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Re:Coded - Women Tech Idols

The Women Tech Idols competition was an advocacy campaign designed to empower women in tech in Iraq/KRI and identify key industry role models to inspire the next generation. 

Submitted on 1 August 2023

Case Author

Adrie Smith, Lars Højholt


Key takeaways

  • There were far more nominations than we thought we'd get initially, which shows that not only are there many women working in tech who are building more public profiles, but that there's a real appetite to highlight and support their work.
  • Campaigns that highlight individuals do well in terms of reach, since people like to support one another and will organically share the message.

Key issues

  • Issuing prizes for the top 5 Women Tech Idols was challenging considering many local services (Amazon equivalent) only accepted local payment methods. 
  • Setting up influencer contracts was a challenge as we had never worked with influencers before and needed to define deliverables and assets.
  • Checking over 1k nominations to ensure eligibility was time consuming.

Case target / aim / intention

The campaign aimed to help break down gender stereotypes in the Iraqi and Kurdish digital economy. It sought to showcase the viability of pursuing a career in tech and to address stigmas and stereotypes related to women working in tech-related jobs.

Case Study

Part One

Initial Situation

In our online advocacy campaign, we aimed to help break down gender stereotypes in the digital economy in Iraq. We believe that such campaigns and events can play an important role in promoting gender equality and addressing gender stereotypes in the tech industry. 

By highlighting the contributions and successes of women in tech and providing them with opportunities to network, learn, and showcase their skills, these events can help to dispel common myths and misconceptions about women's abilities in tech. Additionally, online campaigns can raise awareness about gender disparities in the tech industry and encourage more women to pursue careers in technology. 

Such initiatives can also lead to more inclusive and diverse workplaces, where individuals of all gender identities can succeed and thrive. By breaking down gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality, the tech industry can become more innovative, creative, and better able to serve the needs of a diverse population. However, one advocacy campaign will not be sufficient to break down all barriers; relevant stakeholders and key actors across Iraq need to continue to collaborate to advocate for the better inclusion of women in the labour force. 

This project was funded by GIZ Gender (Iraq) and cost $5,000 USD total. 

Our plan was to run an online competition called Women Tech Idols. Anyone could nominate a woman working in tech in Iraq/KRI to be in the running to become one of the Women Tech Idol winners. The campaign called on local people to recognise women who were serving as role models in their local communities and serving as an inspiration to others.

The nomination period was set to run for two weeks. At the end of this period, a panel of judges (3 women working in tech with an understanding of the Iraq/KRI environment) would select the top 5 nominations based on the number of nominations each individual received and their nomination essays (why people nominated them). Winners would be announced during an awards ceremony at the end of the campaign.

To fully realise this campaign, we successfully pitched it to the GIZ Gender team, who funded the campaign. Once this plan was confirmed, we were able to proceed with execution.

Social media posts made by nominated women and other participants

Part Two

Strategy and implementation

To fully realise this campaign, we had to complete the following steps: 

Content creation: In this phase, we reached out to local content creators to help us create short video content designed to promote the campaign on social media. We also engaged our internal resources to create a landing page and supporting campaign materials (social ads, posts, certificates, reminders, emails). We were able to secure three judges during this phase to participate in the campaign. Judges were shown for all to see on the campaign landing page and all were women working in tech and experienced in the Iraq/KRI tech industry.

Technical set up: In this phase we set up the back-end structure for the campaign to run smoothly via online nominations. We set up a submission form on Typeform for people to submit their nominations. This was connected to an email, which was automatically sent via Mailchimp to the nominees to encourage them to opt in to the campaign. Additionally, we set up the awards ceremony event on Zoom and connected it to the emails so that people could easily register. 

Outreach: Ahead of the campaign launch, we engaged several local influencers to spread the word about the campaign and explain the requirements and goals to their audiences. 

Launch: Once the campaign was launched, via Facebook/Instagram and LinkedIn ads and on the Re:Coded social profiles, we monitored the nominations daily and were responsive to all incoming messages regarding the rules and questions around the campaign. During this phase we also filtered out ineligible nominations. 

Nomination close: Once the nomination period was complete, we closed the Typeform entry form and prepared an overview of all submissions for our judges to review against the Women Tech Idols criteria. The three judges were provided with a list of the nominated women that detailed how many nominations they received and included the nomination essays (reasons why people think they are inspirational/a role model) submitted on their behalf. Judges reviewed this list, made notes and met ahead of the awards ceremony to discuss their top selection of inspirational nominees. Ahead of the event, they agreed on five winners. 

Event date: The event was held to announce the winners of the Women Tech Idols campaign and effectively closed out the campaign. 

There were a few surprises along the way. The first one was that we received so many nominations. We initially thought that people might be hesitant to nominate others within the community for being role models, but this was not the case. We expected 100 nominations and ultimately received over 1,000.

Additionally, we thought that we might have to encourage more people to share that they had been nominated or that they had nominated someone, but it seemed many did this naturally, which expanded the reach of our campaign. 

Ultimately, disbursing the prizes was a challenge. Our original plan was to offer local gift certificates with Miswag, a local e-commerce service. However, this was not possible to do on a non-Iraqi phone (you need a phone number to confirm an account) and we had to opt for a cash prize given via Western Union pick up.

Part Three

Outcome and reflection

Our overarching goal was the # of role model nominations received for the Women Tech Idol awards. We received 1,039 individual nominations, although we expected 100. 

Our second goal was to have 100,000 people see the campaign online and 5,000 to actively engage with the campaign. 10,039,246 people saw the campaign online (impressions) and 490,615 people engaged with it (engagements). 

Of the total of 10,039,246 impressions, 94% were from paid channels, with the highest performing channel being Facebook. Organic impressions consisted of 6% of the total impressions and the top performing channel was Facebook. The dominance of paid performance on impressions is not surprising as the content was suitable for a large online audience (women in Iraq aged 18–34). 

Of the total engagements, 77% were from paid channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn advertising) and 23% from organic channels. We attributed the success of organic channels here to the "viral" nature of nominating friends/colleagues. Again, Facebook was the top performing channel in both the paid and organic categories. 

Throughout this campaign period, we spent an estimate of $2,300 USD on online advertising, targeted to people aged 18–35 in Iraq/KRI. An overview of our reporting, covering promotion throughout the campaign (Nov 30–December 21):

An overview of your reporting covering promotion throughout the campaign

Author's notes