Technology Gender Gap in Latin AmericaIn Latin America, information and communications technology (ICT) is emerging in many economies, therefore, the demand for trained individuals in the tech industry is rapidly increasing. At the same time, 30 million youths are not working, participating in school, or engaged in training programs. And 76 percent of them are women. The lack of digital skills among young women is troubling because less than 20 percent of women transition from studying to formal jobs. Fortunately, programs such as Laboratoria are taking initiative in bridging the technology gender gap in Latin America.

How Was Laboratoria Created?

Laboratoria, once known as Ayu in 2014, started as a web agency that built its own in-house tech team. Once the hiring process was over, the company realized that its tech team was 100 percent male. The issue did not lie in their hiring practices but rather in the availability of females with digital skills who the company could bring on board.

As a result, the company decided to spearhead an initiative to train women developers and then hire them once they were qualified. The company targeted women who were unable to attend tertiary school due to economic constraints. As the idea grew, the company saw that there was potential to increase female inclusion across as many emerging and existing tech teams in Latin America, not just their own.

How Does Laboratoria Work?

Laboratoria operates in three stages:

  1. Selection process – Any woman can apply to Laboratoria. However, there is an extensive interview process and Laboratoria to identify those who would benefit the most from the program. Those that are selected must take “exams, pre-work, and real class dynamics” as part of the selection process.

  2. Bootcamp training – Those selected are accepted into a six-month boot camp that beings with a “common core and finishes with two specializations” which are Front-End development and UX design. Developers learn JavaScript, HTML, CSS and “highly demanded tools as React framework” while UX Designers graduate with an “innovative profile that combines coding with UX skills.” They also learn team skills that they will be able to apply to group settings. More importantly, it shows them the importance of supporting each other because creating a family of women in their tech careers will help them succeed.

  3. Talent placement – After the six-month boot camp, students are connected with hiring companies through Laboratoria’s own TalentApp and Talent Fest hackathons. These hackathons give real challenges to the students and they must solve them in 36 hours. The companies then choose who they want to hire based on the results of the challenges. Only the students who get hired by the companies have to pay for the program.

How is Laboratoria Bridging the Gap in Tech in Latin America?

Here are the results Laboratoria has produced through its program.

  • In 3 years there have been over 1,000 graduates
  • Laboratoria has connected with over 400 hiring companies in the tech industry
  • The rate for job placement for 2017 was 80 percent
  • The average income increase among employed graduates has tripled

Laboratoria is one of many programs that is bridging the gap in tech in Latin America by providing young and adult women with the opportunity to access, develop and acquire digital skills. These digital skills will help them build confidence and experience, but more importantly, bring gender diversity into the tech industry.

– Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Unsplash