The 2019/20 TechUPWomen cohort was our pilot programme which recruited 100 underserved women from the less prosperous North and Midlands onto a 6 month guided programme to retrain them in technology subjects, with the aim of helping them all to access entry level job roles or internships in the sector or gain career promotions.
BAME women and women from underrepresented groups with a bachelors level degree (or equivalent) in any subject were encouraged to apply via video application and written submission, outlining their interest to pursue a career in the tech sector and demonstrating how the programme would impact them personally.
Over 200 applications were received for the 100 places available, with preference given to BAME women, women with disabilities, LGBTQ+ women, and women with dependants.
The 6 month intensive programme was delivered through an amalgamation of existing online resources, supplemented with bespoke materials created by the university partners. Content was divided into three ‘terms’, covering training in data science, cyber security, machine learning, and agile project management, along with workplace readiness skills such as public speaking, clear communication, and effective team-working. Additional support was also provided via an online portal and regular catch up sessions. Each woman on the cohort was guaranteed an interview with an industry partner for a job or internship opportunity at the end of the programme. By the final term, women were also asked to self-select their interest to pursue a role in one of four areas: ‘Developer/Tester’, ‘Data Scientist’, ‘Business Analyst’, and ‘Agile Project Manager’, with the group naturally assuming a roughly equal split across these four areas.
The course content was interspersed with four residential weekends, one at each partner university. This model provided critical 1:1 mentoring, community-building, and inspirational talks from sector role models, assisting the cohort throughout the course and encouraging peer-to-peer support networks to develop. Practical sessions included workshops on cybersecurity and the importance of diversity in creating products that are inclusive and reflect society as whole. The final residential included a graduation ceremony, where each woman received a certificate to recognise their participation.
By encouraging applications from women across under-represented backgrounds, the TechUP pilot was able to establish an initial cohort of talented women from across a range of groups which lack adequate support and representation in the sector:
- 54% BAME Women
- 46% Disabled Women
- 40% Women with at least one dependant
- 21% LGBTQ+ Women
Feedback from our participants at our final residential weekend and celebration event was overwhelming, each of our participants had the opportunity to tell us about their own journey and how the TechUP programme has made a difference to them, the resulting stories were inspirational and really highlighted the benefits of the programme.
This support of the programme made it to Twitter over the course of the weekend and resulted in #TechUPWomen trending, you can see below some of the posts that were shared during the event:
To date, the impact of the programme has been substantial, with graduates finding new roles or promotions within a wide range of industries. These include manufacturing (Jaguar Land Rover and MSP), software (Double Eleven Ltd), education (JISC and Code Nation), service (HR in One) and the public sector (Newcastle City Council and Durham Constabulary). Furthermore, graduates have also recently taken up board trustee positions (Being Woman) and moved into further education in Tech subjects.
One example is Fareeha Usman, one of our first graduates who also runs Being Woman a charitable organisation in Northumberland, Fareeha has used her new tech skills to continue to develop the work of Being Woman including passing on her learning in the form of digital skills courses for local woman.
Fareeha has also teamed up with her mentor, Marianne Whitfield of MSP, to collaborate on new community projects in Northumberland. Fareeha and Marianne were interviewed by the NE Times on their wonderful new collaboration. Most recently Fareeha has been awarded a Rising Star award in the Charity and Not for Profit category by WeAreTheCity and recently spoke on a panel about diversifying the workforce at the Dynamo20 conference on 2th June 2020.
Another example is Benedicta Banga, who launched her App, Blaqbase while she was taking part in the TechUPWomen programme and has since developed and updated it using her new skills, most recently adding in-app purchasing functionality. Benedicta was recently interviewed by Sky News on her App and Black Pound Day.
Other participant stories can be found on our blog.