Funding, mentorship programme for minority/Muslim women in tech opens for third intake

Twenty-three women have benefited in the first two rounds of Codette Cares. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A funding and mentorship programme, started during the Covid-19 pandemic to help female minority/Muslim students in technology-related fields, has opened applications for its third intake.

Launched by The Codette Project in 2020, the nine-month Codette Cares programme provides undergraduates, part-time students and mid-career switchers studying tech with a grant of $1,500 per student, along with mentorship by female practitioners in the field.

The third round of Codette Cares was launched by President Halimah Yacob on Saturday (March 12) at the opening of the Success Looks Like This photo exhibition at Seed gallery in Kim Yam Road.

The exhibition was organised by The Codette Project in conjunction with International Women's Day (IWD).

The non-profit organisation was founded in 2015 by Ms Nurul Jihadah Hussain, 35, to give women from minority groups a leg up in tech through networking opportunities.

It also organises classes and workshops for women, in basic coding, data analysis and social media management.

"Focusing on under-represented women creates a more inclusive space in the tech industry," said Ms Nurul, who works as a career service programme manager at the National University of Singapore.

"We wish to help women balance careers with caregiving responsibilities. For example, our women-only hackathon Tech For Good was the first tech event in Singapore to offer breastfeeding rooms, childcare services, multi-faith prayer rooms, on top of inclusive food options such as halal and vegetarian food."

Twenty-three women have benefited in the first two rounds of Codette Cares, whose current batch includes those studying computer science, data analytics, user interface and experience design and cyber security.

The grants are funded by The Zendesk Neighbor Foundation, a non-profit arm of American customer service software provider Zendesk.

Mentors are volunteers working in tech firms such as Stripe, Facebook and Zendesk.

Such mentorship has helped Codette Cares 2021 recipient Nur Adilah Azhar, 22, grow in confidence.

The Temasek Polytechnic communication design student said: "I previously had a lot of self-doubt in my communication skills. But all the workshops and mentoring allowed me to practise talking to strangers and build my confidence.

"Now, I can easily reach out to others."

The third round of Codette Cares was launched by President Halimah Yacob on March 12, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

She added that the financial support has helped fund her school design projects, which can cost $300 to $400.

"The funding from the programme really helps a lot, and I don't have to rely on my parents."

Applications are open from June 2022 to March 2023 and can be made through The Codette Project's website.

Speaking at the photo exhibition on Saturday, Madam Halimah called The Codette Project an example of "a ground-up, ground-breaking initiative".

President Halimah Yacob (centre) at the opening of the Success Looks Like This photo exhibition at Seed gallery in Kim Yam Road on March 12, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

She said community partners also play an important role in demystifying the tech industry, to encourage more women to join the field. "This is especially useful for women who are interested in the field, but do not know how to break into the industry."

The exhibition featured 37 women of different ages and backgrounds who work in the tech industry, in roles such as data analysis and cyber security.

Ms Nurul, who was named in the Singapore 100 Women In Tech 2020 List, said: "We hope the exhibition will encourage all women to feel like they belong in tech and that they, too, can be successful in the industry."

Noting that this year's theme for IWD is "Break the Bias", she said one key to this is acknowledging that there are many different paths to success in any industry.

She added: "Our exhibition is a reflection of our belief that having diverse and inclusive representations of success is important in building a healthy and equitable tech ecosystem for long-term economic success."

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