It’s not every day I manage to say this with a straight face, but KizCode is a social enterprise that really does fit the bill.
If ever there was an example that to me encapsulates how one individual, empowered by knowledge and technology, can make a real difference to the lives of so many others, it’s the company founded by my friend Müjde Esin, who I first met in London just after she graduated from her MA and had set up KizCode in 2015.
KizCode is a social enterprise that seeks to empower girls and young women in ethnic minority groups and disadvantaged communities using digital education technologies and pedagogies that involve making and playing.
The project, Müjde explains, also crucially addresses the wellbeing and mental health of those girls, something which she feels is often overlooked, but is key in a addressing the issue of gender equality and access to opportunities for women in tech.
KizCode has so far received several awards: in 2016 it was recognised by the UK Home Office in England for its contribution to Social Enterprise. Müjde was awarded the 2018 the Women Social Entrepreneur of the year in Turkey and she also received Microsoft’s Women Leaders of Technology award as the most successful Woman Educator in 2017. KizCode is currently collaborating with Koc Holding and Arcelik in Turkey to empower girls in underprivileged communities.
Müjde Esin from @kizcode is one of the finalists for the ninth annual FDM everywoman in Technology Awards @everywomanUK #ewTechAwards #womendotech #techshecan Click To Tweet
Adding to that, Müjde herself has just been nominated as one of the finalists for the ninth annual FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. The International Inspiration Award is given to an individual in recognition of their active commitment to encouraging, advancing, sponsoring or championing the progress of women working in technology. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on March 6th.The judges @everywomanUK Awards were united in their admiration and respect for the achievement of this year’s finalists. Congratulations to @mujdesin Click To Tweet
Taking place to celebrate International Women’s Day, the awards are a timely reminder that only 15% of people working in STEM roles in the UK are female and just 5% of leadership positions in the tech industry are held by women. The 2019 awards programme’s rally cry is “Achieve, Elevate and Inspire” and this year’s finalists, whilst diverse in many ways, all have something in common – they do just that.
@mujdesin collaborates with companies in Turkey and the UK, as well as Turkey’s Education Minister, to deliver computer-coding workshops to girls Click To Tweet Müjde often refers to me as her mentor and am truly honoured that would consider me as such. But although I certainly can’t take credit for her amazing achievements over the years we’ve known each other, I do feel an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction having played any part, however small, in her success.
“The judges were united in their admiration and respect for the achievement of this year’s finalists,” says Maxine Benson MBE, Co-Founder of everywoman. Without question, each of them has the ability to inspire more women and girls into a career in technology. Research by PWC shows that there could be a £180billion boost to UK GDP just by increasing female employment rates. This shows just how valuable female talent is and why this programme is so important in ensuring that more women enter the industry.
“I grew up in a patriarchal and conservative society and have experienced the reality of girls being discouraged from learning and in engaging in creative practice. While I learned technology skills by myself mostly while I was at university – and with some help from friends – I realised how other girls and young women in a similar situation would benefit from being taught such skills. Technology is at the heart of future developments in society, the economy and international relations. For me it has been an amazing journey to be in Tech as I can say that what I have achieved has been directly as a result of my interest in technology and coding.”
This is what spurred her on to set up her social enterprise to address the issue of gender imbalance in the technology sector by providing training to girls and young women in underprivileged communities in Turkey and Africa.
“I collaborate with companies in Turkey and the UK, as well as Turkey’s Education Minister, to deliver computer-coding workshops to girls and young women. The workshops – which over the past three years have reached over 2000 girls – aim to give them the skills they need to gain financial independence,” she explains. “I am very proud of our workshops participants. Two girls from an underprivileged community in Turkey, after completing my KizCode workshops, were inspired to continue working on their own projects, which they won a prize for. Both are now pursuing a career in the tech industry.”
Her work focuses on diversity and girls’ education, addressing culture from an internal perspective in migrant and minority group communities, and she also provides consultancy services leveraging that expertise to companies looking to address such issues internally.KizCode is a social enterprise that seeks to empower girls and young women in ethnic minority groups and disadvantaged communities using digital education technologies Click To Tweet
So what’s next for Müjde and KizCode?
“I would like to see gender balance in the technology sector and make education facilities and technologies more accessible to girls in underprivileged societies,” she tells me, adding that KizCode has managed to become a ‘bridge’ between England and Turkey. “We are going to start a new project in Istanbul in collaboration with the Mayor; the project is called ‘KizCode Digital Skills Institute’ and it aims to give high technology skills to young women and improve diversity in the tech industry.”
I know without a shadow of a doubt that Müjde has the grit and determination to achieve all this and much more in the coming years, and look forward to cheering her on as she does.There’s some serious ROI from investing in the future generation’s digital skills, and enabling entrepreneurs that make a real difference Click To Tweet
The best mentorships are the ones where you become lifelong friends, and also where the mentor learns at least as much (if not more) than what she teaches. Both are true of my relationship with Müjde, and I wish her many more well deserved awards and recognition, as well as a big fat load of investment at some point that will allow her to scale like crazy. Because there’s some serious ROI – in every sense – from investing in the future generation’s digital skills, and in enabling entrepreneurs that make a real difference.
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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.