How do we promote women STEM leadership amongst youth? What is the role of Artificial Intelligence in addressing environmental changes? We had the chance to discuss these topics with Montserrat Pardo, an active participant in our Women Talent Pool Programme and Government Affairs Director at Microsoft! If you are curious to know more about it, read our interview with Montserrat!
Could you tell us what is your favourite part of your job at Microsoft?
Joining Microsoft was a turning point in my life. I love my role as Government Affairs Director in Microsoft as it calls upon all my passions, skills and values. What I like the most at Microsoft is our cultural diversity. A culture where every individual can be their best self, where diversity of skin-color, gender, religion, and sexual orientation is understood and celebrated.
What I like the most at Microsoft is our cultural diversity.
A culture where every individual can be their best self,
where diversity of skin-color, gender, religion, and sexual orientation is understood and celebrated.
You have participated in a roundtable on ‘Technology Innovation and Circular Economy’ at a summit organised in 2018 by the Advanced Leadership Foundation Organization, which included keynote speeches from former US President Barack Obama, and other important personalities. On this occasion, you presented the Microsoft project « AI for Earth », which counts today with more than 100 individuals and organisations. How can artificial intelligence be a game-changer to address environmental challenges?
Every industrial revolution has borrowed from our past to pay for the future. In this fourth industrial revolution, we can repay the planet for the past, deal contemporary issues and plot a more sustainable future. This is where new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a role.
AI is indeed a game-changer and a force multiplier when it comes to building a sustainable future. So much data exists on the state of our planet. By putting it to work, we can discover new solutions, bring them to scale and drive transformative change.
Microsoft understood this perfectly and announced a brand new $50 million commitment for the next 5 years in AI for Earth -a Microsoft program aimed at empowering people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges by increasing access to AI tools and educational opportunities. To date, we have awarded more than 100 grants to individuals and organizations in more than 20 countries, who are focused on finding solutions to climate change, loss of biodiversity, agricultural cost and yield, and increased water scarcity.
No country can solve the challenge alone. No company can solve it alone. All of us need to take action. As the Alan Kay says: “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. At Microsoft, we envision a future where all key stakeholders, civil society, academia, business, and public administrations work together to foster the Circular Economy through Artificial Intelligence.
“Artificial Intelligence is a game-changer and a force multiplier
when it comes to building a sustainable future.”
Today, only 6,7% of women graduate in STEM degrees. Microsoft, a proud sponsor of our network and Women Talent Pool programme, has launched different campaigns such as “Make What’s Next” or “DigiGirlz” to promote women STEM leadership amongst youth and close the STEM gap. Could you tell us more about these campaigns and your overall impressions on the results?
People who are going to lead the future are sitting in classrooms today. If we do not promote girls' interest in this type of studies, it will be difficult to reduce the gender gap in this sector, where new professional profiles are increasingly demanded on digital transformation and Artificial Intelligence.
For this reason, at Microsoft, we launched the campaign #MakeWhatsNext to raise awareness of the issues that take girls to drop out of or lose interest in STEM, and to pique their excitement at how they can change the world — if they remain engaged. The response to #MakeWhatsNext was incredible, with more than 14 million video views across social media channels. Girls’ passion is strengthened when they see female role models who have created innovations that are used in our everyday lives. As the motto goes, “If you see it, you can be it.”
Microsoft also developed the DigiGirlz Technology Programs, which include, high-tech camps and one-day events, are organized and run by Microsoft employee volunteers and provide high school girls the opportunity to connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
“People who are going to lead the future are sitting in classrooms today.
It is necessary to show girls that starting a career
in the field of the STEM can be really exciting and can change their future
and the future of society.”
In Spain, 61% of the government members are women, including Nadia Calviño, Minister of Economy and Enterprise and a Friend of our Network. Do you think that the recent example of Spain could have a positive impact on gender equality policies in the country?
As the media reflected, there was an immediate positive impact in the country and also at the international level, given the fact that the Spanish Government has now become a reference when it comes to gender equality. Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, is also visible and decisively connecting with a fight for women’s rights since he appointed 11 women to his 17-member Cabinet. We experienced the impact that has been echoed in the international media, stating that Spain’s new Prime Minister, recently became the first world leader to appoint women to almost two-thirds of cabinet positions, placing Spain as the country with the highest proportion of female-led ministries.
We all need to continue our efforts in that direction in both public and private sectors, where more and more institutions should be an example of gender equality embracement. In that sense, Microsoft is strongly fostering gender diversity and inclusiveness as they are key for innovation, economic growth and development of our society. Just to give you a taste, our current Country Manager and the two previous ones are women, 30% of the Microsoft employees are women, while the average rate of women in the ICT sector is just 18%. In addition, 50% of the leadership team in Microsoft Spain is composed by women and, in the last year, 56% of newly hired employees were women. We will continue our work to ensure the best for the future.
We, at WIL, have a tradition to conclude the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following one for you: What is the quality you most like in a female leader?
The quality that I value most in a female leader is the empathy to others and their needs. The ability to understand and feel what others experience is critical for leadership. Being an empathetic person makes you a better leader.
In that respect, let me share the statement of our CEO Satya Nadella with you: “I learned that empathy is essential to deal with problems everywhere, whether at Microsoft or at home; in your country or globally. That is also a mindset, a culture. Empathy, which is so difficult to replicate in machines, will be invaluable in the human-Artificial Intelligence world. The ability to perceive other's thoughts and feelings, to collaborate and build relationships will be critical. If we hope to harness technology to serve human needs, we humans must lead the way by developing a deeper understanding and respect for one another's values, cultures, emotions, and drives”.
“The ability to understand and feel
what others experience is critical for leadership.
Being an empathetic person makes you a better leader.”
To learn more about Montserrat, read her biography!