Skool: Helping more Hungarian girls get into tech

Technológiai Oktatásért Foundation helps future proof Hungary’s talent pipeline

Last year, Microsoft launched Upgrade Your World, an initiative celebrating the non-profits who are working to create a better tomorrow and the technology shaping our world. Over the next few months we’ll be highlighting some of our European non-governmental organization (NGO) partners who are making a difference in their communities in countries around the region.

Central and Eastern Europe is increasingly leading the charge for gender diversity in Europe’s tech sector. Estonia and Hungary are now above the OECD average, with women accounting for over 40% of ICT sector employment. Yet as digital jobs continue to rise along with the pressing need for thousands more skilled ICT workers, encouraging more young women to pursue careers in the IT industry would result in a much-needed boost to local European economies.

In Hungary, the government’s National Media and Info-communications Authority is responsible for driving the country’s digital agenda. Its National Info-communication Strategy aims to establish a strong digital infrastructure, develop citizens’ digital skills and encourage more women into the fields of science, technology and ICT.

In addition to this governmental push, Hungarian NGOs are proving to be a driving force for greater diversity. One group leading the charge is the Technológiai Oktatásért Foundation, an independent Hungarian nonprofit tackling gender imbalance in the IT industry by creating new opportunities for Hungary’s youngest generation of girls.

To challenge the ongoing perception of the IT sector as a geeky, ’boys only’ industry, the Foundation launched ‘Skool’. This initiative aims to show 10 – 18 year old girls how creative and exciting technology can be. It provides young women with first-hand insight into what a career in the technology industry is like and covers topics as diverse as robotics, mobile app development, graphics, animation and web design.

What differentiates Skool from other national initiatives is its focus on passion and a belief that learning new skills should be an exciting adventure. With this in mind, Skool organizes half-day local workshops designed to inspire and teach girls about science and technology. During these events, girls have the opportunity to meet female leaders in the technology field. They hear about their experiences and the barriers they have overcome along the way, while learning basic programming concepts through fun but challenging tutorials. Skool wants its participants to feel a sense of achievement that will allow them to develop and explore their own interests in science and technology.

Fanni, who attended one of the workshops said, “The whole experience at Skool was fantastic. The course was a great way to find out more about the career opportunities available for women with a talent for technology – something I admit I didn’t know very much about before the workshop. I particularly enjoyed one of the sessions where we built a simple electrical circuit. It showed me how technology is used in real life and made me seriously think about a career in the IT industry”.

Our program’s goal is to ensure that young people receive much-needed technology education… Jobs are becoming increasingly digital and we need to ensure that more people are exposed to the world of technology.

Technológiai Oktatásért is a Microsoft YouthSpark grantee and Microsoft Hungary has partnered with the Foundation for the past two years. Both organizations worked closely with to organize a series of activities during the Hour of Code. The Foundation is also translating the Kodu Game Lab platform into Hungarian, enabling kids with basic computer knowledge to create their own 3D games with the visual programming tool.

Zsófia Major, co-founder of Technológiai Oktatásért, believes that partnership is the key to driving change. “Our program’s goal is to ensure that young people receive much-needed technology education. Having organized two major workshops during the Hour of Code in the past two years, we have been able to give hundreds of kids exposure to coding that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The Foundation is now working to localize the Kodu Game Lab platform and make it available to Hungarian kids in their mother tongue. Having these educational tools and support is crucial for young people today. Jobs are becoming increasingly digital and we need to ensure that more people are exposed to the world of technology”.

Since the launch of Skool in June 2014, over 500 girls have joined the course. Within the next year, the Foundation hopes to extend its program to reach 600 Hungarian girls between the ages of 8 to 18. As a new generation readies itself to enter the workforce, the tech industry must work together with government, NGOs and business leaders to boost the country’s digital skills and create even more opportunities for young women. Programs such as Skool are a great way to inspire a new generation of women and equip them with the skills they need to succeed.

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