At the age of 29, Isabelle Ringnes has already become a strong voice in the Nordic innovation community. The Norwegian-American is the co-founder of TENK, the Norwegian Technology Network for Women, and #Hunspanderer (“she’s got this”) which addresses gender equality in companies.
“There’s something that’s been irritating me the past few years,” says Ringnes.
“Take, for example, when I attended the pitching contest 500 Startups in Silicon Valley. One super smart person after another took the stage and pitched apps that could match shoes with the right owner, send out makeup every week, and the like.”
“There’s not necessarily anything wrong with froufrou, even in the context of tech. But it worries me that so many excellent human resources are being used to develop solutions just because they believe there’s money to be made – not because they are trying to solve real problems affecting many people.”
Must begin early
During Oslo Innovation Week 2018, Ringnes and TENK organised the Girl Tech Fest. The event brought together girls for an entire school day of programming, technology and design activities.
“Over 1 000 young girls from schools throughout Norway wrote code and played with technology for a whole day,” says Ringnes. She headed the event together with ICT Norway, Oslo Public Library and ODA Nettverk – the leading Nordic meeting place for women in tech – among others.
“Today we’re seeing girls who decide at a young age not to go into technology, and that’s a bit of a crisis. If we are going to successfully combat the stereotypes we’re seeing in the raising of young girls, we have to begin early,” she says.
She calls this an incredibly important job, particularly given the potential long-term impacts.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon.
“The foundation of technology is the people who create it. And today there is a strong overrepresentation of men. Technology is going to play a critical role in the future. Understanding it will therefore also be a very important part of decision-making and of understanding how society as a whole works.”
Ringnes mentions artificial intelligence (AI) as an example here. She believes it is going to be used to map everything around us. The information gathered will then be presented – and may ultimately be perceived – as objective truths.
“Today, this technology is being developed primarily by white men, who are often blind to the challenges many others in society are facing. In addition, historical data is used in the development of algorithms, and this data is informed by a past of systematic discrimination.”
“In the worst case this will increase inequality in society. We are therefore now at a very important juncture in history, where we must do everything in our power to involve not only girls, but also other minorities, in development of new technology,” she concludes.
- Isabelle Ringnes has been named one of the 100 most influential people on the Nordic tech scene.
- She is very well known for her work with #HunSpanderer, which addresses gender stereotypes and unconscious discrimination in the workplace.