Women Tech- Leadership Program
The Women In Tech-leadership program is a flagship program for Women in Technology that started out in Andela Uganda and has now been extended to other countries where Andela (andela.com) has strong presence starting with Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria. The program has received over six hundred applicants in the last four cycles where close to two hundred learners have gone through the program during the piloting phase in Uganda.
The program focuses on three levers which are
1. Software delivery skills,
2. Entrepreneurship and job readiness skills
3. Leadership and community skills
Outside the certificate that participants receive at the end of the program to open doors of opportunities with other organisations, there is also a fast track through the program for the ladies to join Andela as full-time employees.
Below is a breakdown of each of those levers.
Software delivery skills:
The program focuses on introducing programming fundamentals in a practical while solving a real-world problem enabling the ladies to learn how to deliver software instead of learning different coding languages.
The program also creates an environment through a learning facilitation ratio of one facilitator to four ladies to offer support to each lady personally. Most ladies even those that have done computing courses have not had as much practice actually delivering software. This along with the group work nature of delivery enables the learners to receive support whenever they are blocked and enables them to learn how software is delivered with global standards such as agile development.
Entrepreneurship and job readiness skills:
Based on an eco-system research that was carried out in Uganda, it was found that the ladies that have gone through coding classes online or in person have struggled past the courses or sessions to implement the learnings to deliver real-world projects that solve problems.
The program focuses on training learners to think and deliver a solution to a real-world problem.
The learning facilitators also acting as product owners enable the learners to think through delivering solutions in human-centered design way to provide value. The program also through an entrepreneurship series interact with innovators, entrepreneurs in technology who had used the software as a tool to solve real-world problems and build businesses.
Leadership and community skills:
The program focuses on holistic development such that the learners have an experience that would enable them to grow as globally leading technologists.
Tackling issues like the confidence gap where through a leadership series where the learners interact with Inspirational women leaders and other role models to show the learners what success could be like in careers in technology.
The learning facilitators also act as mentors sharing feedback on different tasks and keeping them accountable and encouraging the ladies to go out of their comfort zones in areas like public speaking.
Also to combat the feeling that ‘coding is lonely’ and women cannot choose to programing as a career, the program holds events to create an opportunity for the learners to build networks and communities with all cycles of the women’s program. This is also further emphasized by the team structure that has facilitated a sense of sisterhood within the groups that continue growing even after the program ends.
What impact has the initiative had or is expected to have?
The program was started in Andela Uganda as a pilot in June 2018. It has received a lot of interest with over six hundred applications in the last four cycles supporting over two hundred learners, spanning over seven months.The ladies attracted and supported are from all walks of life and careers. Citing careers such as nursing, lawyers, businesswomen, farmers and stay at home mothers meant that about one-third of the applicants have no previous programming experience at all at the point of joining the program. Those with programming experience have learned about it in computer science or engineering class but very few have actually delivered a software project end to end.
The program has also had learners cutting across different ages from ladies over forty and as young as eighteen years old which is the minimum age.
The program has registered a higher completion rate of close to 70% compared to close to 30% completion rate for other similar programs in the Ugandan ecosystem. The major reason for this is the holistic nature of the program that supports the learners in leadership and entrepreneurship alongside software delivery. It also offers an opportunity for the ladies to join Andela as full-time employees. The program has also registered a conversation rate that is four times higher in terms of acceptance into Andela’s full-time employment opportunity – the Andela fellowship for those that have decided to apply to Andela. Others have gone on to lead teams, deliver software as well as receive raises in their jobs.
The program has received close to 90% acknowledgement from the learner feedback surveys indicating that it has improved “job readiness”/employment potential ( enhanced your job/career prospects or contributed to promotion or salary raise). The next phase of the program from the success of piloting it in Uganda is scaling the program to Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria and it has been kicked off this March.
What is unique about this initiative? Can it be scaled-up and replicated in other places?
Before designing this initiative, Andela held several roundtables with leaders of organisations and initiatives that we’re working with women in STEM and Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
There were three key learnings that came out of this research that this program offers to help solve.
1. Approaches to Recruitment:
Most of the messaging around STEM often focuses on male stereotypes that to a large extent are not attractive to female tech enthusiasts. The messaging for the women tech leadership program focuses on holistic development. The nature of the program that supports the learners in leadership and entrepreneurship alongside software delivery has enabled all the Women in tech leadership program to attract ladies from various backgrounds, ages and educational backgrounds.
It also emphasizes things like role models and building communities to speak to the marginalization that most women in technology feel.
2. Program Design
Programming courses and sessions often focus on the art of writing code and learning different programming languages and frameworks. Because of that most learner especially new learners without a lot of support struggle to understand the basics of programming and the use of technology as a tool.
The program focuses on facilitated support where we keep a maximum of four learners to one facilitator. These facilitators are Andela employees who are also going through their learning journey part of the four-year employment program. This ratio is maintained to ensure that facilitators provide ample support technically and also act as mentors to each of the ladies. Personally tackling things like the confidence gap and imposter syndrome through mentorship and life skill sessions
3. Scale through partnerships
During the research of the beginning, we realized that there were several initiatives that were happening, however, there was no link or synergies between different programs and initiatives.
The program showcases different opportunities and connects the participants to multiple organizations. They learn about different organizations and what they are doing and what they can tap into.
The program also supports other organizations supporting women in STEM with infrastructure such as space, curriculum, facilitators.
These partners also include helping the learners build trust with care guardians to convert them to partners. We do this through program visits and showcase case days where parents can visit Andela.
We also through teamwork and events in the program, help learners understand the importance of peer-peer learning that they continue past the program as a form of partnering with other.
In terms of scaling, the program can be scaled up and replicated in other places. At the moment, the next phase of the program from the success of piloting it in Uganda is scaling it to Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria where Andela has a heavy presence. It has been kicked off this March with a call for applications across Africa.
For Uganda, we shall be deploying Women in tech – leadership lite as the next phase with partner organizations extending our curriculum and facilitators to support those organizations in supporting more women by tapping into the women in tech-leadership infrastructure to run the program in other places in Uganda. Currently, we are in discussion with hubs as the first partners for this initiative.