Dr. Julia Freudenberg (she/her)

It is the task of our society to prepare the new generation for a self-determined life in a changing digital society.
Last year you received the German Diversity Award in the Generation category, among others. What does diversity mean to you in the context of your work?

We were very pleased to receive the award, because it confirms our work to make the IT world more permeable for future generations, to enable access for all and to break down prejudices. Diversity is something that we at Hacker School always think about as a matter of course and also live within our team. In Germany, too few girls still choose IT professions, even though they have the skills. They miss out on the opportunity to work in a promising and well-paid industry and to help advance equality in Germany. For our work, this means that we also want to motivate girls in particular to imagine a future in the professional field of IT. A wonderful example of success in our work is Kathleen, who took a Python course at Hacker School in 2019 with no prior knowledge, is now studying computer science, and even teaches courses with us as an Inspires.

We need fair algorithms and a critical look from all sides at what we are offered and want to offer in our world. Our society is increasingly recognizing the need for diversity. And I strongly believe that more women in IT will lead to equality in action. We now also go directly to schools online with Hacker School @yourschool to reach girls directly in particular. This is another way we have increased the percentage of girls and women in our courses to almost 50%. And the figures in our latest impact report show: 94% of participants are convinced after a Yourschool course that girls are just as suitable for IT professions as boys.

If you could change one thing in Germany right now, what would it be?

I would make corporate volunteering mandatory in all apprenticeships – there’s such an incredible opportunity here for apprentices to get other young people excited about the professions they’ve chosen for themselves. Outside of my Hacker School world, I would reduce bureaucracy in Germany to an absolute minimum. What we could achieve with simpler processes, what we could invest in terms of time and money in projects for those people who need support the most, also especially in terms of diversity and equal opportunities, that has so much potential.

With the GIRLS Hacker School, you even have a special offer just for girls and women aged 11-99. Why do you need this to get girls and women interested in programming?

In a protected space, it’s often easier for this target group to try things out and develop creatively. Many girls still tend not to believe that they can learn to program. If a boy then sits next to them, confidently setting the tone with sometimes rudimentary basic knowledge, this is counterproductive. Girls and women communicate and cooperate with each other in a completely different way when they are among themselves. This always leads to amazing results, as we have often experienced. We are also regularly involved in activities with network partners, such as Girls’ Day. Here, too, girls can get a taste of a field of activity among themselves.

What role do your so-called "inspirers" play in the success of your projects? How can they best support you?

The Inspirers are our most valuable asset. They are IT professionals, IT students or IT trainees from the companies who give our courses and ignite the spark of passion in the participants with their enthusiasm for programming and their profession. They teach the basics in the respective programming language, answer all questions and also provide an orientation to the professional opportunities in the IT career field. The hurdle to teach a course at Hacker School is low. We provide ready, tested course concepts and onboarding for open questions. For companies, the cooperation makes sense on various levels: A partnership with the Hacker School fills the “S” of the ESG with content: We are committed to making digital education so inclusive that every young person can program once before choosing a career. Our own corporate volunteering and the perception of corporate social responsibility are strengthened and increase the attractiveness as an employer. Early contact with future interns or trainees also helps to eliminate the bottleneck of qualified employees and to secure the company’s own future viability.

What is the best way to support us? By taking part! Every company that decides to cooperate with the Hacker School is another pacesetter in bringing digital education forward in Germany. Let’s work together to make corporate volunteering mandatory and actively encourage employees to get enthusiastically involved – then it will work.

What have been the biggest project learnings for you in recent years and why?

That we must not leave the schools alone with digital education. It is the task of our society to prepare the new generation for a self-determined life in a changing digital society. Schools can play a key role in this task – but only if they receive broad support. Our everyday lives are changing profoundly and rapidly. Digitization is a fundamental factor in this process, because it affects not only technical progress but also social and cultural areas. Teaching and learning are also changing. Schools throughout Germany are facing these challenges of digital transformation. We see digital education as a task for society as a whole and therefore consciously cooperate with companies, rely on their social commitment and go to schools together with courses so that ultimately, we can really reach all young people.

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