When Pilar Figueroa graduated from college With a degree in international business from Mexico City, she struggled to find a stable and satisfying job. Her work at the government office and bank did not go well for her, so she ended up working at a convenience store. Then she found her Laboratoria, an educational nonprofit that trains Latin American women for tech jobs. “I never had any hope of making it in the tech world, but in the end it turned out to be my true passion,” says data from the now Atlanta-based firm. says Figueroa, an analytics-focused product manager.
Figueroa is one of more than 3,000 women who have graduated from laboratories that have been trying to bridge the gender gap in tech professionals in Latin America since 2014. Mariana Costa Checa ’13SIPA, who co-founded the organization with Rodolfo Prieto ’13SIPA and Gabriela Rocha, said, “Women are overrepresented in low-skilled jobs, underrepresented in high-skilled jobs, and perpetuated with persistent stereotypes. We are being left out of great opportunities because of this.” 13SIPA. “We serve women who have been denied access to a quality education or who are otherwise unable to reach their full potential and talents.”
Headquartered in Lima, Peru, with additional operations in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, Laboratoria focuses on a six-month “boot camp” that includes web development and user experience (UX) design tracks. and support students. With job placement. “We have students everywhere, from the Andes to northern Mexico,” says Costa, his CEO from Lima. “We also have displaced students from Venezuela who can find new paths in new countries.”
Costa, Prieto and Rocha met as graduate students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of International and Public Affairs. “We all came to Colombia looking for a problem to solve,” says Prieto, Laboratoria’s chief product officer from Venezuela. After graduating, Costa and Prieto briefly ran a digital services agency in Lima, but found it difficult to recruit female technical staff. “As the team grew, we lacked gender diversity,” says Prieto. “We’ve also noticed that the best people acquire their skills in non-traditional ways, like coding bootcamps.”
To create a unique pipeline for female tech workers, Costa and Prieto founded a laboratory with Rocha, now the organization’s chief operating officer and working in Mexico City. Boot Camp Originally launched as an in-person program in Lima with 15 students, it now offers full remote learning and graduates approximately 700 students from across Latin America each year. Tuition is $3,800 for him, but students don’t have to start paying until they graduate and find their first tech job.
In addition to teaching coding and design, Laboratoria’s boot camp is set up to instill greater confidence, a strong work ethic, and the ability to collaborate. “His technical skills were very good, but his skills in the software we developed were also top-notch,” says Figueroa. “Laboratoria helped me find my purpose and gave me the ‘punch’ I needed to trust myself. It also taught me how to show my talents even if I was a beginner. “
Laboratoria is currently raising funds to expand its services while maintaining affordability, with the goal of graduating 1,500 women annually by 2025. The founders plan to expand into other countries and introduce tracks beyond web development and UX design. The nonprofit recently launched a pilot program called Laboratoria+. It invites hands-on professionals to part-time classes and networks. “We want to foster a lifelong learning mindset,” says Prieto.
As more techies graduate from bootcamps and find jobs, Laboratoria notes that companies are beginning to adjust their expectations around hiring, and that the best candidates for jobs aren’t necessarily those with the flashiest resumes. “Companies are accustomed to recruiting in the same way, often relying on referrals from within their networks, making it difficult to professionally move people outside of such circles.” It’s happening,” says Rocha. “A lot of talent is wasted when qualifications are judged solely on background, colleges, and acquaintances.”