Speech by State Secretary Maja Fjaestad, 5 December 2019, Mumbai
Your Majesties, Excellencies, distinguished guests – friends of technology,
As presented by Madeleine Sjöstedt, Director-General of the Swedish Institute, Tekla is a Swedish initiative with the purpose to change attitudes and challenge prejudices about what technology is and can be used for. It aims to increase the number of girls applying to science and technology programmes.
For the Swedish Government, feminist policy is a cornerstone in efforts to create a society in which men and women are equal. The initiative taken by the Royal Institute of Technology and the Swedish Institute to implement Tekla at Swedish embassies around the world is a perfect example of how to create dialogue and encourage change and improvement on issues related to gender equality.
Even though Sweden is often ranked as one of the world’s most gender-equal societies, women are still underrepresented on university engineering programmes. Only 25–30 per cent of the students on these programmes are women.
This makes me sad.
I used to be a woman in tech myself. I spent five years studying engineering physics at the Royal Institute of Technology. What I remember most from those years is that it was great fun. I loved doing experiments in the lab. I truly enjoyed unravelling the wonderful world of mathematics.
So, why do we need more women in tech? Let me suggest three reasons.
The first is the obvious. We cannot afford to lose talent from the tech world when girls and women refrain from entering due to an unwelcoming culture and patriarchal structures. We need to attract talent to engineering.
The second: we mustn’t deny women and girls the joys of technology. Millions of girls are awaiting the pure pleasure of solving a really tricky differential equation.
The third and most important: technology is power. In a democracy we must pay close attention to the distribution of power. So to safeguard democratic values, we also need greater equality in tech.
After today’s inspiring visit to the workshop, I am convinced that international cooperation and exchange of experience across national borders – through initiatives such as Tekla and Atal Innovation Mission – are one path towards a brighter and more gender-equal future.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me, and for sharing your knowledge today. Let’s continue to change the world!
I look forward to fruitful cooperation between Sweden and India. Thank you.