#TF4Women: early insights from 3 years supporting refugee women

In this blog we tell you more about the fellowship programme #TF4Women and how we prepare to scale it for the upcoming years.

The Fellowship since 2018: giving back independence to refugee women 

#TF4Women Fellowship programme accelerates the professional inclusion of refugee women in the tech industry since 2018. In 3 years, the programme accelerated the professional inclusion in tech jobs for more than 80% of its participants and saw an increasing number of applications, rising from 15 in 2018 to 70+ in 2020.

Refugees are among the most vulnerable persons on the job market. In 2018, France welcomed 33 000 refugees. More than 61% of them did not have a job while 36% actually had a degree superior to the baccalaureate. Unemployment rate even reached 81% among refugee women (étude du Ministère du Travail, 2018).

The fellowship gave me back that confidence I had in me. The thing that stands out and surprised me is that all fellows are women with great diplomas. It’s a stark contrast with stereotypes held about refugee women. I am very proud of ourselves” – Wahi, Fellow 2020

Plus, even if refugees find a job they will more likely have underpaid or under qualified positions compared to other immigrants. Today, 60% of refugees with a diploma in European Union are overqualified for the job they do. This rate is two times superior to the non-refugee persons living in the country and other immigrants (UE/OCDE, 2016).

2018 Promotion with mentors, like Laure Némée (CTO Leetchi et Mangopay) who is now the god mother of the programme in 2020 😊 , and our partners, such as Lenovo represented by Elisabeth Moreno now Minister delegate in charge of equality between women and men ✊.

Reasons for this issue affecting refugee women are multiple: lack of knowledge of the French job market, little knowledge of French, family obligations, lack of network, difficulty to get the diploma recognized, lack of confidence, health condition etc. Yet, the consequences are real: feeling of being undervalued, socio-economic precarity, psychological impact. 

On the other hand, the French tech industry struggles to recruit (e.g. developers, designers, data scientists, product managers, community managers, cybersecurity) and more and more seeks to attract female talents as well as to build diverse teams strong enough to develop their activities on the international tech market in which frontiers disappear slowly. Thus, this is precisely to connect talented refugee women with tech firms from host countries that we created #TF4Women.


The Fellowship in 2020: adapting in a (very) particular year 

While the past 2 years the programme took place physically, this year, because of the pandemic, all the weekly sessions needed to be organized online, which was a real challenge since the objective of the programme is to support the participants closely and individually and to generate group cohesion!

In order to help the Fellows in the most relevant way possible, we had to be even more meticulous following them personally. Therefore, we organized more informal and social events, such as a trip in the Fontainebleau forest to climb rocks or an online Trivia Night. As for the Fellows, they have been extremely resilient, no one gave up because of the pandemic or physical distancing!

Fellows, mentors & trainers from the promotion 2020 during a (rare) social gathering in July.

Moreover, the programme evolved as the years went by. Biggest news from 2020: training sessions became more personalized, with a trainer for 2 Fellows and more regular training, with a minimum of 2 training sessions each month.

The Fellowship also focused more this year on the practical implementation of Fellows’ digital skills thanks to a collective project : marketing development of a cosmetic brand, organization of digital workshops for women, publication of an e-book with practical tips for refugees living in Paris, or launch of an application connecting volunteers and refugees in need.

“This rich programme enabled me to choose the relevant complementary training I needed, define my professional project and be prepared for interviews. Today, I have signed for an internship at Bouygues Telecom !” Aichetou, Fellow 2020

A networking session took place online on October 29th, during which the Fellows presented their project in front of digital stakeholders interested in their profiles and likely keen to hire them. The networking gathered 35 recruiters and had the honor to have Cédric O as a guest, the French Secretary of State for the Digital Transition and the Electronic Communications, and the godmother of the promotion Laure Némée, CTO of Leetchi and Mangopay.

After this event, some Fellows got an interview, and some were even hired!  others are still looking for a job. Samia Zakhary is looking for an opportunity in digital project management or human resources, Dana Ramadan is looking for one in data analysis or bank, and Ola Brik in data analysis or communication.


The Fellowship in the next five years

Our objective has always been to provide access to this programme to many refugee women who would take advantage of it and improve its impact year on year. As such, we decided to open the programme to more women by widening our selection criteria in France and creating a pre programme called the “Pathway”.

The TF4Women pathway is a complete 3 months programme dedicated to women seeking asylum and women refugees seeking to discover the tech industry and its job market as well as improve their competences in the sector. Thanks to weekly sessions, animated by tech professionals volunteering their time, participants will gather a better understanding of what the tech sector has to offer, acquire or reinforce the basic competences required to work in the field, and most importantly will be able to make informed decisions on their professional career path. The pathway is a direct springboard to prepare for the #TF4Women fellowship programme. Techfugees collaborates with partners like Konexio, Each One and Simplon in order to ensure a complementary offer to a rich and growing ecosystem of tech training serving the underserved and underprivileged.

TF4Women Fellowship is a fabulous and quality program which helps the professional integration of women in possession or in demand of refugee status by acculturation to the French tech and digital ecosystem (…) It is above all a human adventure where each stakeholder learns from the experience of the other.” Inès, Mentor 2018 – 2019 – 2020

In the same spirit, we will be launching a pilot programme of the #TF4Women fellowship in Italy and Greece in the next 3 years. Greece and Italy are countries of first contact for a lot of displaced persons among them women and are countries most hit by economic hardship and high unemployment. Hence why we decided to be there the soonest and as a priority before other European countries.

Fellows of the promotion 2019 (not) entirely focused during a training session of the programme.

Discussions around “scaling our impact” have been there from day one at Techfugees. Torned between the desire to produce a real depth of impact and make it available to the most, this new big step for us in France and in Europe would not have been possible without the support of historical and new partners like the L’oréal Fund for Women, CISCO EMEA and La French Tech – as much as the support provided by feedback from fellows and mentors.

The year 2021 is expected to be busy to say the least! We recruited Chérine, a former fellow of the 2019 cohort to support the scaling of #TF4Women in Europe and we have launched recruitments for more people to join us and represent us locally in France and Italy. We can’t wait for 2021 to get started. 

The 2021 almost reunited – apply to join us on the adventure ! Everybody is encouraged to apply as we value parity & diversity!

Do not hesitate to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et Instagram, and to support us in 2021 click here !

Written by Flore Bitouzet, Joséphine Goube & Laura Braune. 

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