Women in Tech: Why Bulgaria and Romania are Leading in Software Engineering

Women developers may be scarce in the US and western Europe, but Bulgaria and Romania have no such issues.

In central Bulgaria, in the town of Gabrovo, which prides itself on being an international capital of humor, Iva Kaneva wasn’t joking when it came to programming.

As a child, she drew her first triangles in Basic, her eyes riveted to the computer screen like a NASA control-room engineer zeroing in on a lunar approach. “I was immediately fascinated,” she says. “And I decided that’s what I wanted to study.” It was the mid-1990s, and she was 12 years old.

At her school, girls did just as well as boys in math and computer science. Kaneva says nobody told her technology was not suitable for girls. Both her parents were engineers and they expressly encouraged her to learn how to code. Now, she is a senior Python backend developer.

Across eastern Europe, it is far from unusual for women to work in technology, but Bulgaria has the highest proportion, with 27.7 percent, according to recently released Eurostat data. Romania closely follows with 27.2 percent.

Next come Latvia, Finland, Estonia, and Lithuania with over 20 percent. The European Union’s average is 16.1 percent, with the UK, Germany, France, and Spain hovering in that range. The country with the lowest number of women in tech is the Czech Republic, with a figure of less than 10 percent.

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June 13, 2017