Digital. Les DesCodeuses, the school for women who break the codes

This Thursday afternoon they are sitting around the table with sixteen in the building of a partner association of 17e Township. With their eyes riveted on their screens, the students of the promotion of the year are brought together to set up a website in forty-eight hours. A dizzying challenge that everyone wants to take on successfully when they discovered programming six months earlier thanks to the training of the association DesCodeuses.

Louiza Achiche completes the design of the site of an association committed to access to culture for all. “I started from scratch, the DesCodeuses brought me a mega-gigabyte of training. Today I speak computer language fluently”, testifies the 33-year-old former Algerian teacher, who is currently doing an internship at BNP Paribas.

All these women are part of the fifth campaign of DesCodeuses, a team of ten employees that trains them to become web developers. After completing their six-month intensive training in the summer of 2022, it is time for them to gain professional experience through a 300-hour internship.

This is also the underlying theme of the afternoon: make a first assessment for those who have already found a place in the business world and help those who are still looking. “For each internship carried out, we have managed to have the skills of our students recognized at their fair value, as the partner companies have an obligation to pay them a minimum of 1,200 euros per month,” says Souad Boutegrabet, the founder of the association.

“I started the code in full confinement, it was a release”

Old people are present in the hall to support the new. Among them, Ksenia Falcoz, a Russian psychologist who arrived in France in 2014, talks about her experience: “Through my education, I found an internship and then a permanent contract as a web developer at AXA. Today I have an excellent salary (40,000 euros per year)… almost as much as my husband who graduated,” she says.

Since January 2018, the DesCodeuses have grown considerably. Born on the heights of the capital, in a small locale of Belleville, the association is the result of an uprising bravely led by Souad Boutegrabet. Frowning the 1930s, who converted after ten years in the banking sector, talks about the origins of her project: “Women are not invited to participate in digital advancement. In my training as a developer alone, 80% were male and only 20% were female. »

From there arose her desire to create a free school open to all women to protest the lack of equality in the digital professions. Through tenacity she gets financing from partner companies.

To date, 84 women have been trained. Most discovered the association through Pôle emploi, which finances their education. For most of them, successive incarcerations were the trigger for their conversion.

Before the pandemic, many of them worked in so-called ‘female’ professions, weakened by the crisis. “I started the code in complete confinement, it was a liberation,” confides Ksenia Falcoz, who thus managed to financially emancipate from her husband after four years of unemployment.

The profiles of the student coders come from the priority neighborhoods of Paris and its suburbs and are as diverse as their personal histories. But they all share the sad feeling of being left behind, as Souad Boutegrabet, himself from a town in Val-de-Marne, notes.

“Passionate profiles” that appeal to partner companies

Aware that some 200,000 industry vacancies will be filled, the DesCodeuses team is shaking up gender stereotypes to feminize companies in the industry. “We code to break the codes,” jokes Chiraze Rakrouki, the team’s administrative and financial manager.

And it works: 90% of former students now have a permanent contract. “The DesCodeuses association has managed to show companies that passionate profiles are just as interesting as qualified profiles,” admits Nicolas Janot, project manager at French digital marketing pioneer SAP, during a conversation with a student.

Together they set up a ‘skills sponsorship’ with which employees of partner companies can support students. For the manager “it is a win-win for everyone: the learners have the knowledge of the employees and the employees feed on the passion of the learners”.

“The women of the neighborhoods are the great forgetfuls of the feminization of crafts”

3 questions to Souad Boutegrabet, founder of the DesCodeuses association

There are only 14% of female coders. How to explain it?

Today, women are not invited to participate in digital advancement. But nearly two hundred years ago, the first person we would now call a coder was a woman: Ada Lovelace, known for creating the first real computer program while working on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. And even when the first computers appeared, women were once again pioneers in software writing.

But when capitalism got involved, women were excluded from digital jobs. Once men understood that money could generate such technologies, they monopolized them, they made gender professions.

Why aren’t women turning to these professions anymore?

Today, girls are little focused on technical studies that would enable them to achieve a career in IT. It’s not that they don’t want it. It’s just that they were never told about it during their training because these jobs are considered “masculine”.

Moreover, since the recruitment algorithms were coded by a majority of men, even artificial intelligence discriminates against women. The other problem is that in this very masculine universe, women don’t necessarily feel safe or legitimate.

Do you feel that you have made it possible to feminize the digital professions?

Partially. We wanted more women in business and more women in technology. Today we are partners of many important French companies such as AXA, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Se Loger… and the French digital marketing pioneer SAP.

Icon QuoteThere are 1,500 neighborhoods in France and we want to be present in those 1,500 neighborhoods.

Our partners want to feminize the technical teams, they have understood that achievement lies in diversity. More than 150 applications for our degree are submitted each semester and 90% of our former students are now on permanent contracts.

But our mission is not over yet. There are 1,500 neighborhoods in France and we want to be present in those 1,500 neighborhoods. Because one in two women in the neighborhoods is still far from work. These are the great forgetfuls of the feminization of professions. That is why we will open new learning places in France next year.


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