FrauenLoop helps immigrant and refugee women get tech jobs in Germany
- 02 May 2019
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Nakeema Stefflbauer started FrauenLoop in 2016 to address a pressing need in the tech industry. She saw that women had to know the right people or have impressive academic credentials to succeed in tech, but “men with or without formal computer science backgrounds had relatively smooth pathways into the many jobs that the tech industry offers.”
FrauenLoop, which means “women’s loop” in German, is a non-profit organization that aims “to train women with resident, immigrant, refugee, non-science, or family-status backgrounds who might otherwise face obstacles to starting or re-entering professional tech industry roles.” Above all, it seems to increase the number of qualified women entering jobs in the tech industry.
FrauenLoop helps women gain employment in the tech industry by providing technical training, mentorship and professional advice. English is the language of instruction. Many students come through referrals from other students, and you can also sign up online via the website.
Although a new immigration law in late 2018 will make it easier for skilled non-EU citizens to acquire work visas, Germany’s academic- and-credential focused labour market tends to overlook women. “European VCs also tend to ignore women; you find an industry that is largely unaware of the female talent it overlooks. I've lived in the Middle East and in North Africa, so I understand that many of the Syrian, Egyptian, North African, and Gulf universities have equal or nearly equal women's enrolment in STEM subjects. This is much higher than you see in German universities. Even so, the big challenges within German tech are perception and visibility. The perception is that women work in the non-technical areas, like HR or marketing, and men do everything else,” said Stefflbauer.
Over a hundred women have studied with FrauenLoop. “We are now getting to the stage where we know the skill sets, we know the jobs levels, and we also know the great tech environments for our women, so it becomes very exciting to see them start applying to jobs, because we know they will end up in strong teams, where they can be a model for the men (and the next woman) who comes after them,” said Stefflbauer.
It takes about a year for a woman with no tech background to get a junior professional position. Stefflbauer explained, “That means three cycles of classes plus three to four professional weekend workshops, although it might take less time, or slightly more, depending on how much time a woman can commit to retraining. The first year, the cycles were 10 to 15 women only, with half Syrians and half Germans. Later, we started to get Yemeni, Iranian and Palestinian women, along with Hungarians, Romanians, and Egyptians. Our cohorts now average 30–35 women per cycle across three learning tracks, with about an 80/20 split of immigrant and refugee women to German nationals.”
Haidy Ahmed, an Egyptian living in Berlin, saw a Facebook post about FrauenLoop and started with the front-end course. “But then I participated in QA events and I fell in love with testing. As my daughter is really young, I cannot spend as much time as I want studying. For me, testing is more exciting and easy to learn.”
Reem Alnajjar attended a FrauenLoop workshop on job searching and CV preparation. “I had worked in project management with UNHCR in Damascus. In Berlin, I was in the position of the people I used to help; I was struggling with housing and getting used to living in Germany. I started the data programme and job coaching at FrauenLoop, and I was offered a paid internship at Deutsche Telekom. […] Now I am finishing my master’s at Freie University, and I just signed to work full-time on a data fraud project.”
For Haneen Abd Allah, being a programming mentor means giving back to society, "It’s important because I am helping women to start coding and being the equals of men in this field. It also means that being a refugee and a Muslim doesn’t mean that you can’t be somebody useful in this society.”
(Writing by Susan Muthalaly; editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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