Techfugees has just launched its fourth edition of the #TF4Women Fellowship for refugee women. Through training workshops, mentoring and networking activities, the program aims to promote the professional inclusion of refugee women in tech and digital jobs; an opportunity for displaced women to deploy their full potential and capabilities in France!
Refugee women, excluded from the job market
The Techfugees program stems from two observations:
● Refugee women remain in majority the forgotten of the labor market and experience significant challenges in their professional integration. Thus, more than 80% of refugee women in France are unemployed, compared to 57% of refugee men. While they are, of course, subject to the same discrimination as women from their host society, their status and their migration journey only add to their challenges.
● While booming and in need of manpower, the digital sector has been a male-dominated industry for too long. A fact Techfugees has seen firsthand since its launch in 2015: it was mostly men who participated in their hackathons. The association realized that if it didn't reserve specific initiatives for women, then cultural and social barriers, self-censorship would work against them.
The #TF4Women Fellowship program is therefore a way to emancipate women refugees through employment by accompanying them towards digital and tech careers.
#TF4Women, programs for emancipation through employment
There are two #TF4Women programs. In order to allow time for reflection, the Pathway precedes the Fellowship program. The Pathway is a program designed to help participants discover new horizons in the tech and digital industries as well as the French job market and train them in the use of basic digital tools in a professional context. Therefore, participants can test and build their new professional projects in tech and digital fields.
For those who would like to enter this field, they can apply to join the Fellowship, which is based on three major pillars: mentoring and coaching to develop their soft skills, technical training to acquire the basic skills needed to carry out their new professional project, and networking to build a network and access job opportunities. Refugee women are oriented towards specialties looking to hire, such as web development, web design, data analysis, digital marketing, digital project management, and cyber security. The 42 women trained over the program's three-year period have diverse profiles: the average age was 31 years old, and 90% of the participants had at least a high school diploma. 35% of them live outside the Paris region, and 20% have children. To respond to these diverse profiles, the program took into account the reality of refugee women in its design. The training is free, and Techfugees takes care of the transportation costs, babysitting costs, and provides the necessary computer equipment.
Over and above the program, Techfugees also makes sure to build a community of alumni to maintain the social link and allow meetings between participants, so they can share their experiences.
The goal of the #TF4Women programs is to help refugee women overcome personal barriers and gain self-confidence. A psycho-social support and self-knowledge component has been added this year because it has become essential to equip the Fellows to overcome the challenges of being a woman in a very male-dominated professional environment, to help them feel comfortable and relevant in the fields in which they wish to evolve, given that for the 22 talents who make up the class of 2021, tech is also and above all an open and innovative sector offering real opportunities to access sustainable employment for people undergoing retraining with the desire to learn.
A success story, despite COVID crisis-related challenges.
The #TF4Women Fellowship program has been in existence since 2018 and, in 3 years, has already assisted over 40 refugee women in France in their professional integration. The Fellows have obtained technical certificates, improved their French language skills, and demonstrated their abilities to potential future employers and colleagues. As a result, over the past three years, more than 70% of the Fellows have found a job after the program.
Last year, the COVID crisis may have weakened the final impact of the program on job placement. However, going online also helped participants become more self-reliant, and they were more likely to attend the training. Participants from outside the Paris area were also more easily and equitably integrated into the program.
Overall, the Fellowship is also helping to change the way employers and recruiters in the digital sector view refugee women. The program has proven to be successful, both in terms of its impact, which is independently evaluated each year, and in the growing number of female applicants and participants. The ultimate goal will be achieved when these women are able to say, "I am not a refugee, I am a web developer.”
We look forward to meeting the new class of #TF4Women 2021 Fellows, and to share their stories and journeys with you!
 Direction de l’Animation de la Recherche des Etudes et des Statistiques, « Les réfugiés en France : des travailleurs étranges (presque) comme les autres ? », Dares Analyses, n°037, août 2018