Around the world, women are hugely underrepresented in the technology sector. According to the World Bank, only 17% of ICT specialists in Europe are women, and these women are earning 19% less than their male colleagues. Yet, as with all sectors, promoting equality and diversity is critical to delivering products and services that cater to the needs of everyone in society. With tech jobs are on the rise, it is essential that women have the skills, knowledge and confidence to fill those roles.
To meet this opportunity, in Portugal AKF is supporting young women to break down gender stereotypes in the world of tech by learning coding. Monique Pinto, Ana Rita Pires and Ana Rita Dias (pictured above) are all members of Bytes4Future, a free digital skills training programme established by AKF in partnership with Sintra City Council and RunCodeSchool.
Bytes4Future is based in Sintra, Portugal, where employment opportunities are limited, particularly for women and marginalised groups. After facilitating a successful pilot project in 2019, AKF launched Bytes4Future in December 2020 to respond to social vulnerabilities in the area by enhancing the digital programming skills of young people who are unemployed. As well as teaching hard skills like coding, students are also able to improve their English and grow their knowledge in multimedia image and audio-visual communication, as well as access support whilst applying for jobs in the tech sector. So far, the programme has graduated 166 learners, 40 of whom are women.
Ana Rita Dias (above) is 21 years old and grew up in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, which is around 30km southeast of Sintra. Before joining the Bytes4Future programme, she didn’t particularly enjoy using computers and wasn’t sure if she would fit in, but nevertheless, she wanted to explore new skills. “Coding is seen as a man’s field” she says, “but it’s a field that is still evolving, particularly in Portugal, so women should be a part of it to ensure it becomes an area that addresses women’s issues too”. Ana’s a creative at heart so initially found the meticulous nature of coding challenging, but she’s enjoyed learning to code because “it’s such a deep and complex subject to learn that proves how knowledge is infinite”.
“I think women have different perspectives and ways of thinking – we even have different approaches to problem-solving. More women in coding would mean more inclusivity and diversity, as well as new possibilities and new ways of thinking.”
Ana Rita Pires – Bytes4Future student
Classmate, Monique Pinto Alexandre (below), has a similar perspective. She emigrated to Portugal from Brazil two years ago – it’s been difficult for her to find a job, so joining the Bytes4Future programme has been a way of building new skills and strengthening her position in the job market. Now that she’s finished the training she hopes to be able to inspire other women to break into the world of technology, “We [women] have important contributions to share and I believe that we can make a difference everywhere, including the technology world”.
The Bytes4Future programme will continue to train new and diverse cohorts of learners until the end of this year, offering an opportunity for young people living in Sintra to follow new career paths and assert their place in the global technology sector. For the female participants, Bytes4Future is enabling them to not only build practical programming skills, but also recognise that as women, they can play an integral role in the field of ICT, which can be a springboard to help achieve their dreams. “Through the training, I’ve realised the power I have in changing my future,” says Monique.
“Through the training, I’ve realised the power I have in changing my future.”
Monique – Bytes4Future student
We’re pleased to share that within one month of finishing the Bytes4Future programme, all three women accepted job offers and are happily settled in new roles in the technology sector.
With special thanks to Sintra City Council, Portugal Inovação Social, RunCodeSchool, ETIC (School of Technology, Image and Communication) and Mind to Learn.