Mariana Moreno had a jewelry business in a town near her native Caracas, with which she supported herself and her 10-year-old son. After the premature death of her husband, she became the only breadwinner for her family, but the company could not withstand the onslaught of the economic crisis that devastated Venezuela last decade. That is why Mariana, like so many other people, decided to embark on the path of migration.
Become programmers in 12 weeks: women who reinvent themselves to enter a sector dominated by men
She arrived in Barcelona in January 2020, two months before the pandemic broke out and, with it, a confinement that left her locked in a room, without a work permit and without the possibility of finding a job. The savings were running out and she, for this reason, decided to take advantage of her free time and dedicate it to her studies. She took some web design courses to pursue the dream of becoming a developer.
“It’s something I always wanted to do when I was young, but I couldn’t because I had to work and study. The development course was not done at night, so I studied management, ”she explains, resigned. When she arrived in Barcelona, she also had to work, so she parked that dream again to get a precarious job in a school cafeteria, which was just enough to pay for the room where she lives for rent with her son.
In the meantime, she went to Social Services, hoping to find something better. One day, her assistant, aware of her passion for computing, referred her to a course at the FactoríaF5 company, which offers free training to women in vulnerable situations. “I was very scared, because doing that course was an opportunity, but it meant leaving a job that, although it didn’t help much, gave something,” recalls Mariana.
He finally accepted it and 15 days before finishing the training he already had a job at Adevinta, a large web development company that assists various Spanish companies. “It was great, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I learned several programming languages and I know much more than I would have imagined. Just because it was free, doesn’t mean it was a bad course”, he claims.
Mariana is one of the 25 women who received this training, which is part of the BCN Fem Tech projecta Barcelona City Council government pact that aims, hand in hand with public-private collaboration, to guarantee gender equality in the world of new technologies.
Less than 30% of women
ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) are a growing sector in Spain. According to INE data, they are responsible for 3.8% of GDP and in 2021 they experienced a growth of 18.8% compared to the previous year. But, despite these figures, ICTs continue to be a world closed to women. According to the Barcelona City Council, there are only 29% of them in the digital sector of the Catalan capital. Thus, there is only 19.7% of contracted ICT specialists.
It is to fill this gender gap that the city council has promoted the BCN Fem Tech, financed with one million euros. “Women have to occupy, at least, the same space as men in this sector. And, to achieve this, it is essential to have the support of companies”, declared Laura Pérez, fourth deputy mayor and councilor for the area of Social Rights, Feminism and LGTBI.
For this reason, in addition to betting on training, the City Council has also promoted the Gender Equality Tech Hub (GETHub), an agreement between the public administration and 32 companies from the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) that have committed to carrying out a minimum of three gender key actions during this 2022.
Companies such as Allianz, PepsiCo, Nestle IT HUB or the Mobile World Capital Barcelona Foundation will be involved in hiring more experts. But initiatives have also been put on the table to improve the situation of female workers who are already on the workforce, such as the creation of a non-sexist communication guide, strengthening the possibility of teleworking during the first year of their sons’ and daughters’ lives or guaranteeing the availability of free feminine hygiene products.
A hostile world for women
“It’s about increasing female talent, but also about understanding the reality of women,” says Patricia Fernández, a member of the AllWomenTech team, a women’s technology school for women and co-driver of the GETHub project. Being such a masculinized world, new technologies could be hostile to girls and young people who are attracted to this sector. For this reason, women like Mariana gave up at first in the face of difficulties.
“When I got here, they told me that as a woman and a migrant, what I had to do was clean houses, that I couldn’t ask for more. And getting into the world of technology was something that never crossed anyone’s mind”, remembers Mariana. She admits that without the help of her social worker and the City Council program she would never have thought of insisting and pursuing her vocation.
“This experience has changed my life and has taught me that it doesn’t matter what they tell you or where you come from. That you can be whatever you want to be,” she says proudly. She assures that this is a very valuable lesson that she takes pains to transmit to her son: “I took him to the graduation of the course, because when we arrived we had a very bad time. But I want to teach him that everything comes out, that there is no marked path for anyone.
Mariana has gone from having nothing and looking at her savings account every day, calculating when she would have enough to return to Venezuela, to being able to visualize a future in Barcelona. She continues to live in her rented room from her, because her experience has taught her not to take anything for granted. “But now that I no longer depend on Social Services, I can already dream of renting a house,” she says, full of enthusiasm, just before immersing herself in the code that she is developing.