The need for digitally skilled talent is high, a lever to embrace diversity and inclusion you would think. Yet, few women are taking the plunge into the IT world. No less than 82% of ICT specialists are men. To encourage women to launch themselves in the wonderful world of IT, BeCode founded the Hackeuses Club, a six-week exploratory training exclusively accessible for women. An initiative that Microsoft is more than happy to support. 

The figures are not new. No less than 40% of the Belgian population seems to be vulnerable to the increasing digitalization in society. Among people with a low income and without a higher degree,   the number even rises to 75%. The message is clear: you have to constantly sharpen your digital skills; if you don’t, you will fall even further behind. 

This same digitization is also putting the
labor market under severe pressure. Although more jobs will be created than lost as a result of the digitalization, action is needed. If not, no less than 584,000 vacancies will remain unfilled by 2030. This may seem like a long way off today, but, unfortunately, it’s already a harsh reality. In the last quarter of 2020, there were 115,553 unfilled vacancies in Belgium, one out of ten in the IT sector. 

And the COVID-19 crisis did not help. The pandemic plunged the European economy into a severe recession and significantly drove up the unemployment rate. All the more reason to offer people a chance of retaining and honing their digital skills.  

IT a man’s world?
In June 2020, Microsoft, along with LinkedIn and Github, launched the Global Skilling Initiative, an international program to support people who were looking for a job during the pandemic. Based on data from LinkedIn, a list of the most in-demand skills and most common job openings was compiled. The three companies then made a selection of their most relevant online training materials and made them available for free to encourage people to upskill themselves. Meanwhile, the platform has already attracted 200,000 visitors in Belgium.

As part of the Global Skilling Initiative, Microsoft also supported BeCode in rolling out training materials for the Hackeuses Club, a six-week training program to help Walloon women explore digital career paths. The fact that this training program focuses exclusively on women is no coincidence. Working in ICT often remains a man’s business. With the Hackeuses Club, BeCode hopes to break this taboo by encouraging women to take the plunge. 

With this pilot project, BeCode is already familiarising 23 women with today’s essential online tools and is helping them to explore a wide range of digital jobs based on the lifecycle of digital products. They are, among other things, introduced to digital marketing and UX/UI and will acquire the basics of coding. The training program should help the participants orient themselves in the digital world and thus acts as a springboard for a career in a future-oriented digital domain. 

The importance of online self-learning
But as the digital world is rapidly evolving, it’s more important than ever to keep up with the latest technological developments, a challenge that BeCode hopes to tackle with the help of the Global Skilling Initiative platform. “Knowing how to upskill yourself is an important skill in the digital world. We are therefore striving to integrate online self-learning into many of our training programs, including the Hackeuses Club,” said Liesbeth Debruyn, educator at BeCode. “The platform not only offers participants the chance of delving deeper into their preferred career paths, but also allows them to continue upskilling themselves after they have completed the training program.”

At Microsoft Belgium, Erik Kerkhofs, responsible for the collaboration with this partner organisation, is convinced that such training courses are necessary to close the “skills gap”: “There is still some work to be done in Belgium. We need to brush up on our digital competences on a massive scale. If not, we will see our competitiveness decrease and people will risk missing out on opportunities. All parties must work together to tackle this issue: companies, authorities and educational institutions. BeCode has been doing excellent work for years, we support their mission and look forward to working with them even more in the future.”