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Mariel Reyes

Mariel Reyes

Dama Reprograma

Mariel Reyes ’02 is working to close the gender gap in Brazil's fast-growing tech sector by teaching unemployed women to code.

Mariel Reyes ’02 is working to close the gender gap in Brazil’s fast-growing tech sector by teaching unemployed women to code.

In 2016, Mariel Reyes ’02 started a nonprofit with the express goal of eventually closing it. “For me, the goal is for us to not have to exist,” Reyes said with mixture of exasperation and mirth during a Skype call from her home in Brazil. Along with two co-founders, Reyes founded {reprograma}, a boot camp that teaches unemployed women in and around São Paulo how to write code for computers. 

Reprograma students visiting Brazil Facebook offices

{reprograma} students visiting Facebook offices in Brazil

“They say the future is being written in lines of code, I do not want to live in a world where 50 percent of the population is not part of the equation in creating solutions for the world,” Reyes said of her decision to create a coding course despite not knowing when to use curly brackets and when to use angle brackets. So after majoring in economics at Santa Clara then working in international finance at World Bank for eight years in her native Peru and then São Paulo, Brazil’s financial epicenter, she quit to do something with a more immediate, direct impact.

Reyes began researching, finding that of Brazil’s robust tech sector—about 246,000 engineers—just 17 percent are women. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2017, women are 31 percent less likely to have the same job opportunities as men.

“Four out of 10 startups don’t even have one woman on staff,” she said.

After leaving World Bank and “drinking more coffee in six months than the rest of my life,” Reyes began meeting with start-ups and more established tech companies to get a sense of the challenges they faced recruiting diverse talent. As of 2018, 15 major players in Brazil’s tech sector including IBM and Microsoft have signed on as backers. Facebook also provided a grant to house the {reprograma} team of volunteers at their new hackerspace in São Paulo.

She also learned a bit of code herself, including when to use the curly brackets. “I thought it was important to have some understanding of what you’re teaching,” she said with a laugh.

Aligning an Algorithm 

The current cohort of {reprograma}

Current cohort of {reprograma} students

And the program has been successful. So far, {reprograma} has graduated 160 women with a cohesion rate of 95 percent, so very few drop out. Out of the last cohort, 85 percent have found jobs—making an average of $750 a month in U.S. dollars, which is a decent salary in Brazil.

Janiarli Alexandre, 24, graduated from {reprograma} in 2017 and has since become an instructor there. When she was 15, Alexandre tried to study computer science but felt uncomfortable because she was one of only four girls. At {reprograma}, she said in addition to coding, she learned that women need to unite and create opportunity for each other.

Up next, Reyes is developing a night course for working women and mothers who cannot commit to the 18-week-long bootcamp. She hopes to expand the reach of {reprograma} to include more women of color and trans women.

The world misses out, she said, when women aren’t invited to the table. {Reprograma} is her open invitation.

“I’m pushing hard to bring in all different kinds of backgrounds,” she said. “I think diversity brings diverse solutions to business, social, and environmental problems.”

 

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Mariel Reyes '02 is the co-founder of {reprograma}