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After Covid-19, gender equality should be a priority

While 2020 was a challenging year for all, it was particularly vulnerable for women, according to a new Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum. Zhino, a Re:Coded bootcamp alum in Iraq, is betting that a career in tech will be a ticket to punch through the glass ceiling.

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min read //

September 8, 2021

Lars Højholt

Director of Communications

After Covid-19, gender equality should be a priority
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Trailing pretty much the rest of the world, a new Gender Gap Report published on March 31 by the World Economic Forum measured the daunting gender gap between men and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at 60.9%. That should only take about 142 years to close, according to the international future of work think tank.

In a striking assessment, the report points to causes like accelerated automation, the burden of the ‘double shift’ as women often handle the household, and an occupational dynamic where only two of eight ‘job types of tomorrow’ show gender parity.

Combined, this pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on women who risk inferior job opportunities and a persistent drop in income.

That is not only bad news for women, but also bad news for businesses. Diversity is plain and simply good business as a 2020 report from McKinsey showed that the most diverse companies are 25% more likely to financially outperform the least diverse companies.

Gender parity won’t happen on its own

Zhino, a graduate of Business Administration and a Re:Coded bootcamp alum in Iraq, only recently dedicated herself to coding as she started signing up for courses on Coursera and other platforms. However, from the very beginning, she noticed something about her classes, whether that be through Coursera or another online alternative.

"There is not an even amount of boys and girls in coding."

No surprise there. The Gender Gap Report analyses gender parity in fast-growing ‘jobs of tomorrow’ to see if they provide an early indicator of gender parity in the future, and the results are bleak. Not only is the digital industry lacking diversity, it’s also not showing much improvement and is unlikely to improve without a concerted effort.

Unfortunately, research also suggests that roles common among low- to middle-income women are likely to be disproportionately represented among jobs destroyed by automation, so it’s a double hit to women and the report concludes accordingly.

Without opportunities in emerging roles, the share of women in the labour market could shrink further.

Proactive measures are needed

Zhino is determined to change that. First step is through Re:Coded where around half (40-45%) the seats in the typical 20 person class are earmarked for women.

"We were founded on the belief that everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to join and thrive in the digital economy.

Says Alexandra Clare, CEO at Re:Coded about the gender balance in Re:Coded programs.

When talking about how to encourage women to join the digital economy Zhino has some ideas of things that need to change.

"If we had better opportunities to learn then we could make this process faster. Promotion would help as well," she says.

Re:Coded CEO, Alexandra Clare agrees.

"One of the core tenets of our mission is to bridge the gender divide in technology. Our programs have strived to have at least 45% women, and, in 2019, we launched our first women-only program, which has grown four-fold in just one year, training 100 women in 4 cities in Iraq."

Iraq is certainly in need of more female coders. Iraq has one of the largest economic gender gaps at 22.8% with only 12% of women participating in the labor force. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 reports that 31.07% of women in Iraq are unemployed along with 10.27% of men, showing how the fight against unemployment is still a long battle to be won alongside closing the gender gap.

Even with family support, the ‘double shift’ is real

Zhino is well aware of the challenge and the challenges holding women back.

"It’s not easy to find experience. Girls are usually busy with so many things. We need to do a lot of things at home and when I’m in a class, my mom calls me two or three times just to ask me to clean. Boys have more time for learning. They can play games and searching for information about coding a lot."

She is still getting plenty of support from her family though. They strongly encouraged her to make career plans in coding, but she knows there are more issues to address.

"Women are a bit more shy than men,«"she says.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s important not only to focus on technical skills, but also the soft skills and mindset to succeed in the modern job market, says Alexandra Clare.

"In our programs, students learn how to learn and learn by doing. But more importantly, they feel seen, heard, and empowered. They find a safe space to make mistakes, fail, and try new ideas. By the end, they know more about themselves and the world around them. That’s a skill that is often taken for granted."

This project is funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Program (RDPP II) for Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which is supported by the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland and Switzerland. The contents of this article is the sole responsibility of Re:Coded and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the RDPP or its donors.

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Authors biography

Lars Højholt

Director of Communications

Lars Højholt is Re:Coded’s Director of Communications and has been with Re:Coded since February 2020. He has previously worked as a journalist and project manager for the Danish national newspaper, Information, leading major editorial projects and grants, and later joined a public sector consultancy as a communications specialist before moving to Istanbul.

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