid improvement, both in Europe in general, and in Latvia in particular.

In future decades, there is purposeful work and creative inspiration to be done.

As incredible as it seems today, the future of our professional life after this agonizing pandemic has already begun. The economic reorganization after the pandemic will strengthen the ICT sector. This offers the perfect opportunity to improve and encourage women’s participation in technology.

If we are negligent or ignorant to history, occurrences tend to repeat themselves in a miserable way. During World War II, all over the world, women took over responsibilities in factories, companies, and local and national institutions. But after the crisis and the end of the war, men needed work and women were sent home. This is an example of the mistakes from history that we must avoid.

Starting the “Women in Tech” hackathon today, we appreciate and celebrate the digital advancements and innovations achieved by women through technology.

We honour the scientists, entrepreneurs, and inventors, both in Latvia and across the world; but with the same respect, we honour the many moms, teachers, health care workers, caregivers and community organizers who make a difference every day.

The campaign theme of the International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge.

Girls and young women who choose to challenge have to be courageous, open-minded and able to feel and express empathy. We all are responsible for our thoughts, spoken and written words, and actions.

Nevertheless, whether we actively participate in socially important decisions or stand aside, we create the world in which we are living, to something more equal and inclusive or to something worse.

Luckily, you, the bright participants of this year’s hackathon, choose to be inspiring idols for the young girls still in school and to prove that technology and science are totally suitable fields for girls and young women.

It feels like a breath of fresh air seeing you all and talking to you.

I sincerely encourage women and girls to choose a new challenge, to feel empowered to try something new. The Women in Tech hackathon is a wonderful opportunity to tinker, test and create new ideas – in a friendly and inclusive environment.

Feel free to surprise and astonish Latvia, Europe, and the whole world!

Thank you!

Address of the First Lady, Andra Levite, at the opening of the Riga TechGirls and Latvian Investment and Development Agency international hackathon ‘Women. Technology. Sustainability’