Life In Berlin: FrauenLoop Creates Gender Diversity And Offers Mentorship In Tech

May 8, 2017

Whether you want to call it "Berlin Valley" or "Silicon Allee" Berlin is a hotspot for startups.

While the city tries to emulate Silicon Valley, some people worry about it copying one of the Valley's most objectionable characteristics — a lack of gender diversity.

The Berlin-based nonprofit FrauenLoop is trying to disrupt that trend by helping women transition to careers in tech through a programming and mentorship bootcamp.

At a recent hackathon, Nakeema Stefflbauer the founder of FrauenLoop, asked a room full of a young women to Google themselves.

Participants at the FrauenLoop Hackathon at Mobisol on April 23rd.
Credit Courtesy of FrauenLoop

"It's really helpful if you're a consumer of technology to feel like you also have a story to tell and you have the means to tell that story and to be heard," Stefflbauer says.

Women at the hackathon are learning the basics of building a personal website. It's a direct exercise in taking control of the narrative of women in tech.

Dr. Stefflbauer has worked as software project manager for over 15 years. She started FrauenLoop because she noticed that some women would rarely attended tech meetups.

"There was a real need for recent immigrants, for refugees, for local women and for anybody who might know a little bit about the startup scene to get a sense of what opportunities it offered," explains Stefflbauer.

One of the women at the workshop is 24 year-old Shelley Obery. She is from South Africa. Being close to the startup scene in Berlin has taught her that this career is in reach.

"Before I thought it would be totally out of my league but it's not really. It's just like learning a language. You just have to learn how to use it, that's about it," Obery expresses.

"When I first started learning Ruby it was similar to a foreign language. You learn the grammar you learn the syntax and then you start playing around. You also have to know a bit of math or a bit of logic, but that's not super hard. That can be learned."

That's Alina Cucu. While the 31 year-old has studied foreign languages all of her life, it's only recently that she thought programming was something that she could do.

"Women are told from a very young age that technology is not for them. That they better be focusing on something else like make the world pretty," says Cucu.

Through FrauenLoop she has learned Ruby, JavaScript and SQL.

"I want to be a programmer after I finish this FrauenLoop course I am going to go on the market."

"It's enormously rewarding to realize that you can do anything once you put your mind to it."

Again that's Dr. Stefflbauer. FrauenLoop focuses on being a place where women can learn without judgement.

"That feeling of acceptance, from my perspective, seems to be a big part of how we get women to change their attitudes about working in technical areas that may have lots of people who don't look like them. It can be done."