GirlCode is introducing more women in the Tech Space
It takes brave women to challenge the status quo and dare to do something great. The most interesting and inspiring story of a South African start-up I have heard this year. GirlCode is challenging social norms in South Africa, by introducing young women to the Tech scene and empowering them with skills such as coding so they can actively participate in the Tech industry, “We are creating the architects of our future, the girls who will develop innovative solutions through technology”-Girl Code. Given the employment statistics in South Africa and the gender inequality in the workplace especially in the technology sector (Engineering, IT), this non-profit start-up is addressing real problems.
The Story of GirlCode
Reading about their story I couldn’t help but think of the women who fought against inequality in South Africa in the 90’s, but I also think about Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook (The most powerful woman in Tech ) and also get reminded of Susan Wojcicki the CEO of YouTube. The women of GirlCode not only have the character of great leaders but they are also very intelligent and knowledgeable in what they do. Zandile Keebine the founder of GirlCode, completed her BSc Honors Degree in Computational and Applied Mathematics at the University of Witwatersrand in 2012, shortly after that she started working in the ICT sector for different Tech Companies where she found her passion in Software Development. It was during those years working for various Tech companies where she noticed the misrepresentation of women in the Tech space, “I saw that there was a critical gender disparity issue that needs to be addressed” says Zandile. She then decided to ask her then boss Ian Hoevet, if she could host a hackathon for women at the company and that was when GirlCode was born.
Teamwork makes dream work
Following the success of the previous Hackathon, in 2015 Zandile recruited her friends to be partners of the organization, today GirlCode is made up of three founders; Zandile Keebine, Tinyiko Simbine, and Jeanette Theu. Zandile Keebine is responsible for everything that has to do with stakeholder management, that includes keeping and getting new sponsors and strategic partners for GirlCode to grow the initiative. Tinyiko who has an Accounting degree from the University of Pretoria and has work experience in the accounting field from big companies such as EOH is responsible for the finances of the organization. With over 5 years’ experience working in the enterprises and start-up fields and managing big brands in the ICT sector such as MTN, Jeanette handles the marketing side of GirlCode. These are the leaders who are going change the status quo of women in Tech in South Africa.
What does GirlCode do?
GirlCode is a non-profit organization based in Johannesburg that provides monthly training workshops for anyone interested in learning how to code. The training workshops are targeting young women mostly university students but also computer literacy training is offered to unemployed women and 10-month internships are offered for graduates. GirlCode hosts regular Hackathons every year where female students are invited to showcase their skills and win prizes. This year Girl Code hosted what is likely the biggest female-only Hackathon in the country with over hundred participants, the winners got a chance to travel to Silicon Valley to visit Tech Giants such as Facebook and Google.
The future of Girl Code
Running an organization such as this is not easy, “The biggest challenge that we’re tackling is reaching girls across the country who want and need our support” says Zandile. Despite the challenges GirlCode keeps on growing and making a meaningful impact in many girls lives, it’s not just about coding or teaching computer skills “it is about teaching people logic and creativity. We are equipping our girls with skills to allow them to communicate and compete on a global scale” says Zandile.
Looking into the future, Girl Code plans to be an industry leader when it comes to digital innovation from a female’s perspective. They are looking to grow and expand their reach to countries across the African continent, providing training and support to women who want to be in the tech space.