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Vodacom’s coding initiative targets more young girls

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Former Code Like A Girl participants at the launch of the 2022 edition.
Former Code Like A Girl participants at the launch of the 2022 edition.

Vodacom is targeting to train 1 500 young girls this year, as part of its Code Like A Girl STEM empowerment programme.

This, as the telecoms group kicked-off the 2022 edition of Code Like A Girl today.

At the official launch of the programme this morning, Vodacom revealed this year’s first cohort is currently made up of 700 girls, receiving training across all of the country’s nine provinces.

Njabulo Mashigo, HR director for Vodacom SA, said the programme fits intricately into Vodacom’s transition journey from being a purely telecoms company to a technology company, or techo.

“This means we compete much broader than where we have previously; we’re not only looking at other telecommunications organisations but we’re also competing in the ICT sector as a whole.

“This transition has meant we’ve also had to re-evaluate ourselves as an organisation. From talent management, it’s meant we have to think about who do we attract, develop, retain and grow into the future with.

“In terms of specific careers, we’re talking about STEM careers – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – both internally and in the communities that we’re a part of.”

Initiated in 2017, Code Like A Girl is aimed at girls aged between 14 and 18 from SA, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo.

They are taught how to code and develop soft skills, in the hopes to encourage them to develop an interest in STEM careers.

The training programme takes place during the school holidays, with the first intake beginning their training during the winter school holidays and second cohort around October.

During the two-week-long training, learners are exposed to coding, robotics and development, including HTML, CSS, GitHub and Version control, and JavaScript.

At the end of the course, each girl will know how to develop her own website and present her work to the rest of the coding class.

While it started with a cohort of 20 girls in Thembisa schools in 2017, Code Like A Girl has attracted and trained thousands of young girls over the years, according to Mashigo.

She explained the interest in the programme last year saw 1 110 young girls accepted, despite the aim of 600 girls.

“This year, in this first cohort, we are starting with 700 girls. By the end of the financial year, we’re aiming to have reached 1 500 girls.

“Looking over the last five years, you’ll see that we would have impacted 4 000 lives, which is something to be proud of.”

Like technology, the programme has also had to evolve from just being about providing basic digital skills and introduction into this space, to becoming about a journey, Mashigo stated.

“As we’re evolving as a technology organisation and STEM careers evolve, it became quite important for us to also re-evaluate how we want to show-up and run the programme.

“Vodacom wants to address the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM education and careers, and we’ve seen the immense difference Code Like A Girl makes to these girls, which is why we are building on the programme each year.

“The gender disparity in STEM is alarming, especially since these are the jobs of the future. By teaching high school girls how to code, we’re opening their eyes to sequential thinking around problem-solving and stimulating creativity and design skills,” she concluded.

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19 Aug
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