It’s an oft-quoted claim that coding is an unfriendly place for women. Women made up only 21% of the cybersecurity workforce in Malaysia in 2017 (although that was still an impressive number compared to the 11% in the US at the time).
However, Vani Mahadevan, founder of Malaysia’s first coding school for women, TechSprint Academy, claimed it wasn’t about a lack of opportunities for women to learn to code.
She told Vulcan Post, “I think women need more than just coding as an unfriendly place for women to realize that they are far more capable than they trust themselves.”
TechSprint was launched in Malaysia in partnership with CodeOp, an international coding school for women based in Spain, to provide a safe space for women to learn technical skills and connect with other women in the tech industry.
They have created a range of programs through CodeOp’s coding bootcamps, as well as shorter courses, to address and solve these 5 problems in today’s technology industry.
1. The pink recession
The pandemic triggered a “pink recession”. It takes its name from its strong impact on the education, travel, retail and hospitality sectors, where the majority of its employees are women.
While this leads to challenging times, it can also be a good wake-up call for women to look at themselves and see how best to adapt to the opportunities in the new normal.
TechSprint’s Rebound was designed to meet this new need in our country by offering a range of programs to help women enter technical careers or start their own ventures that focus on greater adoption of technology.
Rebound’s programs are 100% virtual / Image Credit: TechSprint
It is designed to help unemployed and underemployed Malaysian women discover new professional and economic opportunities.
From October to December of this year, they already had around 460 participants in their online programs, where the courses offered provided them with easily applicable skills in the workplace.
2. A trust problem
If you are a minority in an environment you will feel like everything around you is unkind. Only with knowledge and evidence of that knowledge will you have the courage to navigate these challenging waters and have the confidence to knock on the necessary doors.
Vani Mahadevan, founder of the TechSprint Academy
This is what Vani had to say when Vulcan Post asked why women are unwelcome in tech industries.
When she first started marketing CodeOp, she realized the lack of confidence and intimidation women felt when they got into coding directly, even though they were perfectly capable of doing it.
To counter this, TechSprint began offering programs further afield from coding through courses such as social media marketing and graphic design.
The demand for these skills has been accelerated by the pandemic, so they are essential in terms of employability for navigating this new post-pandemic world.
With these courses, TechSprint aims to highlight other opportunities in the tech industry that will hopefully spark the curiosity and desire of women to learn more when they gain confidence.
3. Securing employment opportunities
TechSprint’s Zero to Tech Hero Event / Photo credit: TechSprint
Given the previous point, these skills are by no means easy to acquire. Vani shared that CodeOp’s boot camps are difficult because they are designed to prepare graduates to be industry relevant, with a portfolio of projects to showcase to potential employers.
TechSprint also works with agencies to offer internships and internships for their graduates. Since CodeOp was first started in 2019, they have already produced 4 graduates, another 6 are between 25 and 40 years old.
These graduates consist of mothers looking for a career change, some engineers who have taken a career break, and new graduates looking for more employable skills.
4. Balance classes and children
The pandemic and lockdown have also resulted in more women receiving WFH while managing their children’s online classes, making it difficult for some mothers to focus.
With TechSprint’s programs now fully online, these mothers need to balance attending classes from home with children who are demanding their attention.
To understand this challenge, the Academy provides a kid-friendly environment by giving mothers time to look after their children and by letting them put their children on screen too.
“Some mothers have told us how they appreciated this and encouraged their children to study 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 advantage of these opportunities.
5. Expensive programs
Women can also have financial problems signing up for some of the programs as these boot camps aren’t cheap.
The CodeOp bootcamps range from 5,200 RM for product management to 12,500 RM for the 15-week bootcamps for full stack and data analytics.
The shorter programs can cost between 500 and 2,000 RM, depending on the duration and the program.
Therefore, programs like Rebound have been launched to make it accessible and affordable for women who have taken a career break, been laid off or have not found employment.
Priority was given to people from marginalized communities, single mothers with a low socio-economic background and non-professionals (not doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.).
By supporting the Asia Foundation, Vani hopes more organizations will step up to support programs like Rebound to give more women the opportunity to explore careers in technology.
- You can find more information about TechSprint here.
- Read more about Malaysian startups we wrote about here.
Selected image source: Vani Mahadevan, founder of the TechSprint Academy, and Rebound’s mentors