While there is a growing need for higher gender diversity, decreased pay gap and a higher inclusion rate of women in leadership roles in the tech sector globally, there are some countries that are performing quite well and their example’s worth sharing. One such case is Bulgaria – an Eastern European country whose tech sector has been flourishing in the past 15 years.
In a recent research by Reboot Online, the Balkan state has been recognized as the best European country for women to work in. The study creates an index based on three main factors: economic opportunity, women in leadership roles and maternity leave package. Bulgaria takes the 1st place as it has an outstanding performance in two out of the three main factors. The country offers an excellent maternity leave programme and is therefore rewarded with a maximum of 100 points in this category. Bulgaria also has a strong presence of women in leadership positions, which grants it 2nd place right after the leader in this category - Norway.
In terms of economic opportunity, Bulgaria takes a middle position as a slight pay gap still can be observed there. The gender pay gap in the country is equal to the average for the European Union - 14.1% (Eurostat), but a positive trend of a gradually decreasing curve is observed through the past five years.
When it comes to women in the tech sector, Bulgaria has yet another good reason to be proud of. In 2019, 28.1% of the people employed in the ICT sector in the country were women (Eurostat), while the average for the EU was just 17%. And while there is still more to be done, this makes Bulgaria the member state with the best male-female ratio of employees in the ICT sector.
But what makes Bulgaria perform so well in terms of gender diversity? There are three main pillars contributing to a more gender-balanced ICT sector in the country:
- Educating and encouraging young girls to pursue a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In Bulgaria, there are various educational programmes and initiatives that offer equal opportunities for boys and girls to get acquainted with science and technology. Good examples here are the national programme “IT Career” - a 3-year course on programming designed for high school students, Telerik School Academy – an educational programme for students, Muzeiko Bulgaria – an interactive educational centre, Robopartans – school of robotics, CoderDojo – a school that offers free programming courses for children and many more.
- Ensuring equal working conditions and maternity protection for women. Bulgaria is one of the countries that performs quite well in providing equal working conditions according to the 2021 “Women, Business and the Law” report by the World Bank. The country scores 90.6 out of 100 points with the maximum count in 7 out of 8 areas of indicators that measure the inequalities between men and women in the assessed countries. The report evaluates various factors grouped in the following categories: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets and pension. Due to differences in the age at which women and men can retire in the country, Bulgaria gained a lower score only in the last category.
- Inspiring ladies to re-qualify and start a career in the tech sector. There are a number of initiatives that aim to provide knowledge, support and community for women who are willing to pursue a new career in the tech sector. The good examples include Rails Girls Sofia, Women Who Code Sofia, Bulgarian Centre of Women in Technology and many more. Some of them are representing international organisations, others are local initiatives. But their success is mainly due to the strong involvement of professionals from the sector who voluntarily share knowledge and support the growth of the female tech community in the country.