Women in IT

T-Mobile’s returnship program aims to get women back into tech

A text message prompted T-Mobile to launch a returnship program designed to foster gender diversity by retraining women trying to get back into IT after taking time off.

Women make up 47 percent of all employed adults in the U.S., yet as of 2015 they held only 25 percent of computing roles, according to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Representation for BIPOC women is even worse, with Asian women representing just 5 percent of the tech workforce while Black and Hispanic women account for 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Nearly half of women (48%) cited “gender discrimination in recruitment” as one of the major reasons why there aren’t more women in STEM, compared to only 29 percent of men, according to a 2018 gender diversity study from Pew Research. Many women who have left tech jobs, either due to gender discrimination they experienced in the workplace or to care for children or family members, face obstacles getting back into the workforce due to bias over gaps on their resumes. To drive greater diversity in their workforces, and to make the most of this market of skilled IT workers who are often overlooked, some companies are embracing “returnships” — internships for experienced workers who want to make a career change or get back into an industry they left, leaving gaps on their resume.

T-Mobile is one such company offering a returnship program aimed at helping qualified women get back into tech by training them up on the latest skills and offering them valuable hands-on experience for a variety of IT jobs — and it all started with a text message.

Launching the returnship

T-Mobile has more than 52 nationwide inclusion and diversity chapters, and in 2019 participation in those programs rose to 44 percent, up from 11 percent three years prior. One such group, T-Mobile’s Women’s Leadership Network, includes a sub-group called the Women Technology Team, consisting of around five women engineers. After attending a session about returnships at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, two engineers from that sub-group sent a text message to Brian King, COO of the technology group at T-Mobile, with information about the concept, which ultimately sparked the entire program.

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