Marina Andrieu and Marie-Adelaide Leclercq-Olhagaray, founders of WIDE; Credit: Kaori Anne Jolliffe / Silicon Luxembourg

Luxembourg (former) non-profit organisation Women in Digital Empowerment (WIDE) has become a societal impact company (société d'impact sociétal - SIS).

As reported in Silicon Luxembourg, the COVID-19 pandemic was an opportunity for this Luxembourg technology training platform to rethink its focus. Managing director Marina Andrieu explained why the non-profit went from supporting girls and women in tech to focusing on digital skills for women and men, gender equality and entrepreneurship as a SIS.

In 2013, two like-minded women, Marina Andrieu and Marie-Adelaide Leclercq-Olhagaray, noticed a lack of female representation in the Luxembourg tech scene. In an effort to boost diversity, they started organising free coding workshops and events on a voluntary basis.

"We wanted to see more women in the startup space in Luxembourg. We do have a few good cases, but not many and if you follow the news, there's only one woman-led startup raising funds per year", Marina Andrieu told Silicon Luxembourg.

The two women established WIDE asbl and four years after their first events, they professionalised their work and hired staff.

However, this was not enough. "Statistics show that the number of girls choosing technology studies over the past ten years has not changed", lamented Ms Andrieu, adding: "We spoke to teenagers and realised that a lot of girls are interested in technology subjects. A typical example is a good science student but when she goes to university, she studies medicine".

Having begun with adults and teenagers, WIDE needed to focus its efforts on encouraging girls to explore technology at a younger age.

The pandemic put a halt to events and accelerated the need to find a new model that would broaden WIDE's reach and have a direct impact on individuals. The answer the team settled on was to create a SIS. Launched in spring 2022, Marina Andrieu explained that as a SIS, WIDE can now offer services, something that was not previously possible as an asbl. It means they can respond to employer demand for training in digital skills.

A second branch is gender equality training for employers and individuals and the third is entrepreneurship.

"We want to work with a few entrepreneurs to give them individual support because we've organised events, which inspire people to start their own business", the managing director said.

The structural change is expected to have a strong impact on the funding model of the organisation. Previously, it focused on offering free subsidised or very low-cost events. In future, it will be financed in a hybrid manner through external funding and revenues raised from the new services.

In the coming weeks, WIDE will release its new catalogue of activities as a SIS. New features include a full week of coding in HTML, CSS and JavaScript in partnership with the House of Training. Sessions will be open to men and women and will be offered on a more regular basis. Some targeted programmes, such as children's coding, will remain free.