It’s an oft-quoted claim, how coding is an unfriendly place to women. Women made up only 21% of Malaysia’s cybersecurity workforce in 2017 (though it was still an impressive number compared to the US’s 11% at the time).
But Vani Mahadevan—founder of Malaysia’s first women-only coding school, TechSprint Academy—claimed that the issue isn’t about a lack of opportunities for women to learn to code.
She told Vulcan Post, “I think more than coding being an unfriendly place to women, women need to realise that they are far more capable than they give themselves credit for.”
TechSprint was started in Malaysia in collaboration with CodeOp, an International Coding School for women based in Spain, to provide women with a safe space to learn tech-related skills and connect with other women in the tech industry.
They’ve created a range of programmes through CodeOp’s coding boot camps as well as shorter courses to address and help solve these 5 issues in the current tech industry.
1. The Pink Recession
The pandemic has brought about a “pink recession”. It got its name from the heavy impact it’s had on the economic sectors of education, travel, retail, and hospitality, where the bulk of its employees are women.
While this makes for challenging times, it can also be a good wakeup call for women to look at themselves and see how they can best adapt to opportunities in the new normal.
TechSprint’s Rebound was designed for this new need in our country by offering a series of programs to help women step into tech-related careers or launch their own ventures centred around greater technology adoption.
It aims to help unemployed and underemployed Malaysian women discover new career and economic opportunities.
Throughout October to December this year, they’ve already had about 460 attendees for their online programmes where the courses offered gave them readily applicable skills in the workplace.
2. A Confidence Issue
If you are a minority in an environment, you will feel that everything around you is unfriendly. Only with knowledge and demonstrating that knowledge, you will have the courage to navigate these challenging waters and have the confidence to knock on the necessary doors.
Vani Mahadevan, Founder of TechSprint Academy
That’s what Vani had to say when Vulcan Post asked about why women tend to feel unwelcome in tech-related industries.
When she first started marketing CodeOp, she realised the lack of confidence and intimidation women felt towards delving straight into coding, despite being perfectly capable of it.
To combat this, TechSprint started offering programmes that branch out further from coding, through courses like social media marketing and graphic design.
The demand for these skills has been accelerated by the pandemic, making them essential ones for navigating this new post-pandemic world, with regards to employability.
Through these courses, TechSprint wants to highlight other opportunities existing in the tech industry which will hopefully spark women’s curiosity and desire to learn more as they gain confidence.
3. Securing Job Opportunities
In light of the previous point, by no means are these skills easily acquired. Vani shared that CodeOp’s boot camps are tough because they’re meant to prepare graduates to be industry relevant with a portfolio of projects to present to potential employers.
TechSprint is also working with agencies to provide internships and work placements for their graduates. Since CodeOp first started back in 2019, they’ve already produced 4 graduates with another 6 on the way ranging between the ages of 25-40.
These graduates consist of mothers looking for a career change, a couple of engineers who took a career break, and fresh graduates who are seeking more employable skills.
4. Balancing Classes And Kids
The pandemic and lockdowns have also caused more women to WFH while managing their kids’ online lessons, making it difficult for some mothers to focus.
As TechSprint’s programmes are now fully online, these mothers have to balance attending the courses from home with kids demanding their attention.
Understanding this challenge, the academy provides a child-friendly environment by giving mothers time to tend to their kids and letting them bring their kids onscreen too.
“Some mothers have told us how they have appreciated that and have also encouraged their children to learn with them too,” said Vani.
By providing this flexibility to mothers, they hope to instill confidence in them to encourage their own daughters to take these opportunities up.
5. Expensive Programmes
Women may also face financial issues in signing up for some of the programmes as these boot camps don’t come cheap.
The CodeOp boot camps range from RM5,200 for Product Management to RM12,500 for the Full Stack and Data Analytics 15-week boot camps.
The shorter programmes can cost between RM500 to approximately RM2,000 depending on the duration and the program.
Hence, programmes like Rebound were created to help make this accessible and affordable to women who took a career break, were retrenched, or never found any employment to date.
Priority was given to those from marginalised communities, single mothers from low-income socioeconomic backgrounds, and non-professionals (not doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.).
By getting support from The Asia Foundation, Vani hopes that more organisations will come forward to support programs like Rebound to provide exposure and opportunities for more women to explore careers in tech.
- You can learn more about TechSprint here.
- You can read more about Malaysian startups we’ve written on here.
Featured Image Credit: Vani Mahadevan, Founder of TechSprint Academy, and Rebound’s mentors