Linda Kamau

Linda Kamau

Managing Director & Co-Founder of AkiraChix

Removing Barriers and Taking Over the World: How Linda Kamau and AkiraChix Will Train 10,000 Women in Tech in the Next Decade

As a naturally curious and confident person, Linda Kamau is no stranger to trailblazing.

There were four paths in her all-girls school, and computer science was usually the path least chosen. But for Linda, computers were a passion, and she happily chose computer science to the surprise of her peers. She also had a natural interest in making things better, a talent encouraged by her older brother with whom she would spend time around the house repairing everything from radios to the roof. 

At many African universities, it is extremely difficult to switch undergraduate majors after being placed in a program. Linda received placement into the business information technology path, not the computer science program she originally applied for, but still relevant to her goals. She worked at a technology startup to expand her technical skills. There, she learned coding and open source software, allowing her to land a role as a software developer at Ushahidi. At Ushahidi, Linda asked to lead an upgrade to a vital tool for crisis crowdsourcing. She was unsure of herself, but her boss assured her she was more than qualified. Thanks to Linda’s leadership, that tool is now translated into almost every language, and is changing the way information flows during a humanitarian crisis. 

The people around me knew my skills and that I was more qualified than I thought I was. They knew I needed a push. Since then, I’ve been more assertive in my career.

While attending an “iHub” (“Innovation Hub”) meeting in Kenya, Linda noticed there were less than 10 women present out of more than 300 attendees. Afterwards, Linda decided to arrange a meetup for women in tech, creating a safe space for them to show up and support each other. Still, she struggled to get more than 10 women to attend despite the myriad of technical jobs available in Kenya’s now-booming tech industry. To fill this gap, Linda and two coworkers hatched the idea that would become what is now known as  AkiraChix. The plan needed some structure, but the idea was to teach as many women as possible to code. The core focus of AkiraChix is to build tech talent by investing in training for young women who may not otherwise have access to higher education. With the goal to train 10,000 women in the next 10 years, not only will this ensure there are more women in the tech job market, but that these women have the necessary skills to succeed and stand out in the workplace. 

We recognize the things that hinder students from succeeding…financial barriers, gender roles and not feeling believed in, a lack of encouragement to move into technology…and we want to break down as many of those barriers as possible.

One of the flagship programs under AkiraChix is a residential program. Students from more than 25 regions of Kenya and various parts of Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania come to AkiraChix to complete a coding program. Often, these students don’t just lack the same educational resources as higher income areas, but they may also lack access to the transportation infrastructure required to physically reach any available resources. The residential program mitigates most of these challenges, allowing students to focus on cultivating their technical talent. 

Linda’s current focus is working with companies to create a hiring pipeline for the top talent in the AkiraChix community. Tech companies now often come to Linda asking for more diverse talent, of which Linda knows plenty. In November of 2019, AkiraChix graduated 47 women, 33 of whom are now employed. (For those doing the math — that is a 70% success rate, higher than most colleges!) Her students are not only joining the tech industry, but gaining empowerment along the way.

Happiness stems from my students doing well in life. You can see it transfer back to their homes, their siblings and their parents…we’re not just getting more women into tech, we’re empowering more women to have rights and take over the world!

This story was written by Wogrammer Journalism Fellow, Laurel Kremer, for Reinvented Magazine’s fourth edition. 

Wogrammer has been acquired by AnitaB.org, a social enterprise that supports women in technical fields, the organizations that employ them, and the academic institutions training the next generation. We proudly join the AnitaB.org/365 suite of programs which are fueling the movement to achieve intersectional gender equity in the global technical workforce by 2025 and will continue to amplify diverse voices of women in technology around the world.

Roe v. Wade Has Been Overturned. You Have Every Right to Be Upset. Here’s how to take action

We at AnitaB.org, are disheartened and dismayed by the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling that enabled the right of an abortion to people around the nation. AnitaB.org brings together allies and champions across every sector to advance intersectional gender equity in technology. The technologists we support are also people impacted by targeted oppressive and unjust laws including laws that restrict reproductive rights. Not only do we empower technologists through our year-long programming but, we also advocate for better systemic solutions for the workforce and for their humanity. 

In response to the Supreme Court ruling, we are joining to elevate the calls to action of our social justice colleagues and community partners. 

If you feel called to do something today or in the next coming days, here are some action steps:  

  • Support and donate to Repro Legal Defense Fund, which is a national organization that covers bail and funds strong defense for people who are investigated, arrested, or prosecuted for abortion. Because no one should be behind bars for ending their pregnancy or helping someone else do so.
  • Support and donate to Plan C, an educational resource for learning about how people in the US access abortion pills.
  • Support and donate to your local Planned Parenthood, independent abortion clinics, and abortion funds.
    Go to the streets and join a protest near you. Most protests are happening today at 5 PM at the federal courthouses or state capitols

AnitaB.org is also launching a political advocacy series, Power to the People, with our first event on July 20th. The first event of this series, Power to People: Abortion Rights and Digital Privacy, will elevate the voices of abortion advocates and the risks emerging with digital rights and privacy. This event will empower you to take additional action regarding abortion rights and data privacy. Stay tuned for more information about this upcoming event.