More than a STEM game

In Rome, young female Computer Science talents gathered to participate in a hackathon organized and led by Avio Aero digital experts of together with CTNA.

Sep 2019

"Talent, technological innovation and change are among the key points of our corporate culture: the success of an organization depends on its ability to not standardize, to have a wealth of skills and diversity of thought." This is how Francesco Del Greco, Chief Information Officer of Avio Aero, elegantly summed up the reasons why Avio Aero chose not to miss out on what was one of the most important diversity events in 2019.

This year, it was the Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering and the Department of Computer Science of the "Sapienza" University of Rome that won the chance to organize, in Italy, the sixth European edition of WomEncourage. The city of Rome hosted the initiative, created by the Association for Computing Machinery's Council on Women in Computing (ACM), from 16th to 18th September in the magnificent setting of the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts.

The Association for Computing Machinery, is a worldwide association, founded with the support of the world's digital company giants (Oracle, Microsoft, Google and Two Sigma). It is firmly committed to encouraging, promoting and rewarding the involvement of female prodigies in computer science, high technology and robotics in the business world, as well as in academia and research. It is an association that works globally, acting locally.


"Talent, technological innovation and change are among the key points of our corporate culture: the success of an organization depends on its ability to have diversity of thought."

The competition, and the event, WomENcourage 2019 was held in Rome, consisting of collecting ideas for advanced hi-tech solutions in relation to issues with a strong impact on social life, work, or even the environment. The participants worked on the research and application of their ideas through visual representations, workshops, and technical comparisons, supported by testimonials and conferences by experts. Afterwards, they worked on the algorithms, programming and technical implementation of those ideas.

"Diversity Drives Societal Change" was the hypothesis statement stimulating the debate, based on the belief that STEM subjects are and, more specifically, Computer Science is an ideal career choice for women who want to have an impact on the world of the future. There is no doubt that the technological and digital revolution represents an opportunity for women. This is the origin of the communion of intent to help younger women become part of cultural change to break down the many stereotypes that have contributed to, among other things, blocking the registration of women in the departments involved in the digital revolution, such as Computer Science and the various Information Engineering programs.

"Computer Science has changed the way we interact and work: more than a technological revolution, it has been a cultural transformation," confirms Paola Velardi, Professor at the Department of Computer Science at Sapienza University of Rome, who participated and assisted with the organization of the three day event. "But there are still few women active in these disciplines. This is what drives us to promote this kind of activity and these comparisons." 

And so - inspired and welcomed at the award-winning architectural creation by a woman who was able to leave her mark, Zaha Hadid - at MAXXI many female students (but also male students, in an atmosphere of formidable diversity) participated in 3 days of scientific work, training, information, discussion and networking that offered many activities: hackathon, career fair, keynote speakers of the highest level, workshops, panels and presentations by "role models". 


Within the WomENcourage 2019, it was the hackathon that saw the focus and commitment of Avio Aero, in collaboration with the National Aerospace Technological Cluster (CTNA). The hackathon is a type of event that is often found in the digital-computer science industry. Participants are divided into groups and produce concrete projects (i.e. based on data and scientific demonstration) with working, educational and social objectives. Hence the presence of Avio Aero's CIO as well as several professionals on the company's digital team. They illustrated the requirements of the competition project and supervised the participants in Rome.

"We have tasked the groups of young people with a project for Smart Working," explains Giulia Aschero, Senior Staff Agile Transformer at Avio Aero. "Their mission was to find the perfect combination, and therefore a technical, digital solution, to better balance work and private life. Specifically, they were asked to address and solve the various technological questions that arise when companies implement smart-working, hence the title given to the hackathon organized with CTNA: Work life balance & Smart Working - brilliant ideas and new tools for the aerospace industrial sector”.

It was a project that thrilled the young STEM graduates, who faced off in a multicultural environment seeking the solution to best integrate work and private life. The winners were the advocates of the project called "Work to live, not live to work", who summarized their idea as follows: "Considering that smart-working requires flexibility on the one hand and trust on the other, we thought of combining monitoring with the personal goals of workers, adopting quick, cheap digital solutions."

Finally, the hackathon allowed us to pursue two objectives: to overcome the cultural barriers that identify the choice of smart-working as a limitation of career development, on the one hand; to achieve greater growth for women up to top levels of management, on the other hand. These objectives were shared and reaffirmed by the new Minister for Equal Opportunities, Elena Bonetti, in her opening speech. Commensurately, the challenge is twofold: it is not sufficient to exploit technology to break through the glass roof; it is necessary to use it to find new solutions to support this revolution.