Interview with Kristína Smitková and Zuzana Roubová
HR Specialists at

Interviewed by - Bianka Štullerová  

The representation of women in IT has been among the most discussed issues in recent years. Statistics have demonstrated equal employment between men and women in the IT sector. However, when the situation is examined in-depth, occupational groups show that career positions are differentiated based on gender. 

In the Global Gender Gap Report, which is the result of research conducted on 156 countries, it is stated that there is still a need for more women in science and technology. According to the World Economic Forum, if the gender gap in the STEM field continues to grow at its current rate, it is estimated that it will take 135.6 years to make up for the gap. It was previously 99.5 years. (World Economics Forum, 2021)

Despite all, today, there are numerous female CEOs, programmers, and entrepreneurs at rapidly rising start-ups. As female employment increases, the number of role models for potential female employees grows. These women have shared fundamental qualities such as perseverance, self-belief, strong energy, and enthusiasm toward hard work. 

We had the chance to interview two talented women working in the IT field, Kristína Smitková and Zuzana Roubová. Both perform their profession at, an IT firm in the Czech Republic. We sat down with Kristína and Zuzana to shed light on a woman's perspective on how it is working in a predominantly male-dominated IT industry. Both work in the HR department and have daily contact with males since one of their main tasks is to interview IT specialists. A job position with a vast representation of the masculine gender.

Here is what they had to say… 

How did you get into the IT sector? Was it something planned, or did it just happen?

Kristína: In my case, it just happened by coincidence. When I was searching for my very first part-time job in HR during my university studies, I found a company that was dedicated to outsourcing IT specialists. I started with outsourcing IT specialists, and basically, with some small breaks, I stayed in the industry since. 

Zuzana: It's the same for me as well. My first job was in a personnel agency, and after having worked there for a while, I realized that I wanted to work in an internal HR department. Shortly after, I found a company offering exactly that and started as an HR Assistant. I learned a lot, and after some time, I started primarily focusing on recruitment. 

How does your typical day look like?

Kristína: I'm responsible for taking care of my colleagues in general, providing consulting and support to leaders,  as well as administrative tasks, event coordination, and much more. Overall, it covers most of the HR agenda. That's why it's almost impossible to say how my typical day is. Every single day is different, and that is what I like about my job.

Zuzana: My workday never looks the same. For example, on Monday, we are starting the day with a company breakfast and morning coffee together. Overall, I'm mostly responsible for end-to-end recruitment. I post job advertisements, search for candidates and interview them. Simply put, my main role is to find the best people for our teams.

Have you noticed a lack of women in the IT industry? If so, why do you think that's the case?

Kristína: Sure, I think everyone notices a lack of women in IT. It doesn't matter if you look into the statistics or just look around the office. I think it's mostly because women are not encouraged to study technology and science as much as men, and therefore they lose interest. From a young age, many of us were told that IT and engineering are mainly for boys, which of course discourages women. It's this stereotype we need to get rid of.

So, do you think that if we encourage girls from a young age to get more in touch with technology and science in general, that could change the ratio?

Kristína: I believe so, but I'm not saying it's the only factor. Of course, women (same as men) have different preferences and different qualities for different fields. Even though we are working in an IT company, we are not working in a technical position either. However, I still believe that the most important thing is being encouraged to get interested in technology. If not at an early age, there are organizations for adults who do a great job in this area by organizing academies or requalification courses.

Have you noticed a rise in women joining the IT industry, or perhaps a rise in interest? 

Zuzana: Not a big amount of girls want to join our IT positions. I haven't seen too many female applicants. Perhaps 1/4 of the applicants are women, or perhaps even less than that.

Kristína: I think it's changing, but just slowly. It is increasing, but still not at the rate it could be. I believe there is a waste of potential. Especially now, with the situation in the labor market and the IT Industry. However, as I said, more and more initiatives are trying to get girls and women familiar with the IT world, and I strongly appreciate them all.

What is the most difficult thing in your profession, and what are the biggest challenges you've faced in this role?

Kristína: Every position where you "work with people", which is what HR definitely is, can be as challenging as it is satisfying. If you mean specifically in IT, it reminds me of times when I started hiring. I felt disrespected by many applicants or potential candidates who were trying to prove to me that I didn't understand their job or technology in general. 

Even so, I think it's a huge advantage to understand some basics. I don't think that a deep understanding of technology is the most important part of our job. It's important to stay curious, to be able to talk with applicants in a friendly way, to deal with their personalities, and to recognize their qualities. That's what I continuously try to improve on. 

During the interviews, have you noticed a difference between a male applicant and a female applicant in terms of attitude or behavior?

Kristína: I believe that women are less self-confident during the interview process. It starts with fewer women applicants for senior positions. On the other hand, I suppose this could also be caused by a need for greater time flexibility, like in a mother's case.

If we are talking about their skills or even when we are talking about their salary, women are more modest. I don't like to generalize, but I think women are less competitive and more risk-avoidant. Some women check all of the requirements. They just need to work on self-confidence and self-presentation.

Do you have any tips for women who want to get into the tech industry, and was there any advice you wish you had known when you got into IT?

Zuzana: The key is to be interested in IT. To find your sources, such as books, courses, and videos. By learning and teaching yourself, you can get far. If you want something go for it.

Kristína: Just try it. Don't immediately say, "this is not for me". Perhaps it is for you or perhaps not. Nonetheless, it's always worth trying. Also, be curious. If you want something, go for it. Perhaps the most important thing that I can say is not to feel ashamed to ask for help. 

If you don't know something, feel free to ask your colleagues. I mean, I have never seen in our company that if someone didn't know something, no one would help or someone would try to discourage them. Last but not least, be proactive. Your colleagues may help, but you are the one who needs to work on yourself.

Have you ever thought about becoming a tester or developer or any kind of IT programmer?

Zuzana: I'm not good at tech stuff, so I think it's not a profession for me. So far, I have no will or desire to deal with it.
Kristína: Actually, in high school, I had quite a lot of informatics, including some basic programming. I can't say I haven't tried it at all, but early on, I found out that it wasn't the path for me. 

What do you do to keep a good work-life balance?

Kristína: I'm lucky to say that I don't feel the need to divide "work" and "life strictly" and I enjoy spending time with my colleagues outside of work hours as well. Other than that, I enjoy basic things, such as reading books, watching a good TV series, or hanging out with family and friends. I'm working on reducing my screen time and being more at the moment.

Is it like team building when you go out with your colleagues, or is it just like going somewhere with a few friends?

Kristína: It´s quite spontaneous and friendly. We gather and go. We often play badminton, organize board game evenings at work or have a drink together somewhere in the neighborhood.

What is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?

Kristína: Since there are not so many women, I believe that we are all grateful for every other woman colleague joining us. Also, the environment is very inspirational. Even though you are not extremely deep into technology, even if you're not directly programming or if you are in the position of HR, being in an IT company teaches you so much. 

Spending time with people who are smart and passionate about their industry brings you a lot of interesting facts about how technology is moving forward or about some news in the tech world. In our case, since we mostly work on mobile applications in our company, you get clues all the time about new applications or new features. 

Zuzana: Sometimes, when I talk with my friends or people who don't know me and when I speak with them about my job, they are curious about it. They often think that in order to be able to interview IT, developers, I need to know more about programming, for example. They are unaware that every time I have an interview, a team leader from a specific department goes in with me.

Do you feel you're getting special treatment as a woman working in a male-dominated workspace? 

Kristína: I don't notice any special treatment. I think everyone in our office is trying to be helpful, no matter their gender. 

Zuzana:  Sometimes, when we go for a beer, it's usually more fun.

  Written by - Ceren Aydın  

Internet of things being the future of technology