Feature Story

Advancing gender equality one job at a time

by Melissa Jun Rowley

Non-profits are coming up with creative ways to help promote gender equality

Non-profits are coming up with creative ways to help promote gender equality.

Once upon a time outsourcing talent was largely viewed as a huge risk among managers and executives. In recent years however, outsourcing has not only helped improve growth and revenue for companies, in some parts of the world, it has leveled the playing field for people in developing countries, particularly women.

For example, the nonprofit Samasource connects poor people in Africa and Asia to major tech firms like Google and LinkedIn that need micro digital tasks done. Developing skillsets at the development level, the African-based Andela Institute builds engineering groups, and places them as full-time, remote team members with top-tier tech companies. In September 2016, Andela Nigeria held a female-only developer cohort.

Even unlikely candidates for tech jobs like stay-at-home moms are benefiting from outsourcing. In Malaysia, the startup OpsNinja, consists of a team of mothers who perform manual QA for some of the apps AgilityIO builds as well as data entry and online research. AgilityIO, which develops software for startups and large firms, launched OpsNinja after sensing an opportunity to help its clients in a powerful way.

OpsNinja is just one example of how AgilityIO cultivates outsourcing with a positive social impact on the teams it bulds and cost-effective benefits for its clients. Each new hire of AgilityIO is trained in an intensive eight-month coding bootcamp before taking on client projects. Additionally, AgilityIO continues to mentor their developers throughout their careers.

"There's a great opportunity in Vietnam, as the country has a culture that's really ambitious, and this is where the conversation of global talent has really hit the scene," says Jordan Wexler, AgilityIO's head of business development. "There's talent everywhere. Someone in Vietnam can easily learn coding with someone from America. We've been able to scale a company with high-level engineers that go through our own intensieve eight-month bootcamp to learn our process and workflow, prove themselves, and hit the ground running."

What's gender got to do with it?

During a Women in Tech focus group held in Da Nang, Vietnam, remote AgilityIO IT employee Thanh Nguyen said that in Vietnam women are usually regarded as the "weaker" gender overall.

"It is not rare that male colleagues assume our technical skills to be not as strong as theirs," said Nguyen. "In addition, because of their sentimental nature, women are thought to be weaker when working with rational or logical things."

Vietnamese AgilityIO team member Anh Tran is working to change with this mindset.

"Quick or slow in approaching technical stuff differs by individual, not by gender," she said.

Despite the gender biases, there's a multitude of opportunities in the IT field for women in Vietnam, as the tech industry continues a rapid acceleration. According to PC Magazine, Vietnam had 15 IT companies 17 years ago. Today, the country has nearly 14,000 tech companies creating hardware, software and digital content.

Could newly distributed talent models like AgilityIO's be replicated in the US?

Of course they can. In 2013, the IT solutions and services provider UST Global launched Step It Up America, a program designed to train and hire women and veterans, who are interested in building careers in tech. Initiatives like this one could have free range to staff people who work remotely.

Having a tech background is more than a career goal for a number of people who need to be able to work from home, due to domestic responsibilities, geography or extenuating circumstances. For some, tech skills are survival skills. For many women around the world, tech provides a chance at a new vision and livelihood. Fortunately, where digital connectivity is available, new talent—near or far—can be tapped into, nurtured and rewarded.


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