When we started our university studies as Computer Science students, we were frustrated by the fact that so few women choose to study a field that we find so interesting — and that also has such a great impact on our society. QueenB, the organization we started in 2017, aims to increase the number of women in Israeli high-tech by starting from the bottom up. We help middle-school students understand the opportunities available to them and realize their potential, by providing opportunities for them to actually get involved in high-tech. We have seen a great deal of success in our efforts recently — and a good part of that success is due to our experience in the WeWork Creator Awards.
A Finance Ministry report from 2017 shows that while females make up nearly half of the Israeli workforce, fewer than a quarter of workers in tech firms are women. Moreover, those who do work in the industry are paid less than their male colleagues. This is likely due to a variety of cultural, educational, and historic factors – but we are more interested in changing things, by providing more opportunities for girls to get a taste of the tech world. We do that by encouraging girls to be brave and take risks — to challenge themselves, and not to let fear of failure guide their choices.
That’s the main reason we decided to apply for the WeWork Creator Awards. At first, we weren’t sure if we were a good fit for the competition, and even after applying, we still had some doubts — but we told ourselves what we tell our students: don’t let the fear of failure guide your choices. It turned out to be the right choice; we gained and grew so much from challenging ourselves to apply to the Creator Awards.
Before we received funding from WeWork’s Creator Awards, QueenB operated only in Jerusalem. The funding we received enabled us to expand our activities for Computer Science university students in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beersheva. We were also able to undertake a new “pop-up” program, and develop activity centers for middle-school girls in these cities which are set to open next year.
The award also made it possible for us to provide more than 40 scholarships to female Computer Science students and reach hundreds of teenagers. And, we were also able to host the QueenB Hackathon (BeHack) in May. BeHack will be Israel’s largest-ever Female Hackathon, with over 300 coders — among them students from middle-schools and universities — who will spend a day coding and developing their own projects.
Beyond the money, though, the Creator Awards gave us a much greater gift — the ability to connect with more people and to get more exposure for the work we do. That exposure was huge, and it helped us reach many people who wanted to join our community, including tech companies, university students, parents, and others who believe in our cause and want to support what we’re doing. The competition also made us improve the way we present ourselves, developing better ways to share our story in a way others can relate to.
Among the most important rewards for us, though, was the forging of community the Creator Awards engendered. Even though it was a competition, the atmosphere was much more one of cooperation; our common ground with the other groups in the event was so strong that we immediately connected. Each one of us brought something else to the community, and we all learned from each other. Entrepreneurs and leaders often work alone, but this experience showed us that being a part of a community of Creators makes us all stronger.
Where do we go from here? We’ve learned a great deal from our experience in the Creator Awards, and in QueenB in general, and we are working on our next big dream — a project to further bridge the gap between technology and education. The Creator Awards gave us confidence in our abilities to start developing Frizzl, a digital platform that teaches teenagers how to code. We learned a lot from teaching middle-school girls with no prior knowledge to code, and we now want to scale that ability, using a mobile stand-alone platform that everyone can access, around the world.
So if you, like us, are thinking about applying for a Creator Awards but are not sure if this is the right thing to do, put your fears and hesitations aside and apply today: https://we.co/timesofisrael
Noga Mann & Yasmin Dunsky are co-founders of QueenB and Frizzl, entrepreneurs. Noga holds degrees in Computer Science and Design, and Yasmin is a Computer Science student. QueenB is a non-profit aimed at increasing the number of women in tech by teaching middle school girls how to code and hosting events for female Computer Science students at universities. Both Noga and Yasmin were recently listed on the Forbes Under30 list of young leaders.
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