Filipina Tech Trailblazers: Paving the Path for Bridging the Gap

“Girls don’t belong in the tech industry.”

If that’s the stereotype, then good luck telling that to these women.

In the tech industry, it is no secret that women are a minority. Despite global strides towards gender equality, girls continue to face barriers to full and equal participation, both offline and online. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a disproportionate impact on women, exacerbating gender inequality embedded in our social structure. However, women still continue to persevere and fight for their place in a society that keeps telling them no.

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT!

  • Women are still marginalized and underrepresented in the tech industry, despite the global advancements towards gender equality. However, that does not stop us from fighting for a place in the industry. 
  • The empowering stories of Nikki Datlangin, Bianca Aguilar, Dona Marabe, and Tricia Cabais prove that you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. 
  • They inspire other girls to continue loving their passion for technology no matter what society tells them. 
  • Technology is a form of art and expression; therefore, it should be inclusive to everyone. 
  • With technology, we can bring people together. It does not only help the world with technological advancements, but it can help us address societal issues and abolish the patriarchy.

In celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, here are the stories of four inspiring young women in technology who have paved their ways to the trailheads of opportunities and are continuing to use their voices to bridge the gender gap within the tech industry.

Nikki Datlangin

Ever since Nikki Datlangin was a kid, technology has always been by her side. She used to explore sites like Blogspot and WordPress or experiment making graphics with Picsart as she navigated her passion in designing. 

Her first attempt at designing interfaces was for a research project about a mental health app. As she discovered the wonders of user experience (UX) design, her interest in psychology and technology grew. From there, she found herself diving deeper into the world of tech as she discovered more opportunities to showcase her abilities in design. 

Nikki is currently taking up Psychology at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, on top of working as a freelance web designer and a UX Design Intern at NextPay. Outside of school and work, Nikki loves to spend her time playing Genshin Impact, diving down online rabbit holes, or training in cheerdance.

As a psychology student with a passion for tech, her goal is to pursue her passion in design and understanding human behavior through research and product analysis. “I hope to someday seamlessly merge these interests in psychology and product design by creating my own software that calms and strengthens,” she stated. With this, she is now running a newsletter called Reclaim. She hopes for her readers to be encouraged to build tech products with greater awareness of cultural nuances, such that their approach is decolonial and maka-Pilipino (for the Filipino).

Bianca Aguilar

As an artist, Bianca is dedicated to cultivating creatives and technologists to be both builders and thinkers. She uses her skills to create learning experiences and write critical pieces on tech and design with communities like Developh, User Experience Society, and Reboot.

Her love for technology came in the form of art. Bianca started to animate her own stories and draw her own characters that soon blossomed into developing and creating websites from scratch. “I was able to indulge in my creativity; the browser became my new canvas. With technology, I felt like I could create anything,” she said. 

Bianca is currently a junior in Ateneo de Manila University pursuing Information Design and Computer Science. Currently, she is part of the KERNEL Fellowship, where she’ll be learning and building in the blockchain for 8 weeks. She has a heart for teaching others and aspires to create her own technology course from scratch, ranging from designing the curriculum to teaching the sessions.

She is also passionate about forming a strong bond between the humanities and technology. According to her, products are always reflective of the intentions of their creators; thus, she urges creators to be conscious about the effects of technology on their users. “I believe that arming creatives and technologists with this knowledge is crucial to building a better world,” she stated.

Dona Marabe

“One of my main goals is to empower women enough to make it a norm for us to have a seat at the table and not have to claw our way to the top anymore.”

Passionate and driven, Dona aims to bridge the gender gap in the tech industry as she advocates for equal rights, equal pay, and equal access to opportunities for everyone, regardless of both gender or social status.

Her passion for technology and service has been evident since high school. Her team’s internationally-acclaimed research on “The development of a slow drift motion–based water turbine” aimed to help coastal communities and the common fisherfolk through technology. From there, she continues to study and create for everyone.

Dona is an incoming freshman at De La Salle University – Manila, where she will be pursuing her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Mechanical Engineering as a Star Scholar. She is also the Co-VP for Internal Relations at WiTech Manila, as well as the Relations Manager and the Lead Pitch Presenter for Malintala, a hackathon team driven to make technological advancements directed towards social good.

A project in eighth grade required her to design and create a car powered by a small motor, and, being a girl, she was soon told that soldering and building wasn’t for her. Nonetheless, once she got the prototype to work, she felt pride surge in her, igniting her love for technology and raising the flag for women who are constantly told that technology isn’t for them.

Tricia Cabais

Growing up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tricia watched how technology was applied to different areas such as characters’ armor, tools, and modes of transportation which piqued her interest in technology. As a child, she even aspired of creating her very own Iron suit!

Now studying at the Philippine Science High School – Central Luzon Campus, Tricia continues to pursue her passion for technology through programming and software development, even taking her to a pre-college program in computer science at Cambridge University. 

Her passion for technology evidently extends beyond the bounds of the classroom. From creating a mobile application aiming to gamify Physics education for her research project to competing in (and winning!) national hackathons, she always uses her knowledge in technology to ideate and create for the people. One of her most prized accomplishments in technology is the development of an SMS-based medical chatbot aiming to assist people from rural areas in finding doctors, over-the-counter prescriptions, and medical information. She is a true scholar for the nation, after all!

Her ambition is to build a website or create mobile apps that can be widely used to help the general public. She hopes to change the world in the best way possible and shape our future to a better one. “Technology is the reason why we are able to live differently from previous generations, and I believe it will continue to advance to shape what our futures would like.”

Technology as Freedom of Expression

“I believe that technology and design can bring people alive, realizing that they can create the change they want to see in the world.”

Bianca Aguilar

Technology, in a way, is a form of art and expression. It has boundless potential, offering artists to explore and discover—to even sever ties with the traditional, giving an opportunity to push the established boundaries. Art is for everyone; therefore, tech should be inclusive. This is one of the many reasons why women shouldn’t be undervalued in STEM.  

“When done mindfully, designing and building tech can produce worlds—both virtual and physical—that are liveable, that are more calm, that create the right conditions for human flourishing,” said Nikki.

Technology forms connection and allows us to discover different facets of ourselves that we never knew existed. It is vast and diverse; we can incorporate tech in many aspects of our lives and even connect them with our passion. We can build a better society with technology, connecting people and raising awareness to the pressing issues in our time, as we are active participants that strive for change.

“Technology has the capacity to make or break the future of our generation, and I believe it’s up to us to choose which direction we’d want to take it.“

Bridging the Gender Gap

“Empower each other, and aim to promote whatever platform you eventually create for yourself to be a stepping stone for others to reach the dreams society once told us were unreachable.”

Dona Marabe

Women tend to strip themselves of their femininity upon stepping into science in order to be taken seriously. Now that the times are changing, these four young women prove that you can be a badass tech trailblazer without dulling yourself to fit the standards of the patriarchy. 

“Do not self-reject. Oftentimes, we feel afraid to take opportunities because we don’t feel qualified to take them. But by all means, take them anyway!” encouraged Tricia. 

The future of tech keeps shining brighter with the inspiring stories of these women, amplifying their voices to further make room for the girls who want to make their way towards the tech industry.

The International Day of the Girl Child celebrates the importance, power, and potential of girls around the world. Though we are far from achieving full equality in all aspects of our society, let us not be afraid to continue bringing everyone to technology’s table.

Written by Maryka Exconde
Edited by Anna Divinagracia
Graphics by Bianca Amurao

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