More Than Survivors: Developing the Next Generation of Tech Workers

The Foundation for Gender Equality is launching a new initiative aimed at helping female survivors of gender-based violence learn tech skills. (Image Credit: The Foundation for Gender Equality)

The Foundation for Gender Equality aims to foster opportunities and remove obstacles for women and girls facing inequity, and its latest initiative targets female survivors of violence and sexual abuse with a program that teaches them tech skills. The goal is to enable victims to go beyond simple survival to earning a living wage. The Westport, Connecticut-based non-profit, which was founded in 2016 by Richard and Jill Fitzburgh and Theresa Boylan, has partnered with Tech Up for Women to develop the “Give Back” program to achieve this goal.

Tech Up for Women is a collaborative and annual conference that enables women to stay at the forefront of technology. It aims to close the male-female tech gap and provide women opportunities to forge technology careers. Tech Up has worked with companies including CNBC, NASDAQ, and Uber.

The Foundation for Gender Equality (FGE)/Tech Up initiative will provide technology training and tools for economic independence to at-risk women by enlisting AnnieCannons and Sanctuary for Families, two organizations offering such skills-development programs for particularly vulnerable and underrepresented women.

AnnieCannons is named after Harvard astronomer Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) who is credited with developing our system of stellar classification. AnnieCannons’ mandate is “transforming survivors of human trafficking into software professionals,” and the Bay Area-based non-profit states, “Our program starts with data literacy and advances through HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as students demonstrate mastery. Later phases include full stack development, cybersecurity, visual design, and more.”

AnnieCannons is led by Executive Director Laura Hackney, a software engineer who managed the Program on Human Rights at Stanford University, and who has worked with the San Francisco Police Department on anti-trafficking initiatives, and CEO Jessica Hubley, a lawyer and entrepreneur who has worked with many tech firms.

The other organization that will be teaching survivors tech skills is NYC-based Sanctuary for Families, which serves “over 15,000 survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence every year.” One of its areas of emphasis is education, including its Education Empowerment Program which helps participants avoid low-wage, low-skill jobs by “[providing] clients with literacy skills, professional development, and the advanced IT training that employers seek, so they can find living-wage, career track work.”

The FGE/Tech Up “Give Back” initiative will offer a range of skills including digital training, web development training, interview prep and tips for would-be tech workers on how to represent themselves. “We at FGE are committed to empowering survivors of exploitation and violence, and through this initiative, we hope to help women gain a sense of independence as they advance their skills,” notes co-founder Jill Fitzburgh.

The Foundation for Gender Equality was formed in 2016 with a simple idea: help women and girls achieve equality. Gender equality, with all of its complexity, cultural and global dimensions, is the transformative issue of our time argues the Foundation, and solving this complex problem will improve the world for males and females of all ages and backgrounds. Providing survivors with valuable and marketable skills is one way of making this vision a reality.

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Author: Tim Lehnert

Tim Lehnert is a writer and editor who lives in Cranston, Rhode Island. His articles and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, Rhode Island Monthly, the Boston Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He is the author of the book Rhode Island 101, and has published short fiction for kids and adults in a number of literary journals and magazines. He received an M.A. in Political Science from McGill University, and an M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge.

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