Code to Change Pakistan: Achieving women’s economic empowerment through digital inclusion
Code to Change Pakistan
Central and Southern Asia
Camps, Coding, Digital Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Networking, Private sector, Women
Career counselling and professional development, Role models and mentoring
According to the World Economic Forum, 90% of future jobs will demand digital skills. Despite global progress to increase digital access for women, numerous challenges still keep girls and women from fully participating in the digital society.
Ensuring women can learn and adapt to new digital technologies has the potential to benefit worldwide productivity and social development. Investing in women’s technological skills can also have a ripple effect that impacts generations as the World Economic Forum reports women often reinvest 90% of their income into their families and communities. When women thrive, the entire society benefits and future generations have even greater possibilities than those who came before them.
Women currently make up only 30% of the 7 million people working in Europe’s digital sector, especially in decision-making positions. Code to Change aims to close the digital skills gap in the technology sector while striving to narrow the existing digital gender divide. The programme was created to inspire and equip women with the skills they need to succeed in the job market of the digital world.
The Code to Change was founded with the commitment to achieve gender equality (Sustainable Development Goal 5) and economic empowerment of women through digital inclusion. The organization brings together technology professionals and women interested in learning or enhancing their digital skills and breaking into the technology sector. It also provides training on new digital technology to enable women to choose from a variety of career paths in the technology sector.
The Code to Change re-skills and up-skills women in digital and entrepreneurship skills and facilitates their participation in the digital economy. The Code To Change program provides customized trainings and digital skills bootcamps to teach essential skills required to pursue a digital career. The students get the opportunity to work closely with mentors and industry leaders from the industry to enhance their skills and learn about employment opportunities in their respective regions. This is accomplished by establishing long-term training and support that is centered on the individual and to help women acquire relevant skills for finding a well-paid job in today’s digital age.
The Code to Change works closely with local stakeholders from the government, academic and private sector for inclusion of diverse talent into the workforce.
The programme is based on an earlier successful initiative entitled Work to Equality, which aimed to improve the social, economic participation, empowerment and emancipation of women.
The Code to Change provides training and mentoring to up to 30 women per project country. Women are introduced to opportunities of learning on the job, under the supervision of mentors. During 2017 and 2018, The Code to Change held multiple consultations with stakeholders in Pakistan to teach women the skills considered to be key for pursuing careers in the technology sector. The core objective was to bring about a change in the mindset of Pakistani women on digital skills and to provide them with an opportunity to learn and grow through mentoring.
Phase 1 - Digital skills bootcamp
The model of the bootcamp and its duration varies per country. Bootcamps can be 3-days to 3-month in duration in which participating women learn the basics of coding and computational thinking. They are also introduced to various pathways in the digital world of communication, information, safety and problem solving.
A recent participant of a 3-day bootcamp shared, “Those three days were so motivating. I learned a lot about ICT and saw some interesting things with the 3D printer. I didn’t know can do such beautiful things with writing code. The bootcamps really opened up the world for me. A world I had discovered before, but never done anything with.”
In 2019, the Code To Change trained 80 young women in Multan region of Pakistan in Web Design, Content Creation, Design and Online Freelancing skills. Forty five percent of the course graduates successfully joined the digital workforce and started earning money through online projects. The Code To Change is gearing up to introduce next batch of trainings including computer programming, virtual assistant trainings and entrepreneurship.
A recent graduate of a 6-week immersive boot camp from Pakistan said: “This is the first time that I have been part of an extensive digital skills camp. It is an amazing opportunity for females who are not allowed to go outside home for job purpose. They can learn these skills and work and earn from their homes!”
Phase 2- Mentoring
The Code to Change mentors understand the continuous need to upgrade skills to work in the digital and tech job market. Graduates of the bootcamp get the opportunity to interact with top professional women (and men) in the field of technology.
Phase 3- Work experience
The final phase of the programme is apprenticeship. The organization strongly advocates for the buy-in from the private sector, especially the technology industry and the technical communities to build the skills of the underrepresented groups in the technology sector. Successful candidates are provided the unique opportunity to work with partner organizations and companies in the field of technology for duration of 3-6 months for on-job learning experience. Students who avail the remote work option often work with mentors on specific projects from home.
It is essential to identify women leaders and (male) allies in the technology sector who are keen to teach other women the necessary digital skills to be successful in the workplace and who wish to act as a catalyst for change.
Establishing programmes that support women’s continuous improvement on existing digital skills is important to keep up with and facilitate the integration into the ever-changing field of technology.
Online mentoring should involve a work experience phase and at least one in-person meeting.
At the end of the mentoring phase, all mentors and mentees should report back about their development. Mentees should also present their projects and stories from the programme.
EQUALS Research Group. 2018. Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership. Preliminary findings of a review by the EQUALS research group. Geneva, International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
GSMA. 2015. Bridging the gender gap: mobile access and usage in low and middle income countries. GSMA.
World Economic Forum (WEF). 2018. The future of jobs report 2018. Geneva, WEF.
Yoo, T. 2014. Why women make the best tech investments. World Economic Forum website. 20 Jan 2014.