Girls in tech – imagiLabs eliminating barriers

Swedish start-up imagiLabs is on a mission to close the gender gap in tech by encouraging girls to take an interest at an early age. Recognising that is not just important to pique their interest but to support their interest despite the barriers young girls experience throughout adolescence, the team of female founders are taking a dynamic approach to the age-old issue.

“There’s this concept called ‘delivery systems’, where the whole idea is, just because a solution exists the product doesn’t solve problems, it has to be delivered to your beneficiaries in a way that is actually encouraging for them to be used or not stigmatised,” says Dora Palfi co-founder and CEO of imagiLabs.

“In Melinda Gates book The Moment of Lift she talks a lot about this, how just because there are contraceptives in the world, if it’s not delivered in a way where it’s not stigmatised against, in developing countries, then it’s not going to be used. Similarly, with coding, sure there are so many products that could be teaching coding, but the delivery and the brand, and the marketing around this is just as important as the solution itself.”

“Not underestimating the value of services like the brand and the communication is something that we think is really important,” she adds.

imagilabs co-founders Dora Palfi, Paula Doza and Beatrice Ionascu have developed their products to encourage girls from a young age to get involved in coding. In fact, it’s not even that girls in their pre-teens necessarily need the tools to code it’s more that they need an activity they can do with their peers.

Once the interest is piqued it’s the follow through and Palfi believes that using decent ‘delivery systems’ should help to keep young girls interested in tech despite all the barriers trying to limit their access.

“First of all, I think there is biases in society in general where we think girls are not interested in tech, but I think there is also a lack of encouragement that goes into girls so they themselves think they are not interested.”

girls in tech
Courtesy of imagiLabs app

“There is not only a lack of role models but peer models, because if you don’t feel like your friends are doing it then you are also not interested in it.”

Through their imagiCharm product, which is a smart accessory which you can program to look different every day via the imagiLabs app, this gives young girls the opportunity to explore their tech side while expressing their style, design, and imagination with their peers.

The charm is just the beginning of the journey for imagiLabs and Palfi is keen for it to be the beginning of their personal journey with the young girls too. Palfi wants to build a long-term engagement in the education and nurturing of tech skills in young women.

“It’s important that we support interests of growth, but we also want to provide the skills and the confidence to not just get an interest in coding, but actually have a long-term engagement with this field. We see ourselves bridging the gap from when you take your first steps into coding, all the way on to girls being ready to take their first apprenticeship, internship or university studies,” says Palfi.

“We are beginning to develop an entire cycle from when a girl is nine or ten, all the way to eighteen and that means that we will be creating more products and more content so we can really grow with our users and help funnel the talent into higher education and the tech industry, essentially,” she explains.

Goals for the start-up are to reach a million girls in the coming years but there is one particular long-term dream Palfi hopes will become a reality for her company.

“In the long run, what we want to see is how the positive reinforcement can have a ripple effect and really change the industry so, we semi joke but are actually serious, in ten years we want to be able to start investing in the tech companies that will be founded by the girls to first learn to code on our platform,” Palfi adds.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.