Training that works for migrant women

Webinar by the RIDE project

Migrant women have energy and skills. Europe’s information technology sector, despite a shortage of job applicants, is unable to tap them.

A RIDE webinar explored how to use training and mentoring to match people with jobs.

On 15 December 2022 RIDE held a 1-hour webinar to mark International Migrants Day. The topic was migrant women and IT skills. It was chaired by Vesa Latifi of DIESIS.

Why all the gaps?

Frohar Poya of the European Network of Migrant Women summarised the results of the research phase that she led at the start of RIDE. Though data specially on women migrants are practically absent, a lot can be gauged from the statistics on women and migrants as a whole. As an EIGE report shows, there are massive gaps facing women in the IT industry. Women’s digital skills are pretty much as good as those of men, yet:

·         83% of IT and engineering degrees are awarded to men;

·         80% of IT jobs go to men;

·         Women score 63% on digital confidence, while men score 73%.

Yet 53% of IT firms have recruitment difficulties. It is not difficult to put the two pieces of this jigsaw together. The training and recruitment system needs to improve.

Apart from the qualifications gap, there is a pay gap, an investment gap and an entrepreneurship gap between the sexes. A European Commission study finds a gender pay gap of 20%, and in Europe 93% of capital isinvested in companies run solely by men.

Migrants work in low-skilled jobs

The RIDE partners found that the jobs migrants obtain are predominantly low-skilled and low-paid, mostly being in manufacturing, construction, catering and fast food, supermarkets and domestic work. No surprise there.

These outcomes are the result of prejudice, the non-recognition of qualifications, language skills, care responsibilities combined with having no relatives living locally, and little awareness of how to find training. There are also cultural factors such as husbands whose approval is needed before women can train or work.

Designing targeted training

Iffat Rose Gill of the Code to Change, Amsterdam, has been running train courses for women in digital skillsfor 10 years. The first thing she learnt is that migrant women are a very diverse group, struggling with two layers of disadvantage. They have needs that are very various, and thus require specialised pathways. Training organisations need to build these through a 6-stage process:

1.       Stakeholder analysis

2.       Skills and country analysis

3.       Skills assessment

4.       Trainee selection

5.       Implementation: call for trainees -> selection -> call for mentors -> digital skills bootcamp -> progress review

6.       Connection with the labour market: job fairs and follow-up

Culture plays an important role: husbands need to be brought onboard, and employers need to prevent a toxic work culture from developing.“It’s not the women that need fixing, it’s the system,” she said. “Employers need to make workplaces more open to attract the diverse talents that are out there.”


   “Don’t panic! The IT sector is so broad that there is something for everyone!”  

Having said all that, Iffat’s message to migrant women is “Don’tpanic! The IT sector is so broad that there is something for everyone! We’re very friendly – please contact us via LinkedIn.”

COVID, in her experience, was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, distance training allows women to work when they have the time; on the other hand, being at home leaves one exposed to distractions. More importantly, it provides no sense of community, and gives no chance for peer support.

Three necessary components of a successful training programme are:

  • offer ongoing support – for instance weekly telephone check-ins;
  • brief companies about the target group, so that they can improve their recruitment process (for instance as a result of consultation the Code toChange is developing a specific pathway for sales jobs);
  • ployers to speak, which gives trainees the chance to buildup their LinkedIn contact list.

Mentoring for inclusion

Liane Adler of Litus novum, a training organisation in Berlin, explained how the RIDE partners in six countries had developed a comprehensive, holistic approach. It combines IT skills training with mentoring and coaching. The mentoring and coaching took various forms: in-presence, online and hybrid – the consensus being that in-presence one-to-one mentoring works best.Women-only groups work best, as trainees are readier to open up.

As for content, the mentoring covered a very wide field. It wassplit into two components:

·         social inclusion: self-reflection, culture, universal values

·         labour market integration: competency analysis, how to write CVsand  succeed at interviews, how tocommunicate with employers, how to understand a payslip…

This helps trainees to understand the work context they are getting into – some will never have worked before. Trainees were surprised to find that when they went for interviews, they were asked exactly the questions they had been prepared for!

Being there is better

Of course the advent of the COVID pandemic caused its own problems: the mentoring in particular had been designed as an in-presence process, and this had to be changed. The trainees’ language fluency deteriorated during the course, since they were unable to attend their usual language courses. And inevitably the lack of personal contact led to some loss of focus and involvement.

Her recommendations are:

·         There is no such thing as “a migrant woman”. Personalise your training to meet the needs of each individual;

·         Use smaller groups of 8-10 people. This enables peer-to-per trustand exchange and more inner process;

·         Allocate a lot of time to individual sessions;

·         Involve the women in designing the curriculum;

·         In-presence interaction is better – the women on the German course were thankful for the individual coaching.

She summed up: “Our concept worked quite well, and I really hope it can be replicated.”

Litus novum has also learnt from the experience, and is now setting up a department to focus specially on training migrant women.

Guidelines online

For more detail, consult the RIDE Guidelines for Mentorship,Coaching and Training.

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