Story of Mimmit koodaa
Story of Mimmit koodaa
Activities and events of the Mimmit koodaa program (Women code program) are changing the world. The program is actively breaking the myth that the IT-industry is only for men or those who are mathematically talented. The program also offers solutions for the great shortage of skilled employees in the IT-sector by encouraging women and those seeking a new career to find out about the field and its work opportunities.
Thanks to the program, we are on our way to a world where future generations have equal rights to study and succeed regardless of their gender or background.
Every company needs IT skills
Today, all companies are software-driven: computers are used everywhere, international competition is tough, and companies must keep up with the constant development in order to grow their business. The Finnish Software and E-business Association offers business managers the best possible IT training to answer this demand. The association has represented the Finnish software companies for more than 30 years.
Years have shown how gendered the IT sector is. The demand for new specialists and the will to increase the diversity in the IT sector lead to the foundation of the Mimmit koodaa program by the association. The program is a way for the association to help the IT sector develop and also to contribute to the creation of quality software.
The program is a way for the association to help the IT sector develop and also to contribute to the creation of quality software.
Why is the Mimmit koodaa program needed?
The program started with one contact request. Vlada Laukkonen had decided to learn coding by herself because this skill was highly needed at her work. In 2018 she asked the Finnish Software and E-business Association to help her with learning new skills and to organize business visits. Laukkonen’s request was the first alarm bell that something more needed to be done in addition to the association’s usual activities.
Milja Köpsi, who worked for the association at the time and who now runs the Mimmit koodaa program, identified the existing problem: the IT sector badly needed diversity. After all, the world of IT feels strange and distant for many women.
As a solution for this problem, an idea of activities that would bring women and the IT sector closer together was born. This was the start of the Mimmit koodaa program in 2018.
The world of IT feels strange and distant for many women.
Women are breaking the stereotypes and prejudices
Before the actual program was born, the Finnish Software and E-business Association arranged hands on workshops for women lead by Milja Köpsi and together with eight companies – Codemate Oy, Futurice, F-Secure, IBM, Knowit, Microsoft, Wunder ja 2NS.
As a surprise, the word of mouth spread quickly and soon there were hundreds of women queuing for the workshops. This was a proof that the need for this program was much bigger than we had dared to even think of.
The workshop experience and the questionnaire made by the association repeated the facts that were already known: The stereotypes and prejudices were too strong in the IT sector and therefore women were not advised to go for the IT sector and they felt like outsiders. There were also no good examples for women that would encourage them to try the IT sector.
These challenges were the starting point for the Mimmit koodaa program. The will to remove the stereotypes of the IT sector and coding became the core of the program. The most important message is that coding belongs to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender or background.
I learned about a topic that interested me but which wasn’t very familiar to me. I got excited about really learning about coding and I seriously started to think about my opportunities in this sector.
Nomination from supporting equality
In 2018, almost 1000 workshop days and two launching events were organized by the Mimmit koodaa program. Already then there were a huge number of women participating in the program as 3500 women had joined. Some of Finland’s main media companies like Yle, Helsingin Sanomat, Kauppalehti ja MTV were talking about the program.
Mimmit koodaa program was awarded with the Program of the Year prize in Mesoaja Gaala 2019. In Mesoaja Gaala the best of the fair and event professionals are awarded based on their effectiveness and strength.
In December 2019 the European Economic and Social Committee awarded the Mimmit koodaa program with the EU’s equality prize. EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen warmly congratulated the program:
“The EU needs equality just as much as Finland. The Mimmit koodaa program is an example of how concrete results can be achieved. This is about cooperation between women thriving for chance and companies offering possibilities in the IT sector. And this cooperation’s attraction has proven to be very great. I’m glad that Finland is showing the way on how equality and wellbeing go hand-in-hand.”
In 2019, the Mimmit koodaa program had already gathered 5000 women to start coding. Fourth place among almost 200 applicants is a really wonderful achievement and most of all it is one step closer to a more equal future.
#MimmitKoodaa program is an example of how concrete results can be achieved.” -Jutta Urpilainen
Events were taken online
Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, the Mimmit koodaa program was forced to change its routines. Before, workshops were held physically and people met each other face-to-face, but now something else was needed. After all, Mimmit koodaa got lucky due to the change when the events were taken online. Many great online events, like the still on-going Friday webinars, were born during these new times.
The program’s most significant event that got started during the pandemic spring was a virtual event called This Is Not a Webinar. It was a “non-webinar”, in other words a live event that was filmed in a studio and was sent online directly to women’s screens.
The virtual event revolutionized the organizing of events because basically everything changed in event production. All of the speeches were executed by a production company and there were virtual company stands, networking and discussions present in the event.
Mimmit koodaa program’s virtual event has been arranged every six months since 2020. We had more than 1000 participants in every event. And still it is said that women are not interested in coding?
The President handed out the first Mimmit koodaa prize
Years 2020 and 2021 played a big part in the journey of the Mimmit koodaa program. In the Women In Tech 2020 competition, Köpsi was awarded as the most significant equality influencer. This is how the judges assessed Köpsi’s work:
“Coming from a humble background, Milja has become a voice for thousands of women that never got support or encouragement towards technological studies or work. Her example is a classical ‘you can do it’ story.”
In spring 2021 Eeva-Jonna Panula was the first one in history to receive the Mimmit koodaa prize. Panula’s merits were presented in a very prestigious atmosphere because the President Tarja Halonen handed out the prize.
The winner of the first Mimmit koodaa prize has persistently and successfully taken part in the improving of the program’s goal. Panula has been an inspiring example for the Mimmit koodaa community. In addition to her daily work, she has shared her knowledge as an educator and a supporter” said President Halonen when handing out the prize.
The CEO of the Finnish Software and E-business Association Rasmus Roiha estimated that the prize is an important milestone for the entire software industry.
"Find yourself a community, the kind of environment where you can find help for concrete problems but also peer support. This is why the Mimmit koodaa program is so important. I want to help the program to be able to operate as the community that creates a safe space for learning and growing as a coder.” Eeva-Jonna Panula
North Karelia project is born
In the spring 2021 Mimmit koodaa program launched its first local project in North Karelia. The women were so interested in the local workshops that, at best, hundreds of women interested in the IT sector were queuing for the workshops. We wanted to find a local solution to the problem and this is how the North Karelia project got started.
The project is following North Karelia’s provincial program (Pohjois-Karjalan maakuntaohjelma, POKAT 2021, focus on education and know-how). This is done by supporting the education of local women and increasing the IT know-how. The women in North Karelia are offered free and easily accessible training in software development and peer support and network in their own local Mimmit koodaa community. In addition, the project is working closely with the companies and schools of North Karelia in order to raise the future IT experts.
Mimmit koodaa – the North Karelia project brings the IT sector and the local women closer together. The project shows the women that ordinary people are working in the IT sector and that it offers a wide range of working opportunities in addition to coding. The project also wants to tell that coding and software development can be learned by anyone and in any life situation.
The project also does its part in raising the attractiveness of the area. The aim is to show that there is understanding of the technology sector also in North Karelia and that there are enthusiastic future IT professionals who will help solve the severe employee shortage in the sector.
“Inspiring speakers and great working life information from the field. Excellent evening, warm welcome and an inspirational and bubbling team spirit formed quickly. -Feedback from the project event
IT sector is of interest – the program reaches already 10 000 women
Since then, the activities and community of the Mimmit koodaa program have expanded even further. Right now, together with its company members, the program organizes many events and training free of charge as well as shows inspirational examples of women working in the IT sector.
During the past years thousands of women have been able to participate in workshops, webinars and IT events, directed specifically for them. According to a survey, Mimmit koodaa program has successfully changed women’s views on IT sector and increased attractiveness of the sector. The program has also enabled networking with the companies in the sector as well as influenced on the studying choices and the plans of changing one’s career. All for the benefit of the entire IT sector.
The program has a wide, nationwide cooperation network of approximately 70 organizations that include for example schools, IT companies and many other operators. But most of all, Mimmit koodaa is a nationwide network of thousands of women – these days the program reaches as much as 10 000 women around Finland!
Mimmit koodaa program won their own prize from the Nordic Diversify Blaze Awards in August 2022. The Mimmit koodaa program was awarded as the best one in Finland’s Catalyst category, which is an indication of successful work for diversity, participation and community.
The second season of the podcast ‘Teknologiapolkuja’ was released. The podcast made together with Accenture became a success and it found its audience.
The first Mimmit koodaa virtual event of the year was organized in the spring and the second one will be held in the fall (11.11.2022)
The program’s activities will continue partly online which helps in reaching as many people as possible around Finland. Since the restrictions related to Covid-19 have decreased we have been able to arrange events and activities as local, live occasions.
The second Mimmit koodaa prize to the founder of Twig the Code
In 2022, it was time to hand out the second Mimmit koodaa prize. The prize was awarded to Susanna Kyllönen, who works as an IT developer at Mehiläinen.
Susanna Kyllönen has entered the IT sector as a career changer after working in marketing and restaurant jobs. Kyllönen was looking for stability and interesting tasks and she found them in the software industry. She has studied programming by herself and taken courses at a university.
Her enthusiasm for the industry and her efforts in reaching common goals led her to receive the Mimmit koodaa award in 2022. Kyllönen is the founder of Twig the Code association that encourages more and more women to join the world of coding and software. This is done by offering programs of training and support from the community.
“Just go for it! Anything can be learned if you have enough persistence” encourages Susanna Kyllönen.