ThoughtWorks, a software company specializing in agile and open-source development, established in 2005 the ThoughtWorks University (TWU) as part of a broader effort to improve female representation in the IT industry. This program, based in India, equips new hires with the skills they need to excel in a software development and consulting career.
The goal of TWU is for participants to gain hands-on experience working with ThoughtWorks’ technology group and contributing directly to clients’ success. Every TWU attendee works with senior ThoughtWorks’ leaders and learns from ThoughtWorks IT staff members — 30 percent of whom are female. New hires also work closely with international peers during the training program, empowering them with a global support network as they embark on their career. TWU sessions last five weeks and are offered six times a year.
“Our initial goal for TWU was to provide our new hires with unparalleled education and training. Our graduates’ accomplishments prove that we are achieving great success with this program,” said Bill Kimmel, Senior Vice President. “Perhaps even more important, TWU encourages confidence, self-reflection and strength building and allows participants to appreciate our commitment to their long-term success.” ThoughtWorks’ commitment to its employees’ long-term success at the company has led to better retention – especially for women. The retention rate of women who attended TWU in 2012 was 7 percent higher than those who did not attend.
Additionally, women are filling more technical roles at ThoughtWorks. During the first five years of the program, most participants came from Western countries and the group was 35-40 percent women. In the last five years, participation expanded to developing countries, and female attendance increased to 50 percent.
Today, one-third of ThoughtWorks’ North American technical staff is women, nearly twice the percentage of five years ago. This trend is evidence of ThoughtWorks’ larger commitment to increasing female representation – the company has a target of 50 percent of entry-level women technologists.
Year after year, TWU has proven to be highly effective in helping new employees succeed. New hires who participate in the program advance at the same rate as more experienced employees. TWU graduates have gone on to run product groups, open new global offices and become leaders throughout the organization.