The grassroots-led initiative, called FrauenLoop (“women’s loop,” referencing the idea that women are being left out of the loop in the tech world), has been growing steadily ever since its founding in 2016. Stefflbauer serves as the organization’s CEO and has forged relationships with a variety of companies, including GitHub, EcoVadis, and Taxfix, which donate funds and host workshops. FrauenLoop now has a core group of around 30 mentors, and each year some 150 female participants take courses in areas such as full-stack web development, data science, and software test automation. The organization also offers job search support—and advice on navigating and thriving in what Stefflbauer calls the “non-utopian” environment of tech employment.
Women from nearly 40 nationalities have participated in the program. Stefflbauer cites examples of participants who have gone on to find well-paid jobs in the industry, including seven former trainees who joined SAP. On average, she says, of the 50 women each year who complete the organization’s extended 12-month program, 10 to 15 get hired into full-time roles. “Keeping track of women after the training is key for me,” she says.
FrauenLoop’s numbers might seem small compared with the scale of Berlin’s tech diversity challenges. But Sarah Chander, a senior policy advisor at the Brussels-based group European Digital Rights, says the organization has been doing valuable work. “FrauenLoop has been one of the few tech inclusion initiatives centering racialized and marginalized women,” she says. “This has been vital in a world in which tech companies have systematically excluded and even harmed women of color.” Chander says she expects the influence of FrauenLoop to extend more widely in Europe.
Stefflbauer does work for the German Startups Association and is working on a book featuring the first-person accounts of Black women in prominent positions in international tech industries. This is all part of her wider goal to push for change. “As globally important and impactful as the sector is,” she says, “it should be a place for all of us to see ourselves reflected, accepted, and our aspirations met.”
Gouri Sharma is a freelance journalist and writer based in Berlin.