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Online Upskilling and Mentorship for Women in Technology

“Building an authentic culture within a network is essential. When you achieve that, it becomes a powerful tool because there’s always someone who knows someone. The larger the network, the greater the chances of connecting with the right individuals.”

Ayumi Moore Aoki, Founder and CEO, Women in Tech Global

The technology sector is known for its high-income potential, with numerous individuals earning six-figure salaries. It’s becoming increasingly evident that practical technical skills and demonstrated experience are often more valuable than formal education degrees when pursuing or advancing a career in this field.

For women who may find themselves without such experience but aspire to enter the tech industry, there is good news. Various online courses and programs, led by industry experts passionate about fostering gender diversity in tech, offer a pathway to acquiring and honing the necessary skills. Additionally, these resources provide opportunities to connect with professionals and leaders in the field.

We spoke with a technology expert and online educator, Ayumi Moore Aoki, about acquiring skills for working in technology, upskilling capabilities, mentorship dynamics, and elevating professional trajectory through online learning opportunities.

Meet the Expert: Ayumi Moore Aoki

Ayumi Moore Aoki

Ayumi Moore Aoki, Founder and CEO Women in Tech Global

Ayumi Moore Aoki is a social entrepreneur and visionary leader committed to driving positive and sustainable change through technology. As the founder and CEO of Women in Tech Global, Moore Aoki has spearheaded a global movement empowering women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). With headquarters in Paris and a presence in 45 countries, Women in Tech Global has amassed over 200,000 members and aims to empower five million women and girls in STEAM by 2030. Moore Aoki’s relentless pursuit of gender equality and her dedication to empowering women has earned her recognition from Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic.

Under Moore Aoki’s leadership, Women in Tech Global operates on four pillars: education, business, digital inclusion, and advocacy. Through these pillars, the organization provides comprehensive support and resources to women and girls, enabling them to thrive in the STEAM fields. By focusing on education, Women in Tech Global equips women with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in STEAM careers. Through their business initiatives, they foster a supportive and inclusive environment that empowers women entrepreneurs and leaders. Digital inclusion ensures that no woman or girl is left behind in the digital era, and advocacy drives systemic change by challenging existing gender biases and promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Moore Aoki’s passion for women’s empowerment and technology has garnered global recognition and partnerships. Women in Tech Global has signed a significant partnership with UN Women, further solidifying their commitment to advancing gender equality worldwide. Additionally, the organization is part of the Edison Alliance of the World Economic Forum, where she collaborates with other influential leaders and organizations to drive innovation and positive change in the tech industry.

Born in Brazil to a Brazilian mother and Japanese father, Moore Aoki experienced a diverse upbringing that profoundly shaped her beliefs and values. At the age of 12, she moved to South Africa during the era of apartheid, witnessing firsthand the injustices and discrimination faced by marginalized communities. As a third culture kid, her unique perspective instilled in her a deep desire to challenge norms rooted in oppressive and discriminatory stereotypes, including those based on gender and race.

Her personal journey exemplifies the transformative power of technology. In 2008, she found herself struggling to achieve a healthy work-life balance, prompting her to make a bold decision. She left her high-powered job and embarked on a self-taught journey to learn coding using CD-ROMs. Acquiring these digital skills not only transformed her personal life but also became the foundation for her entrepreneurial endeavors. Building on her newfound expertise, she created her first company and, in 2018, went on to establish Women in Tech® Global, a platform that would impact the lives of countless women and girls around the world.

Recognized as an international expert in women’s empowerment, Moore Aoki is a sought-after speaker at global industry-leading events. From PauseFest in Melbourne to TEDx Ist in Lisbon, UFM Business Forum in Barcelona, GMI Summit in the UAE, and LEAP in Riyadh, she passionately shares her insights and experiences, inspiring audiences to challenge the status quo and embrace diversity in the tech world. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to gender equality and her transformative work in the tech industry, she was selected as one of Forbes France’s 40 Women for 2023.

Q&A with Ayumi Moore Aoki What led you to found Women in Tech?

Moore Aoki: My journey began where I was born in Brazil, but it took a significant turn when I moved to South Africa. Unfortunately, I encountered discrimination there, not only related to race but also concerning gender. It was evident that girls and boys had vastly different rights. These experiences ignited my inner activist, and I started a girls’ empowerment team during my time in both school and university. These experiences showed me the strength of sisterhood and the importance of actively fighting for our rights instead of simply accepting victimhood.

Subsequently, I explored various career paths, including hotel management and communications. However, when I turned 30, I questioned my life’s direction and realized that what I truly wanted was the ability to work from anywhere. This was back in 2008—a time when remote work wasn’t as common as it is today. I ventured into the world of social media for business and even learned how to code. This shift led me into the tech industry, starting as a freelancer and eventually establishing my own tech company.

Despite the challenges I faced as a female entrepreneur, an immigrant, and a mother, I persevered. It was during a challenging pregnancy, where I had to spend several months on bed rest, that I reflected on my path. Feeling physically and mentally drained, I knew I needed support and connection with other women in the tech world. I decided to attend a tech conference in Lisbon, where I was shocked to discover the widening gender gap in the industry.

This revelation motivated me to seek out organizations addressing this issue. However, most of them seemed to lack real impact, focusing primarily on marketing and networking. Dissatisfied with the status quo, I made the decision to create a global network that could tackle the problem at its core. I identified four main areas to focus on: education, entrepreneurship, digital and social inclusion, and advocacy.

I strongly believe that it’s not enough to talk about the gender gap; we must actively work to find solutions. My organization operates closely with communities, including townships in Brazil and South Africa, as well as influential events like summits and awards where policymakers can be engaged to drive change. This approach, working at both grassroots and high-level positions, is crucial in making a lasting impact on gender parity in the tech industry. Given your expertise in education and digital inclusion, what impact have you seen through digital education on the career trajectories and skill sets for professional women?

Moore Aoki: Education is critical, whether it’s education as a whole or a way to learn new, specific skill sets.

We organized a summer camp in 2018 called a Coding Summer Camp, where we taught 50 women and girls. The youngest was 14 and the oldest was 56. From those 50 women, there were 35 different nationalities. They learned the basics of coding over the course of three weeks, and by the end of those three weeks, they knew three different coding languages. This program gave them insight into what coding is about and the ability to do basic coding.

Then, in 2019, I went to North Macedonia to open a chapter there. I shared how we started and spoke about that event. When I mentioned this program that we started with, a woman in the audience raised her hand. She was one of those 50 women who learned to code through the camp. She told me that it inspired and enabled her to continue learning coding, and she became a front-end developer. This was a complete career change for her. Back when she was in the coding camp, she was a mom of an 18-month-old. Four years later, in 2019, she became the managing director of a significant IT company in her region and now mentors other women in tech. She gives back, and it shows that education can really change our career trajectories and the way we do things.

We believe in giving women skills and career opportunities which can change lives. While not all of them change careers, they may instead use it to accelerate their careers or get better jobs. What is the role of online and digital social networks in supporting women and diverse individuals in accelerating their careers in technology?

Moore Aoki: I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to have a network. Programs are beneficial, but it often boils down to who you know; who will open doors for you; who is familiar with a particular program, investor, or job opportunity. Networking is the key, and it’s not just about knowing people—it’s about the authenticity of those connections.

When someone provides a referral or says, “Call that person on my behalf,” it’s all about having an authentic network committed to a higher purpose of supporting women.

Building an authentic culture within a network is essential. When you achieve that, it becomes a powerful tool because there’s always someone who knows someone. The larger the network, the greater the chances of connecting with the right individuals.

Today, our network spans the globe, and we’ve cultivated a vast community. I have a substantial network, and it’s not just me; it includes everyone inside. If you’re genuinely interested in getting involved, offer your time and open your network. It’s a two-way street; you receive as much as you give.

Through networking, you establish meaningful relationships and friendships that go beyond surface connections. You learn, grow, collaborate, and make a positive impact together. It’s like being part of a big, beautiful family, and the way it unfolds is truly wonderful. What traits do you find most important in individuals seeking to successfully grow their careers in the space?

Moore Aoki: Authenticity is crucial, in my view. When people genuinely aim to grow their careers and have diverse aspirations, it’s essential. If you’re willing to fully engage, be yourself, and give without reservations, you’ll find abundance. It’s a simple principle: the more you give, the more you receive.

Don’t be overly strategic in your relationships; I dislike it when everything feels calculated. Some people, even those you least expect, will surprise you with their generosity, whether it’s their love, energy, or network. You can’t predict what connections will bring, and it’s true that those who are sincere about giving often understand this best. For me, good energy and positive vibes are of utmost importance.

When people grasp that we’re all in the same boat, striving for success, wanting to enjoy life, and willing to share moments and help one another, incredible things happen. Those who embrace this mindset tend to experience continuous growth. While some people may try to appear different for a while, you can’t sustain it indefinitely. Your true self eventually emerges, and people recognize it. Time and loyalty are key factors in building meaningful relationships. Do you have any advice or thoughts you believe policymakers and people in power should consider in empowering women to work in technology?

Moore Aoki: Yes. First of all, many different technologies are emerging every day in the tech world. The initial step should be seeking assistance from professionals to gain advice on best practices, especially with the rapid introduction of various technologies. It’s not solely about AI or blockchain; it’s about all emerging technologies. When a new technology comes into play, it should inherently promote diversity and gender equality. We can’t just implement regulations later on; it has to be an integral part of the development process from the beginning.

Every policy, whether related to a new technology or an existing one, should bear in mind the importance of incorporating diversity from the outset. This ensures that the technology and regulations are ethical and just. Look at the composition of those who shape these policies: are they mostly men? It’s crucial to pay attention to the people around the decision-making table. If the representation is imbalanced, it’s essential to bring in advisors who can provide input to ensure fair representation.

Numbers matter, and so do the faces in the room. With this in mind, they should make a conscious effort to ensure diversity and equal representation from the start.

Chelsea Toczauer

Chelsea Toczauer is a journalist with experience managing publications at several global universities and companies related to higher education, logistics, and trade. She holds two BAs in international relations and asian languages and cultures from the University of Southern California, as well as a double accredited US-Chinese MA in international studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University joint degree program. Toczauer speaks Mandarin and Russian.