Digital. Les DesCodeuses, the school for women who break laws

They are sixteen around the table on Thursday afternoon at the headquarters of a partner association of 17 peoplee the town. Their eyes fixed on their screens, learners gathered in this year’s promotion to create a website in forty-eight hours. An amazing challenge that everyone was ready to take on successfully when, six months ago, they discovered programming thanks to the training provided by the DesCodeuses Association.

Louisa Ashchi finishes designing the website of an association dedicated to reaching culture for all. “I started from scratch, DesCodeuses brought me a mega gigabyte of training. Today, I am proficient in a computer language,” the 33-year-old former Algerian teacher, currently training at BNP Paribas, proudly testifies.

All of these women are part of the fifth promotion for DesCodeuses, a team of ten employees they are training to become web developers. After completing their intensive six-month training in the summer of 2022, it will be time for them to gain professional experience through a 300-hour internship.

This is also the main theme of the afternoon session: make a preliminary assessment of those who have already found a place in the business, and help those who are still searching. Souad Bougrabat, founder of the association, says:

“I started the code in full confinement, it was a release”

In the room, the elderly are there to support the new people. Among them, Ksenia Falkos, a Russian psychologist who arrived in France in 2014, tells them about her experience: “My training allowed me to find an internship, and then a permanent contract as a web developer at AXA. Today my salary is excellent (40,000 euros per year) … Almost like my graduate husband,” she says.

Since January 2018, DesCodeuses has grown a lot. The Society was born on the heights of the capital, in the small locality of Belleville, the outgrowth of a rebellion bravely led by Souad Butgrabat. Frowning, 30s, who turned ten years later in the banking sector, talks about the origins of her project: “Women are not invited to participate in digital advancement. In my training as a developer alone, there were only 80% men and 20% women.”

From there her desire to create a free school open to all women was born to protest against inequality in the digital professions. Thanks to perseverance, you get financing from partner companies.

To date, 84 women have been trained. Most of them discovered the association via the Pôle emploi, which financed their training. For the majority of them, successive restrictions were the impetus for their re-conversion.

Before the pandemic, many of them worked in the so-called “women’s” professions that had been weakened by the crisis. “The blogger started in complete confinement, it was liberation,” says Ksenia Falkoz, who subsequently managed to free herself financially from her husband, having been without work for four years.

Coming from the priority neighborhoods of Paris and its suburbs, the profiles of apprentice programmers are as diverse as their personal history. But they all share a sad feeling of being left behind, noted Souad Boutgrappet, herself from a city in the Val-de-Marne.

‘Emotional profiles’ that appeal to partner companies

Realizing that around 200,000 jobs will be filled in this sector, the DesCodeuses team is working to change the gender stereotypes of corporate feminization in the sector. “We stand for code-breaking,” says Shirazi Rekruki, the team’s managing and financial director.

And it works: 90% of former learners are now on permanent contracts. “DesCodeuses succeeded in showing companies that the excited profiles were as interesting as the eligible profiles,” admits Nicolas Janot, project manager at French digital marketing leader SAP, during a conversation with a learner.

Together, they create “skills nurturing” that allows employees of partner companies to support learners. For the manager, “It’s a win-win for everyone: Learners own the knowledge of the employees, and the employees feed off the passion of the learners.”

“Living women are more forgotten than the feminization of professions”

3 questions for Souad Bougrabat, founder of the DesCodeuses Association

There are only 14% of female programmers. How do we explain it?

Today, women are not invited to participate in digital advancement. However, nearly two hundred years ago, the first person to become what we now call a programmer was a woman: Ada Lovelace, known for making the first true computer program while working on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. And even when the first computers appeared, women were once again pioneers in writing software.

But when capitalism got involved, women were left out of digital jobs. As soon as men realized that money could generate such technologies, they monopolized them, and made professions between the sexes.

Why don’t women turn more to these professions?

Nowadays, girls are turning a bit towards technical studies that would enable them to achieve careers in IT. It’s not that they don’t want to. It’s just that they were never told this during their studies, these jobs are considered “male”.

Moreover, since recruitment algorithms are coded by the majority of men, AI discriminates against women. The other problem is that in this masculine universe, women don’t necessarily feel safe or legitimate.

Do you feel you have made it possible to feminize digital professions?

in part. We wanted more women in business, and more women in technology. Today, we are partners of many important French companies such as AXA, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Se Loger … and SAP, the leader in French digital marketing.

quote symbolFrance has 1,500 neighbourhoods, and we want to be in those 1,500 neighbourhoods.

Our partners want to feminize technical teams, they understand that performance lies in diversity. Over 150 applications are submitted each semester for our training and 90% of our former learners are now on permanent contracts.

But our task is not over yet. France has 1,500 neighbourhoods, and we want to be in those 1,500 neighbourhoods. Because one in two women in the neighbourhood is still out of work. This is the biggest forgetting of the feminization of professions. This is why we are opening new places to learn in France next year.


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