While there have been great strides for the inclusion of women in the tech industry in the past years, statistics actually show that there has been a decline. That's not to say that there aren't organizations and businesses making active efforts to improve these statistics, however. For instance, Toptal, a network of top freelancers and developers, has started Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers, a program meant to help support and empower females who have the desire, passion, and talent to become software engineers in what is a traditionally male-dominated field.
The program will give out 12 scholarships total over the course of a year and is open to women worldwide, regardless of their education level. There have been three scholarship winners so far, with the first one being Rojina Bajracharya. The Python developer and entrepreneur from Nepal received a $5,000 scholarship and one year of weekly one-on-one mentorship with a senior Toptal developer.
We had a chance to catch up with Rojina and talk with her about the program, the state of the tech industry in Nepal, as well as specific challenges present for females in the field.
1. Why did you choose to make a career in tech industry?
Rojina: Information technology has a huge scope in our country, as well as worldwide, and I felt it has become necessary for girls/women to join this field. Since from my childhood days, I have always seen that computers and technology are used only by men; girls do not fit in here. But, despite these bitter facts, I joined this field knowing that I already possess some interest on it. When we love learning, it's something more than a career, and we just keep on going. Now when I see myself standing in this field, I feel worthwhile for myself, as well as other girls who want to study technology.
2. What is the condition of tech industry in Nepal? Is there a lot of jobs for software engineers in Nepal? How much of them go freelance or work remotely?
Rojina: Nepal is powerful in the technology field. There are so many IT companies in Nepal that work as outsourcing companies, and there are many talented software developers in our country who are freelancers.
There are so a number of vacancies opening in IT companies everyday in job portals in Nepal. Most of the featured jobs belong to the technology sector and may be the most high-paid, according to the experience and education qualification. But it is again another bitter fact that these IT companies can rarely find the most-skilled people to work in their company. Thus, it is a clear fact that there are tremendous opportunities in this tech field -- the biggest challenge is producing the technical manpower.
3. What specific challenges women meet there? What is the condition of diversity in the tech industry and in general? What do you think is the long term solution to address those challenges?
Rojina: There are many challenges women face being in the tech industry, including
having very few women to be able to share your personal struggles with in the field.
Since there are very few women working in this field, women need a friendly environment in the work space, as well as time to adopt.
b) Late hours
Sometimes there might be the need to work overtime or maybe they have to return to their home lates -- in Nepal, some women find this difficult because their families may not allow them to stay late.
It is a worldwide issue that there are few girls/women in tech; it is similar in Nepal. It's a government rule that any working place should fulfill 33% of women population, but the tech industry is the only place where there is difficulty to balance this criteria. Sometimes it's less than 5% or even 0%.
4. How did you find out about Toptal scholarship? What does it give you? Why did you decide to apply for Toptal's program scholarship?
I found about Toptal's scholarship through social media (Facebook). It gives me encouragement to continue and pursue what I am learning further. Toptal's scholarship has really given me an extra platform to work hard in my goals, as well as encourage other technology girls.
Rojina: When I first learned about Toptal's scholarship program, I wasn't quite sure if this was truly happening, so I searched everything to make sure it was real. It was a completely rare thing to hear that such programs are available in the world without many restrictions and boundaries. There were various criterias to enter in this competition, yet it was an open program. The theme of the program was encouraging and made me feel that even I can apply. So my expectation was that my application would at least be viewed by that program -- and I was surprised and excited when I learned that I won!
5. What is your attitude to the freelance and communities like Toptal? Would you mind working there?
Rojina: In my opinion, freelancing is one of the best platforms for girls/women in Technology, and communities like Toptal really bring opportunities to connect with freelancing jobs.
6. What do you consult about with your mentor from Toptal?
Rojina: My mentor, Anna Chiara Bellini, mentors me once a week and gives me assignments of programming language which I need to submit on a particular day. She also gives me possible solutions to work for my community "Girls in Technology".
7. What is the main purpose of the "Girls in Technology" community you founded in Kathmandu and what does it do? What are you future plans on the development of the Girls in Technology community?
Rojina: "Girls in Technology"is a common platform that brings all the technology girls/women together. It also organizes various meetups, where we bring senior IT professional -- specially women where they share their stories of being in this field. This community also has various training sections for girls to build up their programming language concept.
My future plans of "Girls in Technology":
Grow an even bigger network of girls in tech nationwide and internationally
Create an international conference of girls in technology
Collaboration with various IT companies in Nepal
Allocation of Girls In Technology brand ambassadors in each computer engineering and IT colleges of Nepal