Technology training for women gets a boost

With a funding boost from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, an Ottawa-based technology development centre will provide IT training for women with low incomes.

Rainbow Skills Development Centre recently received a cheque for $126,657 from the Ontario Women’s Directorate through Ontario’s Information Technology Training for Women (ITTW) program – a division of the Ministry of Citizenship that provides action on issues of concern to women. Among other things the program provides women with training to start careers in IT.

The funding is specifically targeted at women who – among other criteria – are unemployed, underemployed, immigrant women who need Canadian experience in IT, or disabled.

“[This program] is a way to equal the playing ground and to put more women into the high technology industry,” said Harriet Amani, executive director of Rainbow Skills Development Centre in Ottawa. “Traditionally there has been a lot of men in IT and the Ministry [of Citizenship] is trying to get women into this area as well.”

Amani, who has been affiliated with the non-profit centre, and has been helping to train women in technology since the mid-90s, says the initiative is also about ensuring women are more qualified for the high paying positions in IT.

Many of the women enrolled in the courses already have previous IT experience, have degrees or specific computer training from other countries already under their belts.

“A lot of these women are single parents and new Canadians. Many have outdated training already related to IT, but they need to update their skills especially as it relates to programming,” Amani said.

In many cases, those women require training courses to not only upgrade their skills – which in the IT industry can be quickly outdated – but they may also require in-class training, mentorship and/or work placements in order to get their foot in the door of an IT company, Amani said.

Amani also said that having more women visible in the IT sector might encourage other women to follow suit.

The 40-week program includes classes such as Web enterprise development and database and network administration. Once completed, many of the women, aged anywhere from 23 to 55, can be qualified to be Web administrators, and other managerial positions at IT companies.

With the new funding, the women who qualify for the courses can receive full tuition for a year.

Rainbow Skills is one of four pilot programs funded through the Ontario Women’s Directorate. The other programs include Waterloo,Ont.-based Conestoga College, Dixon Hall in Toronto and the Community MicroSkills Development Centre in Toronto.

While all the placements are full this year at Rainbow Skills, a representative from the Ministry of Citizenship said the Ontario government is committed to the program, and to ensuring that women’s economic independence, training in skilled trades and programs continue to help women facing labour-market barriers.

The Rainbow Skills Development Centre is online at

For more information about the Ontario Women’s Directorate visit