We are constantly told that there are jobs for women and jobs for men, and anything to do with computers is always seen as being for the latter. But all of that is beginning to change! With the help of AlMakinah, Egyptian women from all social classes and backgrounds are being given an opportunity to learn computer programming and coding. We spoke to Manager of the Women Track at AlMakinah, Hoda Hamad about fighting the gender imbalance in the tech industry and unleashing the fiery potential of women in computing.
AlMakinah for several years have run three month intense coding bootcamps as well as two week crash courses in front-end web development, and this year their focus is on getting women into tech. Launching the hashtag #YouCodeGirl, this August AlMakinah are doing a two week crash course that is women only. Hoda Hamad explains to us why they have taken this initiative, “In previous courses, it was always very male-dominated. When we talked to girls they told us that they don’t think they would even qualify for the course. So there is a fundamental confidence issue and a lack of willingness to try something new that we want to change”. This lack of confidence, Hoda links at least partially with societal expectations, “Social preconditioning dictates what kind of occupations different genders can have, and that is something that we are trying to destroy. We need a lot more female role models in the industry that show what women can do!”.
In terms of the job market, having more Egyptian women in tech, Hoda believes would have a huge impact, “A lot of women end up married and staying at home. Programming is different to other skills because you can do a lot of jobs from home, even working for companies abroad on a freelance basis from home. So imagine if all these women who aren’t part of the labor market get access to these opportunities, they won’t just get more money and become financially more independent, they will also be contributing to society as a whole”, she tells us.
As a graduate of the three month bootcamp herself, Hoda Hamad, knows first-hand the life-changing impact that developing skills in computing can have. “I went from someone who didn’t know anything really about technology above basic computing, to someone who can build a front-end and back-end web app”, Hoda tells us. Learning computing skills has not just been about engaging with the technical language, Hoda adds, “Whenever a problem came up I used to call other people to help me. But since I started programming I want to find problems and then create interesting solutions”.
And you don’t need to commit to the three month course to development highly useful skills, according to Hoda, “The two week course teaches the basics of programming. We will teach them how to build their own static website, from which they can start their own business selling things from home. Or if they want to take a job in a company or as a freelancer designing the front-end of a website, this is a gateway into doing that. More importantly we teach them how to learn, because that is an important thing about this industry, and there is no right age to start to learn because the industry is changing so fast”.
In both the two week and three month courses, AlMakinah ensure that the skills learnt can be put to good use in the real world, Hoda explains, “we include a lot of soft-skills workshops to make people more employable. We also focus on networking, with a number of guest speakers coming in and doing talks and sessions. We also collaborate with a lot of hiring partners, so you do get a lot of job opportunities made available to you”.
Not only are these courses being offered, but AlMakinah are committed to making sure that they are available to everyone, using this crowd-funding campaign to raise money to provide financial assistance for those unable to pay. “We don’t want to be an institution for the elite. On the contrary we want to be available for anyone who wants to learn, so we are reaching out to society to donate whatever they want to support women in tech. We want this money to go to changing someone’s life, for people who are serious about this as a career”.