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New Jobs for Older Women

Work in progress – background info for “Little Code Ladies” website. Please contact me for more information. (Barbara Jean Walsh – me@littlecodeladies.com)

My Premise

Focus on bringing women into tech industry today is primarily on young women and girls, ignoring the existing pool of older workers who already have experience and/or college degrees but lack tech skills. These women typically face subtle or overt age discrimination in the labor force, despite their skill level. At the same time, this group comprises a large emerging market for tech products, but in many cases will need improved levels of customer support to adopt changes in technology. (See http://www.presto.com/digital-divide/)

PROPOSED ACTIVITIES

Employment for Older Women with Existing Skills / Training for Older Women with Minimal Skills

Women Teaching Women: One on one tutoring

WHAT: One-on-one tutoring, pairing tech savvy women with others who are later adopters. Focus on what the student wants to learn, rather than on a pre-determined course of study, i.e. “What do YOU most want to learn about your computer today? What do YOU want to know how to do?” not “Today we are going to learn to do simultaneous equations.”

WHY: Historically, older women learn best in a high-touch environment, and from their peers. They are more comfortable talking to one other person about specific questions, rather than in a mixed-gender classroom or in an online situation. They enjoy the socialization, and the element of Fun! And it’s an opportunity to out of the house. May not want to tell their kids what it is they want to learn, i.e. Internet Dating.

WHERE: Meet in local cafes (partners) and in neighborhood venues. BONUS – make arrangements in advance, add to community/neighborhood participation. Use cafes as hubs for building networks. Model: TechMums in the U.K. I’ve corresponded with Dr. Sue Black and she says, “Go for it!”

HOW: Can start with word of mouth or local advertising. Possibly create a MeetUp group or other networking event that participants attend first. Connect/coordinate with an existing group. Set-up a task-sharing online program so members can find and compensate each other for services rendered.

WINS: Employment, Skills, Community

The blog “Aging in Place Technology” has a lot of info about training seniors, including volunteer programs. I feel it is important that this be a PAID or EXCHANGE program to make it clear that these skills have monetary value. According to Gloria Steinem, women are the largest source of free labor in the world. Time for that to stop. I’m curious about a program in Kansas City, MO, that has teenagers tutoring senior citizens. Wonder how that’s going? Sounds like an afterschool special to me. But there are also programs such as Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) that seems more professional.

Online Participation

WHAT: We will follow-up tutoring sessions with community-building group session, but also by pointing students to specific specific videos and online training sessions based on their questions. It’s been my experience that many online training sites (Lynda, Kahn, CodeAcademy, et cetera) are wonders but only once you know the lingo and have enough experience to know what you don’t know. We’ll also send participants off on their own to additional Meetups [Women Who Code​], local community classes, and other resources. I want to create a switchboard or way-station, and I want to create more tutors, who will keep the process flowing.

WHY: Build both online and real-time communities.

WHERE: Program website

HOW: Use resources of group members.

WINS: We can start to compile content mine info about what this demographic is seeking in terms of tech products and support. What works, and what does not. How well are older women finding the info they want? Where are they becoming frustrated? How much help are they finding? What apps do they want?

Future Employment for Older Women with Existing Skills

Placing Older Women in Tech Jobs / Partnerships with Tech Companies

WHAT: Working with Employers, especially HR departments

WHY: A number of companies are starting to realize that their workforce is aging out and getting ready to retire — where they can afford to do so. So the business press is contemplating the new workforce. I maintain it already exists, and that there is a wealth of employable older women who have been eased out of jobs but want to be working. Why does the tech industry not reach out to them? Workshops or feedback from HR departments is essential. What do we older women need to know? Courses to take? Skills to learn? What’s missing here? At same time, what stereotypes are HR people facing. How can we convince the tech industry that older women can fill that gap? Are there available jobs? What are the real numbers? I don’t know. I asked big-data maven Hilary Mason and she doesn’t know either. She say, “ I think you’ll find that there are more older women in technology roles at larger companies, just because startups and risky and tend to skew young, but beyond that I’m not sure the data is out
there.”

WHERE: Come on out and meet us! I can set up job fairs, workshops, training sessions that go both ways. But I need the contacts, and I need to find the companies who will take the leap and get serious when they talk about diversity.

HOW: Find out from group members, like myself, where they they applied for jobs and what responses they have received. Collect mission statements from tech companies about diversity and invite them to articulate. Provide them with information from Anita Borg and others on how to recruit technical women. Recommended reading: http://anitaborg.org/insights-tools/research/solutions-to-recruit-technical-women/

WINS: The entire World

Placing Older Women in Tech Jobs / Creating a Job Placement Service

WHAT: I’m Sure There’s an App for That. I don’t know how to do this. I have found various listing of a few companies who claim to have age-proactive policies. Seems like so much lip-service to me. I, like many other older women, would like to know the time we spend applying for job is valued.

HOW: Start with existing job services for older workers. Group members with advanced tech skills to create job listings service. Will need to be a staffed position, I believe. Rate companies on their hiring practices.

WHY: We need jobs.

WHERE: Online

WINS: The entire World

Note: There are maybe half a dozen senior oriented job placement services but the jobs are IMHO dismal. I have not found a single one that really says “These Companies Welcome Diversity”. Wouldn’t it be great to have a rating system, too?

Creating Apps and Websites for Older Women

Placing Older Women in Tech Jobs: Creating a Our Own Company

WHAT: Incubator. I love reading and learning about the new products coming out for the aging population, but my question still is: Who are these companies hiring? My focus is on job creation for older women. And what are these companies learning from the focus groups? Are they developing any apps that are any FUN? Again, I don’t know how to do this, so I would like to find the women who do.

WHY: We’ve got some great ideas, and once we learn to write code, watch out! Again, from Hilary Mason, “I do think there’s an opportunity in older women-created products, just because most young techies aren’t thinking about this market (and few are women of any age).” And from Mary Matthews of Memrica.com, “Getting women involved as app testers would boost their confidence and show that their views can be commercially valuable.”

WHERE: East Bay / SF Bay for starters

HOW: Group members as focus group and as coders and developers, as we get to that point in what we are able to do.

WINS: The entire World

TO RECAP

What I want to do is develop an organization, which for the sake of geography, would start out in the East Bay. We would:

1) Create jobs immediately for tutors, and start building confidence for older women with minimal computer skills. Start closing the digital divide.

2) Build awareness of the available labor force and skill level of older women / Help employers develop diversity programs.

3) Create a job bank/exchange for older women

4) Provide input to developers creating age-targeted apps and programs

5) Eventually develop apps and programs (ideally this would fund our educational component) and keep the whole thing moving.