Bulgaria builds on legacy of female engineering elite

Women make up nearly half of the country’s technology workforce thanks to strong role models and specialist teaching
When Sasha Bezuhanova joined Hewlett-Packard’s Bulgarian operation in 1997, computer specialists were leaving the country in droves. Yet she decided to stay, believing she could build a career in technology and persuade other electronics graduates to do the same. Fifteen years later Ms Bezuhanova had risen through the ranks to run HP’s public sector business in emerging markets. As the first Bulgarian to hold a senior management position at a global IT company, she became a role model for a generation of women joining the sector.

“We now have lots of female C-level managers in the digital industry. They’re very visible in the tech community and in society,” she says. “We also have growing numbers of female founders of start-ups.” Ms Bezuhanova left HP in 2013 to found Move.bg, a platform for social innovation. Women make up 44.6 per cent of the workforce in the country’s booming technology sector — the second-highest proportion in the EU after Lithuania.

This compares with an average of 32.4 per cent for the bloc, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics agency. The Balkan country’s high level of female participation in the tech workforce is a legacy from the Soviet era, when the brightest students attended specialist maths high schools, says Rumyana Trencheva, managing director for south-east Europe at SAP, the German software company.

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