Women-led companies perform three times better than those with male CEOs. This trend likewise holds true for startups. Such statistics are but a small subset of the sea of studies which point to women be equally qualified in senior to technically challenging roles.
As the global demand for digital talent surges, more companies are clamouring to attract and bring on board eligible candidates, as they would prospective customers, with in-demand competencies and knowledge to see them through the next wave of digital transformation. But many more will have to settle for reskilling and upskilling their existing workforce as a way to bridge their talent needs.
In Southeast Asia, as the region primes itself to be one of the largest digital economies of the world, it would need strong human capital – female talent to be part of the solution. Today, women in tech (32%) still lag behind other industries (38%) in the region’s workforce. In Singapore, while there are more females working in tech (41%), it has the lowest number of women with tech majors.
So what more can be done to attract female talent and boost gender diversity in technology sectors in the region?
We speak with Nurul Jihadah Hussain, Founder of The Codette Project — a non-profit ground-up initiative with a mission to empower more minority and Muslim women through technology — to find out how her organisation is striving to rewrite narratives of success to include underrepresented women through building an ecosystem of a strong and collaborative community as well as tech skills training.
Nurul’s efforts to redefine success for these women have received recognition — she was selected as one of the 115 global community leaders in Facebook’s global Community Leadership Programme in 2018 and titled by IMDA one of Singapore’s 100 Women in Tech in 2020.
Could you share more with us on what you do and what a typical day looks like for you?
I work full-time on top of running The Codette Project, and so the workload can be intense. If I am fortunate enough, I could fit in at least an hour of work on The Codette Project before or after my full-time work hours. I try to bond with my Codette team by meeting them weekly or texting them if the latter is not possible. The Codette team comprises volunteers only, so I really appreciate that they are doing this work with me. I switch off (both) my phones after dinner and try to be in bed by 10pm. Post-it notes usually surround me because they help me organise my thoughts and my to-do lists.
What led you to establish The Codette Project?
There was a clear need to create more inclusive tech spaces — especially for underrepresented communities, including women. When I started doing this work in December 2015, very few organisations wanted to discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion.
As a non-profit, how do you sustain your organisation?
We have been very blessed to receive donations from the public and organisations, such as Facebook and Zendesk. We are structured in a way such that we are fully run by volunteers, so this means that funding directly impacts the people in our programmes, especially our signature women-only hackathon, Tech for Good.
Were there any success stories from women who have joined The Codette Project?
One of our mentees in the Codette Cares project, Kim Raffeei, was pivoting from her career in administration to tech when we met her. Her mentors, Liyana Fauzi and Liyana Rosli, have been working with her to help attain the success in tech that she deserves — we received the good news that she has been hired as an interactive developer!
What do you think the broader ecosystem can do to further support the growth of diversity and inclusion in tech?
Do not merely accept that the lack of diversity or inclusion in tech is a problem. To improve diversity as an ecosystem, we must better understand where the gaps are and how to narrow these gaps, then commit to clear, proactive action like tracking diversity indicators and performance. One of the most straightforward solutions is to ensure that every event and panel organised features a good mix of individuals from diverse backgrounds.
What is your advice for those who would like to be involved in enabling Deep Tech for good?
Learn to question your norms. The social systems that the tech industry is built on are often based on unchallenged standards — why are there no breastfeeding or quiet rooms in most hackathons? Seek to create better systems for everyone, not just the ideal use case you have in mind.
Where do you see The Codette Project in the next 3 years?
I would love to finally have a permanent space where we can welcome our community and showcase our achievements, so that underrepresented women like us no longer have to feel the need to prove that we belong in tech — our belonging should be made the norm.
At SGInnovate, we are committed to support women in their roles to drive innovation in tech. We believe gender diversity is the key to an inclusive and diverse workplace. Glean insights from female leaders who spoke at the SG Women in Tech 1 Year Anniversary webinar here.