In a technology-driven world like ours, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) sector significantly influences the development of our society. Despite the increasing demand and lucrative career opportunities in STEM, it is still a heavily male-dominated field. Delving deeper into the reasons behind this, several studies found that there is a multitude of barriers for women in STEM that prevents them from pursuing these opportunities -- starting from a lack of career advancement to facing gender-based discrimination in pay and working conditions, among others.
However, some companies within this field are realising the importance of providing equal opportunities and are working towards making STEM more inclusive as a whole. SELISE Digital Platforms, a Swiss-owned software engineering and business consulting firm where women are equally represented and fairly compensated, is one such company.
Founded in 2011, SELISE is currently operating in Switzerland, UAE, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) awarded SELISE the BASIS Outsourcing Award 2020 for its outstanding performance in the field of Software and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) service after it rolled out 500 applications and websites in 90 countries. After successfully creating a loyal base of top European companies, SELISE has started serving a wide range of clients in Bangladesh recently, from online food delivery giant Foodpanda to large multinationals such as Berger Paints.
SELISE currently employs more than 60 women in various roles around the world. In SELISE, women are given equal opportunities to pursue and thrive in their respective work fields -- be it as software engineers, product managers, or business analysts.
After being asked about the role of the HR department at SELISE plays in ensuring a safe and equitable working environment for employees, Susmita Newaz, one of the HR Generalists of the organisation, replied, "Workplace Gender Equality is a huge priority for SELISE - we try our best to make sure that the women in our workplace always feel comfortable in talking to us. Our HR Team comprises an equal number of male and female employees -- we want all of our female employees to feel confident that no matter what the issue may be, they will be heard, and changes will be implemented if they reach out to us. Apart from that, we offer 4 months of paid maternity leave, free health insurance, and have implemented a sexual-harassment policy that makes no exceptions for anyone."
Dilshad Ferdousi, a long-time employee at the organisation, agreed and added: "I have been working in SELISE for more than 7 years and am very proud to be a part of this growing company. I must say as a working mother, I've got so much support from the office in every possible way."
When asked about how working at SELISE is different from other tech firms, Deepshika Chettri, a product manager at SELISE Bhutan, replied, "SELISE has introduced me to the tech world and it gives me immense happiness to be a part of this amazing and dynamic industry. The work environment drives me to put in more effort and provides me with an open space to envision products to build".
Adding to this, her colleague Sonam, a UX engineer, stated that SELISE has built a platform where skilled, enthusiastic, and smart people come together to complete significant tasks together, thus creating opportunities to strengthen one's skills and learn to work in teams. Focusing on the factors that make SELISE a great place to work for everyone, Tabassum Ashrafi Oishi -- who has been working as a Senior Development Manager at SELISE Bangladesh for several years -- said, "The diverse culture, the friendly environment and all the talented people of this organisation have created such a good impression on me that I never felt discriminated against or inferior for a single moment as a woman".
One of the most common barriers women face in STEM workplaces is gender-based discrimination in pay and working conditions. When we asked Dechen -- a software engineer from Bhutan -- about her opinions on how SELISE managed to provide equal opportunities to all its employees in a heavily male-dominated field, she replied "In SELISE, there is no male developer or female developer, there are just developers. Being a woman or a man has never been the reason for any failure or success: it is just you."
Another problem faced by women in STEM fields is the lack of career advancement opportunities compared to their male counterparts. Being asked if the organisation provides ample career growth opportunities for female employees, Anika Tasnim, a business manager at SELISE Bangladesh, answered: "When it comes to learning opportunities and career growth, SELISE has always ensured there is no discrimination. Hard work and diligence are sure to pay off and no work goes unappreciated here."
SELISE tries to create learning opportunities for their new employees, helping them adjust to a field that may not be too familiar to them. "It was challenging to accept a job in a software field having no experience and knowledge as a business analyst. However, SELISE provided a workspace where I could learn and grow," said Karma, a business analyst currently working at SELISE Bhutan. Adding to this, Nusaira Hassan, who joined the organisation as a business analyst a year back, said, "In the tech world, being a woman is seemingly intimidating but SELISE strives to create an environment where each individual can carve out a niche in her own creative way."
Believing in diverse teams creating more value in STEM fields, Flurina Hammer, working as the Vice President of Financial Services of the organisation, stated: "SELISE was from the beginning conscious about hiring and developing female talent in an industry that usually attracts more men than women. We are proud to have one of the highest female employee shares in the industry."
To answer how diversity is maintained in this multinational company, Karla Zinreich, the Head of Technology of SELISE Europe, mentioned that SELISE supports people of all cultures, genders, and religions and allows the best ideas to grow, and being a part of this team allows her to encourage other women to join the industry and to be the change they want to see.
In a field where women are underrepresented despite the narrow gender gap in accessing quality education, SELISE has been setting an exemplary standard that other organisations can learn from and implement.
Aateeya Saabeen is currently working as a Business Analyst at SELISE Bangladesh