Coding Bootcamps for Women in Pakistan
Employing women in the digital economy is a significant step in ensuring inclusiveness. In Pakistan, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, women make 25.7% of the whole labor force, but this number is much lower in the tech sector, only 14%, as per a study conducted by P@SHA1 in 2012.
P@SHA or Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES is a trade body and a registered association that was founded in the year 1992, primarily to promote and develop the software and services industry in Pakistan and to protect the rights of its members
Since technology trends keep changing, there is an ongoing need for digital skills and, more specifically, for programming skills for a variety of business initiatives. Preparing women for digital employment opportunities involves rapid skills training in coding. Coding Bootcamps are a new modality of rapid technology skills training programs which, within a short timeframe, can prepare women to access entry-level junior developer positions. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region in Pakistan can benefit from these bootcamp programs to train women. However, the Government of Pakistan lacked the skills and knowledge on how to design and implement a coding bootcamp program adapted to the local environment, so they requested to join the Coding Bootcamps for Female Digital Employment (P163475) activity. This activity was designed to increase the learning and capabilities of the KP regional government to better understand how to leverage and implement coding bootcamp programs for the benefit of women. The lessons learned in other developing countries were better suited for this type of capacity building and learning. The experience of Kenya in organizing coding bootcamps was identified as the most suitable for KP. Kenya has a similar developing economic environment as Pakistan and it also has a vibrant technology scene. Kenya is more experienced than Pakistan with skills programs, having developed several innovative approaches based on rapid-skills training, including pioneering coding bootcamps in Africa. This makes Kenya uniquely positioned to provide knowledge to Pakistan. Based on Pakistan’s request, the World Bank organized a knowledge exchange between Pakistan (KP region) and Kenya on coding bootcamp programs with a focus on targeting women trainees. This knowledge exchange was financed by the South-South Facility.
Opportunities in the fast-moving digital economy hold great potential for young Pakistanis. Studies estimate that the online contracting market is worth US$1 trillion globally. While the tech industry in Pakistan is still nascent, it may be well positioned to partake in this high growth sector. However, the Government of Pakistan lacked the skills and knowledge on how to tackle this fast-moving sector and on how to design and implement a Coding Bootcamp that can be adapted to the local context.
The main constraints addressed with the grant were:
- A low level of capacity and experience in relevant organizations: The Government of Pakistan and the implementing organizations lack experience in designing and implementing rapid technology skills programs (coding bootcamps) to reduce youth employment and equip young women with the necessary proficiencies to compete in the new digital global economy.
- A need to identify Coding Bootcamps design and implementing practices: Overall, there have not been initiatives to reduce the digital skills gap and engage women in digital jobs. As graduates do not have the necessary skills to work as software developers, private companies are taking the role of educators, investing their money to train graduates in the digital skills they require for their positions. However, the problem that companies are facing is that these trained people rapidly quit their job to go to another company, resulting in an economic loss for the industry and pressure on salaries in the ICT sector.
To benefit from the knowledge acquired in other countries, Pakistan requested joining the Coding Bootcamps for Female Digital Employment (P163475). The objective of joining this activity were: i) to develop joint efforts with other countries implementing Coding Bootcamps under the WB umbrella, and ii) benefit from the lessons learned in other countries through the Technology Rapid Skills Training for Youth Employment (P156294) program. In particular, KP region wanted to learn strategies for designing and implementing coding bootcamp programs. Based on this request, the World Bank organized a South-South knowledge exchange with Kenyan experts.
The knowledge exchange activity started its preparation in the final months of 2017. The World Bank team worked with the government of KP to prepare and coordinate internally, and with key stakeholders to be ready for an effective knowledge exchange. This process of preparation lasted several months. The KP government started with a low level of capacity and no practical experience with coding bootcamps for women. Local stakeholders were also new to the topic. Overall, in KP there had not been initiatives to reduce the digital skills gap and engage women into digital jobs, so this was an innovative activity within the regional government’s Youth Employment Program. Coordination among internal public and external private actors required several months in order to align all interests and to develop a common goal. Additionally, finding local good-quality female instructors was challenging, as the presence of women in the programming sector is very scarce.
Once all these hurdles were overcome and a solid team was in place to take leadership, the project was created, the knowledge exchange activity conducted two multi-stakeholder dialogues: one in Kenya and one in Pakistan. These dialogues, moderated by the World Bank, served to set common expectations and provide the call to action.
Following these dialogues, the World Bank team organized three workshops to help the counterparts learn from each other on how to design and develop a coding bootcamp with a focus on women. The workshops enabled the Pakistani delegation to develop a preliminary action plan for the first female bootcamp in Abbottabad. Among the most important learnings, the KP representatives learned how to attract women to enroll; to ignite their interest in digital skills training; to design and implement a Coding Bootcamp; and how to tailor the content of the bootcamp to women’s interest and needs, to empower them to complete the training.
An expert visit to KP was the next step in the knowledge exchange to KP and where the draft action plan was developed, and the workshop design was finalized. The in-field training focused on the technical part of the coding bootcamp, including the best ways to teach in this innovative training methodology, as well as getting recommendations on how to adapt and improve the training location for a better learning experience and to create a safer place for women.
As a result of the knowledge exchange, KPITB, the organization in charge of the KP Youth Employment Program partnered with the Kenyan expert coding bootcamp selected for the exchange, Moringa School, to support the implementation of the first coding bootcamp and further expand this training model within the Program. Following the lessons learned in the exchange, KPITB conducted the first female coding bootcamp pilot in Abbottabad during May-June 2018, training 16 Pakistani women who attended the classes full-time for six weeks. Four months after graduation, the bootcamp had a positive outcome for 75% of the participants with 9 employed – 2 of them as freelancers – and 3 continuing their studies.
When several stakeholders are involved in implementation (in this case private companies, regional government, technology instructors, etc.) strong leadership is needed to coordinate all of them and to speak a language that everybody understands. The government can take this role as the KP example illustrates. However, it needs to be prepared for that role (see lesson learned on capacity).
A preparation phase is needed to incrementally build the the absorption capacity of the counterparts, specifically in environments where there is no familiarity with the coding bootcamp concept, such as KP.
Women focused training programs require the women’s participation in the program design phase and in managing the process, otherwise, even if repeated several times, some issues specific to women are ignored. The managing team of the Pakistani women bootcamp was mostly comprised of a male team resulting in lower capacity to understand and implement women-focused actions.
Fewer women tend to apply to tech related programs and even when they do, the student attrition rate is higher than that of their male peers. Actions that address this gap are an important tool to consider, evaluate and support.
Bootcamp programs are not directly transferable; they are difficult to implement and require links with potential employers. The link to local employment opportunities is critical to develop the right technical skills curriculum and to improve the odds for high-quality employment for the program graduates.
Beneficiaries / Participants
- Managing Director, KPITB
- Founder & CEO, Private company
- CTO, Private company
- Private Company
- Private Company
- Technology instructor
- Technology instructor
- Founder, private company
- Chief Technology Officer, Private company
- Director of Growth and Infrastructure, Private company
- Growth Launcher, Private company
- Technology Instructor
World Bank Contribution
This knowledge exchange is directly related to Bootcamps for Female Digital Employment (P163475), a global activity funded by the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE). This Technical Assistance (TA) aims to deliver and test the impact of a specific type of Rapid Technology Skills Training Program—Coding Bootcamps that boost the inclusion of women in technology. This approach attempts to break the occupational sex segregation that is typical in the technology sector through the generation of employment and educational opportunities for women, especially in an emerging market setting.
Pakistan requested joining the Coding Bootcamps for Female Digital Employment (P163475), in order to develop joint efforts with other countries implementing Coding Bootcamps under the WB umbrella (Colombia, Kenya, Argentina) and to benefit from the lessons learned in other countries through the Technology Rapid Skills Training for Youth Employment (P156294) program. Moringa School, the main knowledge provider in this exchange, was a key partner in this activity in Kenya. Many of the lessons learned from this activity were then applied in Pakistan thanks to the exchange.
Coding Bootcamps for Female Digital Employment (P163475) activity partnered with the Gender team to develop a guide with insights from coding bootcamps for women in 25 countries (Women wavemakers: practical strategies for recruiting and retaining women in coding bootcamps), which was used to inform the activity in Pakistan.
The capacity goal for this exchange was for Pakistani public and private stakeholders to meet the immediate practical operational knowledge gap in the effort to implement gender-focused Rapid Technology Skills Training Programs (Coding Bootcamps), and have established networks with Kenyan leaders in this area that will help them in the development of their goal. The long-term goal of this initiative was to sustain and scale coding bootcamps methodology within the KP Youth Employment Program, including those programs focused on women. KP Youth Employment Program is now starting a longer full stack web development coding bootcamp, based on the lessons learned from this activity.
Enhanced knowledge and skills from the knowledge exchange informed the design of the Female Digital Employment (P163475) project in Argentina, where the female-only coding bootcamp will start in October 2018.
At the end of the exchange, the outputs and intermediary capacity outcomes achieved were:
Awareness raised: 100% of the participants indicate they understand the value of the Coding Bootcamps and know how to apply them in Pakistan to create new economic opportunities in technology employment for women.
Knowledge or skills enhanced: 80% of the participants have the basics to design, implement and monitor and evaluate a coding bootcamp and its results.
Collaborative action strengthened: As this project is part of the Youth Employment Program of the Government of KP it resulted in 90% of the participants having their network expanded and strengthened to apply the coding bootcamps as part of the overall Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ecosystem.
New knowledge or innovative solution advanced: The original result the team was looking for was to have a draft plan to implement a coding bootcamp in a first pilot location. The knowledge receivers learned how to design, implement and monitor a coding bootcamp, as well as specific strategies to attract and retain women. Moreover, the achievements went further and the actual coding bootcamp took place, specifically in the city of Abbottabad.
"Learning from global experiences really helped us to develop a customized program that could push the norms of what coding bootcamp can do in our country. Women who participated in this program demonstrated their capability and commitment to digital jobs. We are happy to have learned how to program specific programs for women in the IT space." Shahbaz Khan, Managing Director of the IT Board in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
- KPITB (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board)
- TechValley Abbottabad
- Youth Employment Program
- Independent instructors
- Moringa School
- Independent instructors