The GirlCode Academy platform is the first program of its kind in Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa. It provides Nigerian women free training in software and web application development. The Academy has just recently graduated its first class. We spoke with administrators at GirlCode and discovered that they’ve found early success and have bigger plans for the future.
What types of women are coming through the program, and how did your team identify and choose them for the class?
About 70% of our women are educated to first degree level, and are professionals or entrepreneurs. The age range is between 19-30 years old
Is the age capped?
The age is not capped, and we had applicants that were over 35 years, but during the interviews and shortlisting, we were looking for applicants that were able to devote some more time to learning and available for the rigorous training, most of the older ones could not meet that requirement, and they are women who are seeking to use the new skills to improve on their jobs or seek new employment in web development or build a tech startup.
We also have scholars who are in their penultimate year in undergraduate programs and who are very passionate about web development.
They were selected after a well-advertised online application process on the GirlCode Academy Website. Over 100 applicants were shortlisted and interviewed. The selection process included a one-on-one chat with GCA panel of mentors and faculty. Only 25 of them made it to the Academy.
What was the opportunity you saw for these women that they weren’t able to get elsewhere? What is the Nigerian economy like?
The Nigerian economy is a mixed economy with growth now in agriculture, the financial industry, and technology. It is the largest economy in Africa. Our Scholars are passionate about technology and how they could use it to benefit themselves and the society. Some of them are graduates and undergraduates in computer science courses, but they do not have the technical knowledge that is expected by most employers.
Why does your academy focus on women only?
Just like in other STEM related sectors, participation of women in web technology is very low, and it has become a male dominated industry, with the women taking supporting roles. We want to change that by focusing on empowering young women to become web developers and programmers and be in the forefront and leading technology projects and initiatives. We are closing the gap.
Who are your teachers?
The faculty, four of us, is made up of seasoned and experienced web developers and programmers who have been involved in web and software projects with over 15 years combined experience. We also have seven mentors–successful entrepreneurs and business owners impacting non-technical knowledge like industry standards and work environment expectations.
Describe your location and facilities.
The location/facilities belongs to a tech company–Exolve Technologies Limited. This is where the Academy is presently situated and looking towards having a functional and structured learning facility.
How are you funded?
Funding presently is personal with a little support from some of the mentors, friends, and family. GE Women’s Network (Nigeria) provided us with some laptops for the Academy.
How much is tuition?
The tuition is free, the Scholars are not required to pay any tuition. We are seeking support from individuals and organizations to Adopt-A-Scholar.
Are they getting tech jobs?
Yes, some of the graduating set are already working as a front end developers or support in tech companies. Marcia Cole, a GCA2017 scholar, has started as a front end developer for a startup company called credpal.com. Seyike Sojirin has started the journey of launching her GCA Project as a startup. Some of them are also placed in internships with tech companies where they can put their skills to use.
What are your longer-term goals with the program?
We want to train 1,000 young women every year from multiple locations across the country. We are working towards building a network of young women in technology who are proficient, competent, and versatile.
We plan to hold Meetups, Hackathons and Women-In-Tech Events. Now that we have graduated some scholars, we have started to build the community of women developers for the meetups and hackathons, strictly for women. We are planning a meetup for December, 2017.