People who have a career in technology are only composed of 19% women. With this industry dominated by men, what can be done for women to get into this thriving community?
Sherry Bevan explores this subject further with Joysy John, CEO of 01 Founders, and Hana Abdi, Tech Leader at 01 Founders and the Founder of Bridge The Gap In Tech.
Together, they talk about the strongest motivating factors that push women towards a career in technology, ultimately finding their purpose and building a better world. They also talk about the most daunting barriers that limit women from becoming successful in this industry, from the lack of better opportunities to the stereotyping that these jobs are only for (bearded) men.
Free-to-access London coding school: https://www.01founders.co/
Bridge The Gap In Tech: https://www.bridgethegapintech.com/
Joysy John on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/joysyj/
Hana Abdi on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/hanaabdi/
Listen to the podcast here:
Joysy John And Hana Abdi: How To Motivate Women To Find A Career In Technology
In this episode, we’re exploring what motivates women to start a career in technology and what the barriers are to attracting more women. I’m super delighted and excited to be talking to not one but two amazing women. First, I’ve got Joysy John who is the CEO of 01 Founders, which is a tuition-free coding school with a job guaranteed to improve diversity in technology and tackle the digital skills gap. The work that they’re doing is incredible.
We’ve got Hana Abdi who is the Tech Leader at 01 Founders, as well as the Founder of Bridge The Gap In Tech. We’re going to be talking about what motivates women and what will motivate them to have a career in technology. A warm welcome to you both, Joysy and Hana. Thank you so much for joining me.
Thank you so much for having us.
Let’s get started. I did a brief introduction there about 01 Founders. To set the scene for anyone reading, could you tell us a bit more about the work you do there?
01 Founders is a public-private partnership to address the digital skills gap. We are cofounded by one of the largest Effie College, Capital City College Group, one of the preeminent entrepreneur networks in Europe, Founders Forum and 01Edu who have over 25 years of experience in peer-to-peer learning pedagogy. In addition to these three cofounders, we also have founding partners such as Nominet, Peloton and Faculty, who are all keen to work with us to address the digital skills gap but also to improve diversity in tech. Hana is going to talk about what we are doing here on campus and how we are different from any other coding school or talent agency.
We facilitate different talks for them to try and get them interested and keen on the industry. Throughout those three weeks, they pick up key skills and experiences. Hopefully, they get put onto the selection pool once they’ve passed and done well. With a 1 or 2-year fellowship, they get the skills and the coding experience to become mid to senior-level developers.
In addition to the free learning, we also provide a job guarantee. When they finish their two years of learning, they have three options. They can either join one of our corporate partners as a software engineer, set up their own company and we will support the entrepreneurial venture or join our talent agency and work as a software engineer for any company that’s looking for talent.
What are the people that are being attracted to your course? Who turns up? What’s the gender and ethnicity split like?
It is a very diverse cohort. When you come on campus, that’s what you see first because 77% of our fellows are from Asian, Black and ethnic minority backgrounds and 36% are female. We still have a long way to go to get to the 50% gender target that we set ourselves. In addition to that, you’ll see that people who have come on this program, the age range varies widely as well. We have a nineteen-year-old and somebody in their late 50s as well.
It is about lifelong learning and finding people who have the talent but never got the opportunity. We’ve got people who dropped out of school or university and people who’ve got a Master’s in Cyber Security. It’s a wide range. 40% of our fellows had no prior coding experience but 26% of those had some background in Computer Science.
That sounds like an extraordinary cohort where you’ve got that incredible range of experience. Thinking back to when I did it as studies, it’s quite nice to have a mixed range of experience and knowledge in the group because the students will presumably be then supporting and helping each other to grow and develop.
If you don’t believe in yourself that you can learn, you’re more likely to give up. Be confident that you can learn.
From what I’ve seen, everyone has been working together regardless of how much experience they’ve had. The ones with a bit more experience have been helping the ones with the lower experience. It has been great.
What we’re talking about is you’ve got a range of people with no experience and loads of experience. I imagine therefore that you’re going to get that lovely environment where you’ve got the more experienced students who have already got some pre-existing knowledge and experience, helping and supporting those without any knowledge and experience at all.
We’ve created a body system to help the students that don’t have any coding experience to work with the students that do have coding experience. That has been working out great. We’ve also created a bunch of social events to get the students from the different cohorts and selection pools to work together. It has been good to have people with different experiences in bringing different things to the table.
When you’re bringing in people who have got that previously lived experience, it means you’re going to end up with a more diverse workforce. To come back to the gender split that you’ve got, we don’t need any research or studies to tell us. We only need to look around. It looks like that applies to your cohort as well that there’s a significant gender imbalance in technology. I would like to talk a bit more about that. Why don’t more women work in technology? What have you learned from your cohort?
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen so far has been the lack of female role models and lack of self-belief, trying to see people who are in these industries already and getting women into it. Most of these women that have come to the course have either had a long career break, childcare and various different things. They need that reassurance in permitting female role models and being visible faces of our company, which is the majority of our team are females. They’re seeing women in tech. They’re having conversations with us and seeing that they can do it.
Having support from their peers as well as us has been life-changing. I feel like more women need to be encouraged to break into tech, attend more events, use various different platforms to engage and get that support to encourage them, pull each other up and take advantage of different opportunities. I feel like 01 Founders is creating and opening doors for women to walk through and also building the confidence to have the selection pools so they can see that, “I can learn something new and I am trying. I am getting support and feeling my self-worth.”
This process is building confidence. It’s not, “Start a university course and struggle through it for three years.” It’s, “Try to start for three weeks, build the self-confidence and self-worth, go through a two-year course and you can do it.” They start with something. We’ve had some women that have started but never opened a computer before. Now, she can explain algorithms to me and break down various different things. It’s life-changing.
It must be such a heartwarming project to be part of. I cannot imagine how good that makes you feel in the morning to go to work.
We were both emotional when we were calling up fellows to say that they had got through those three weeks of intense training. A lot of them didn’t think that they belonged here. We had a bus driver, a woman who had worked as a chef for seven years and another woman who had trained as a homeopath before and was new to this country.
There were so many people from such different backgrounds that felt they didn’t belong in tech but because they persevered and didn’t give up, it was amazing to see the progress that they had made. It was emotional when you feel that you can impact not just their life but their families and society at large. One of the women said to me, “I’m doing this not just for myself but for my daughter so she has an amazing role model.” That’s inspiring.
What have you noticed about what motivates women in their careers? Some of these women are having quite a significant career change. They’re going from homeopath to technology or from a chef to technology. What motivates them at work? What can we learn from that?
What motivates women is that they want to make an impact and a difference. That’s why a lot of women tend to be attracted towards medicine social work or other areas where they feel that they are making a difference. Due to media stereotypes where tech jobs are seen as a guy sitting behind a computer with poor hygiene and lots of facial hair, a lot of women don’t feel that they fit in. That’s the key factor. How do you make sure that you show enough role models but also communicate that it’s the best way to solve problems and make a big impact in the world?
That’s so true because there’s a lot to be done still to get over those stereotypes that some people have of the IT industry. You’re talking about women who want to make an impact, make a difference or have a purpose. I personally think technology is one of the best ways that you can have an impact because you’re always problem-solving, creating something new or troubleshooting. It’s a brilliant career. I have somewhat of a bias, having worked in technology all my life. Tell me more about how women can make an impact in technology. What are the ways that you would encourage women who might be reading this to say, “You can do that in technology with that as your career?”
Learning anything new is hard and challenging. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable, fail, and pick yourself up when things don’t work.
There are many ways that people can step into a career in tech. The first and foremost is building skills and that could be done by trying out some programs online. There are lots of free resources available. Take a tiny step to experiment, learn and see if that works but also come on campus and see what we are doing here. This is zero risk for you because it’s something as simple as playing a game online and then coming on campus for three weeks and learning with your peers. If it’s something that you don’t like or you’re not suited for this kind of learning or working then you have other options as well. That’s the first thing, build your skills.
The second thing is to build your confidence because if you don’t believe in yourself that you can learn, you’re more likely to give up. Be confident that you can learn. If Hana and I could learn it, I’m sure anyone can learn it. The final thing is to build your network. In addition to building your skills and confidence, you need to have a network so that you can find work placements, internships and full-time job opportunities. That would be my advice.
Building a community is huge. You can get resources and job opportunities. Having that network around you to build you up and you can ask questions to is crucial, especially as women in tech. Tech is so diverse. There are so many industries you can go and tell people every day. You can go into beauty, health, fitness or pet care. Some of my friends are working with dogs and they’re doing things in tech.
That’s the key. Technology is so diverse because technology runs the world at the moment. If you want to get involved in whatever it is that you’re fascinated by, you can still do that and have a good career in technology. What do you feel are the other barriers to attracting more women into technology? I’ve talked about the stereotypes. What else puts women off?
There are a number of barriers. The basic is access to Wi-Fi and a device because if you don’t have that, you can’t learn to code. The next level is willingness. Learning anything new is hard and challenging. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable, fail and pick yourself up when things don’t work. That’s the second barrier. You need to build your willingness and sometimes it’s hard to do it alone. That’s why you have such high dropout rates when you’re doing it online alone. Try and build your peer network. Come on campus and build your community. Hana’s Bridge The Gap In Tech Community is another example where you can find and connect with people who are going on a similar journey.
We work with underrepresented people in tech. I bridge the gap in tech to get them into opportunities, share free resources, do some coding practices with them and get them into jobs as well. I also think it’s the lack of opportunities as well. There are so many free resources out there but it’s the lack of opportunities for women. I feel like some of the courses aren’t as flexible and suited to women that have other things that they need to be doing, such as support needs. In order to inspire women to do things, it’s the flexibility and the opportunity for them to have something that’s flexible that works around them.
I love what you were saying, Joysy, about that willingness to feel uncomfortable. That’s such a key thing. Particularly, when you’re looking at changing your career or developing a new skillset, you have to accept that you’re going to go through that period of time where it feels scary or you don’t know what you’re doing. To have that willingness to feel uncomfortable, that’s a lovely way of phrasing it because we all go through that in everyday life in many respects.
I’ve loved talking to you both. It’s fascinating to hear what you’re doing at 01 Founders and the work that you’re doing. This is the first cohort that you’re running. This course is two years. Hopefully, at the end of two years, we’ll have some amazing people going out into the world, doing more with technology, which is fantastic. If people want to get in touch with you and find out more, how do they do that?
They can visit our website, www.01Founders.co or they can come to visit us on campus. We are right by Regent’s Park at Longford Street NW1 3HB. The best way to see what we’re doing is to come to meet the team and the fellows who are going through the learning.
Joysy and Hana, thank you so much for joining me. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I can’t wait to see what happens in two years’ time.
Thank you for having us.
I’ve enjoyed exploring what motivates women at work and the barriers to attracting more women to technology. If this conversation has sparked a thought in your mind then let’s talk and explore. A call with me gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talents so you can close the gender pay gap. Email me at Sherry@SherryBevan.co.uk to book your call. Thank you for reading.
- 01 Founders
- Bridge The Gap In Tech
- Capital City College Group
- Founders Forum
About Joysy John
Joysy is CEO of 01Founders, tuition-free coding schools with a job-guarantee to improve diversity in tech and tackle the digital skills gap
About Hana Abdi
Hana is the Tech Leader for 01Founders, as well as founder of Bridge The Gap In Tech