An Untapped Pool of Talent: Young Women in Latin America

Across Latin America, software developers are urgently needed. Laboratoria, an organisation launched in Lima, Peru, focusses on meeting this demand – and, at the same time, opens urban labour markets for women.

Challenging A Male Industry

Almost half of women in Latin America are not part of the labour force. Most of those who do work do so in low-skilled, informal employment, often with low salaries and in precarious conditions. These women represent an immense source of talent that is being wasted instead of being used for the development of the region.

Multiple barriers prevent women from unleashing their potential. But there are also opportunities, and the urgent need of talent and diversity in the digital sector is one of these.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, software development will be the fastest growing career in Latin America over the next decade, with 1.2 million professionals needed by 2025. Nowadays, it takes between three and five years to get a degree as a software developer in the vast majority of institutes and universities of the region. This makes it difficult to respond to the growing market demand.

But not only does a talent gap exist, but a diversity gap as well: Female participation in the technology sector is particularly low, with women representing a striking minority of IT professionals. In Latin America, less than 10 per cent of software developers are women. Laboratoria’s goal is to change this.

Software Developer, Female, World-Class

Laboratoria exists to address this problem and to solve it with a new approach to education, aiming to prepare women from underserved backgrounds to be world-class Front-End Developers and UX Designers in only six months.

Since our launch in Lima, Peru, in 2015, we have opened four more centres across Latin America: in Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and São Paulo. We have trained over 1000 young women, continuously iterating to improve our programme and increasing our job placement rates to reach over 80 per cent.

On average, our graduates triple their income, and this economic empowerment not only transforms their lives but also allows them to have a positive impact on those around them. What is more, we are now talent providers for over 300 leading companies in Latin America and abroad, including Everis, Citibank, and ThoughtWorks, helping them find diverse technical talent to build better products.

And the secret sauce to prepare our students to the jobs of the future? A curriculum that responds to the market demand through a focus on tech and soft skills, and an impact model that is accountable to its results.

Measuring Potential Over Experience

We start by identifying women who didn’t have access to quality higher education or formal job opportunities – but who do have the drive and potential to work in tech. To do so, we have a data-driven selection process that measures learning potential, personality, and emotional regulation.

Next, we ask the applicants to complete a 20-hour online introductory course to programming, designed by us. With this, we evaluate their curiosity for something new and their potential and determination to learn. We also conduct face-to-face interviews to understand their motivation to apply to the programme. And finally, we invite the final candidates to a one-week trial period, during which they develop their first coding project in groups, so that we can assess their tech and soft skills in a real environment.

Reimagining Job-Oriented Education

Our training program is a six-month boot camp, where we train them to be software developers and user experience designers, equipping them with the most demanded technical skills – and with life skills, the most important one being self-learning.

The curriculum responds to the market, and is therefore continuously evolving. We simulate a work environment where students work in teams to complete different projects. Our educational model follows the Agile Methodology, with “sprints”, daily stand-ups, and retrospectives. All this allows our students to be well prepared when joining software development teams in tech companies, and also keeps a high engagement and motivation during the boot camp.

While we only teach our students what is necessary for them to get a first job and start a career in tech, we want them to be lifelong learners. That is why we focus on the skill of self-learning.

Female Tech Talent – From Latin America to the World

Our success is not determined by the number of students we train, but by those we manage to include into the labour market.

Our team is dedicated to initiate and maintain close relationships with top companies, understanding their needs and their work culture. Our work aims to reduce the time and effort a company invests to find the tech talent they need.

In the last two years we have accomplished a placement rate of more than 80 per cent. We place our graduates in leading tech jobs across industries where they launch a life-changing career. On average, Laboratoria developers triple their income after the six-month program, attaining salaries comparable to university graduates.

Transforming Lives Through Tech

Our graduates start paying for their training once they are employed. This makes our programme accessible and accountable. We only charge graduates who are working in tech and only by the time that their income has increased; they can pay in instalments over 24 months.

By joining the workforce as software developers, our graduates are not only transforming their lives, but also changing the face of the entire tech sector, and ensuring women are increasingly prepared to take on the jobs of the future.

At Laboratoria we believe that economic limitations shouldn’t be a barrier to access quality higher education. We believe that education should answer to its results, and we believe in the power of skills over diplomas. We know we are not alone—but we need more organisations, from the private and public sector, and from civil society, working together in order help millions of youth unleash their talent. By collaborating, we can hope for a better future.

Maria Paula Rivarola Monzón

City Director at Laboratoria Lima
Maria Paula Rivarola Monzón considers herself a feminist and is committed to gender equality. She holds a BSc in Psychology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), but she has built her career in the technology and entrepreneurship world, where her passion truly is. She has been part of Laboratoria team since its beginning, promoting its strategy and growth. Today, she is the City Director in Lima, leading the operations and a team of almost twenty people. She has participated in international workshops on gender and the use of technology and innovation for sustainable development. Before being part of Laboratoria, Maria Paula worked as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology of PUCP and as Research Assistant for a project on street harassment.
Maria Paula Rivarola Monzón

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