In Brazil, women in tech volunteer to show other women the path to success
December 2019 | IBM Volunteer Excellence Award
Technology is arguably one of the worst sectors for gender equality, with women vastly underrepresented. Yet, studies have shown that teams with diversity, including those with greater gender diversity, are more creative, innovative and profitable (Source: McKinsey).
In Brazil, IBM volunteers are working with the organization Reprograma to close the gap through a multi-month training course for women. Based on their experience as women in technology, the volunteers run the mentoring journey to help students prepare to work at a tech company.
This past year, the IBM volunteer team received the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award for their work on the project.
IBM Volunteers spoke to Beatriz Maalouli Malta, an IBM resource and capacity manager who was the team lead, about their volunteer project.
Beatriz, congratulations to you and the other volunteers! What is your job at IBM?
Thank you very much. It’s such an honor to have received the award. We’ve experienced the benefits of working in the technology industry, and as women we thought it was important to help other women consider a similar path.
I work in the IBM unit for security services based in São Paulo, Brazil. I’m responsible for overseeing matters related to human resources, such as hiring, allocation, enablement, utilization and more. I actually started as an intern for two years and I’ve been a regular employee now for almost three years.
Tell us about Reprograma and the project you started with them.
Reprograma's goal is reduce the gender gap in technology through education by teaching programming. They provide free courses to women who would not be able to pay for such training, and help students get ready to find a job opportunity.
We know that women are less than 1/3 of the professionals in IT, so the motivation was to help increase that number and show the students that is possible to succeed in this world. To provide role models showing that there are amazing women out there doing incredible work.
With Reprograma, we developed a mentoring journey to help the students be prepared to start working at a tech company after the course. The mentors were IBM leaders, participants in our Women Next Generation program, which is a diversity and inclusion initiative. They worked with the students for almost five months sharing their experience and background as women in technology support their mentee’s development and empowerment.
It was a unique experience because while it was a life changing opportunity for Reprograma’s participants, it was also a chance for IBM leaders to further develop themselves.
The award winning mentoring team (left to right): Luciane Peres Catalano Batista, Nadja Maria Besada, Daniela Gonçalves Figuereido, Elaine Bertholo Balbino Sander, Lidia Sawada Yamaguchi
Who are the IBM leaders who volunteered as mentors?
As I mentioned, the volunteers are in the Women Next Generation initiative, who are part of that program based on their performance and potential to lead. We proposed that some of them volunteer with Reprograma as mentors as a way to develop event greater leadership skills. I’m so pleased and proud of the team of mentors we had.
How did the volunteers work with the students?
Each volunteer served as a mentor and was responsible for one group of four or five students that met every two weeks for about five months. The mentor was also responsible to help build the whole group agenda and activity of the day.
During the sessions, we talked about Blockchain, Watson, and organized a visit to IBM Brazil to meet our Garage and Software Lab. In the initiative, we always focus on bringing feminine references.
I would say that the work they did was tremendous, way above what we designed and expected at first. Seeing the way they connected and cared about the students was fabulous.
Were there any insightful moments?
One thing that came up a lot during the feedback sessions and towards the end of the course, is that at first the students looked at IBM and IBM employees as something "unattainable" or something they couldn't achieve. But they told us that at the end of the mentoring they realized they have all the potential to work at IBM and that IBM supports and helps unleash people's potential.
Most of the students are concerned about not being prepared for this type of work, or not fitting in—it’s the fear of the unknown. Our sessions were designed to help them be more comfortable and ready, and to give them exposure to what it’s like for a women to work at a company like IBM—from women who know and have succeeded.
What was most personally satisfying for you as a volunteer on this project?
See that the mentoring was effective in helping the students set their career goals, and then actually receiving a lot of input that the experience was life changing and a great opportunity.
My best hope is that each mentee is able to lead her career in a successful and happy way.
The volunteer experience was great for both sides. The initial objective was to help the students during the journey, but for sure we have learned a lot from them as well.
The volunteer team from Brazil is among 15 IBM teams and individuals who are recipients of the fourteenth annual IBM Volunteer Excellence Award. The award is recognition from IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty and is the highest form of global volunteer recognition given by the company to employees. It includes an IBM grant for the associated not-for-profit partner or school.
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