Posted on November 5, 2018 by staff

‘Tailor women in tech initiatives to the region’


There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to women in tech initiatives so organisations must tailor initiatives to get the best results says Vue Vixens founder Jen Looper.

Looper, who is also senior developer advocate for app technology provider Progress, launched the initiative for the Vue developer community after realising it was trailing behind when it came to diversity initiatives.

Progress then stepped in to help and Vue Vixens has mushroomed into a community of workshops and mentors for budding female developers around the world.

However, when going global, Looper has found that it’s key to tailor the approach to the region.

“We figured out it was great to piggyback off large conferences for our workshops, but in places like Latin America there’s no such thing,” she told BusinessCloud.

“Instead we created our own model of events and mini conferences there. It’s more like a chapter model so people can meet every other month and create together.

“In Argentina we had an entire Vue Vixens day and to make everyone feel included in the morning there were both men and women and a good mix of speakers in Spanish and English all learning together.

“Then after lunch we threw all the men out and just did career and workshop building with the women. It was a completely different atmosphere but that mix made it easier to get sponsorships and find a space, so it worked as a hybrid model.”

In Mexico Looper found it was more traditional for men to accompany women to meet-ups, so the rule of thumb was men could attend but had to bring two women with them.

However, it’s Eastern Europe which is currently troubling Looper most.

“It’s one of the most challenging markets,” she said. “Sadly it’s less progressive and there’s a large amount of hostility towards these kinds of initiatives.

“The founder of ngGirls, the organisation which inspired Vue Vixens, gets nasty comments on her YouTube, as do I.

“This means people don’t bother to try so then there’s a lack of education. If we can ignore the pushback we can get in there and do interesting events. People will be able to see we’re not trying to overturn the world, we’re just trying to get some more diversity.”

With her CTO based in the Ukraine on the front lines Looper is not deterred, with plans to do workshops in Bulgaria piggybacking off a big developer conference and work with internal groups like Women@Progress.

“It’s funny because places like Ukraine are a massive outsourcing area so you’d think it would be a great source of potential growth and that people would want everyone in their family to have this opportunity,” she said.

Online meetups are also an area the organisation is investigating, particularly as a way to open doors into the company’s next frontier.

“I think we can have a massive impact in Africa,” said Looper.

“The Nigerian developers we want to speak at our events can never get visas, so we’ve worked with Microsoft and great Nigerian developers to create an online conference.

“We got a bunch of really well-known speakers on Skype and it was a great way to show it can be done. Next year we’re hoping to go to Nigeria and possibly Kenya and Rwanda.”