So, this is not a debate about the ratio of women in tech or about how they’re systematically sidelined in the men dominated industry. There are already enough articles and talks on the internet discussing that. This however is about how we can change the narrative. It’s pretty obvious that technology is a driving factor in every major economy across the globe and it will continue to be so for years to come, and we have no idea how long.
Firstly, let’s look at this from a psychological point of view. It’s a known fact that women are seen as lesser being compared to men. Their dominance in any sector is therefore hindered by this perception. While the debate is still on about how to balance the gender gap, this article aims to look at some pain points and propose strategic and logical approach that will facilitate the change we seek.
In Nigeria, a major bottle neck is culture or tradition as some may call it. Either way, there is an age long belief in the inferiority of women in public engagements. They are not given that opportunity to take positions of authority let alone lead a force for change or development. There are been condemned to the kitchen under the guise of holy matrimony. So for a very long time women with a few exceptions grow up to believe that their place in the society belongs in a man’s house.
Global feminist movements have been influential in encouraging many women to embrace tech as a means of livelihood. However, there are still faced with some challenges. For instance, during a conversation with a female friend, she mentioned how difficult it was to keep up with the fast changing technology world, she learnt how to code by herself and sometimes she couldn’t ask for help because she is not allowed to mingle with men. This raises the question as to how best can a woman survive the industry without necessarily having to rely on their male counterparts.
Another issue is domestic challenges and peer pressure. Not until recently, tech wasn’t regarded as a sustainable means of livelihood. The advent of tech giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft coupled with successful stories of their founders have paved a way for a new breed of technology entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, women encounter a more difficult choice of starting careers because of strong resistance and peer pressure in the modern Nigerian society. “They asked me, why don’t you study medicine or pharmacy or learn fashion design if you want to add a new skill?”says another female colleague when she narrated how she was faced with resistance immediately after she decided to become a software developer.
Time is also a key challenge under this issue. The average Nigerian female if not married doubles as both the house help and the cook of her family. They often take over these responsibilities as soon as they’ve reached certain age mostly between twelve and eighteen. This means she prepares food, do house chores, go to school, come back home to study, attend public functions and probably look after some members of the family. Now in between all these, there is a girl who wants to learn a tech skill because she is passionate about it, she has to look up for tutorials online, attend physical meetups and sometimes go a long distance in order to achieve this. We haven’t talked about how she funds her transportation, purchase learning materials or convinced her dad that she needs a better laptop with higher specifications among other things.
As a community builder, I have a firsthand knowledge of the challenges of women in tech and I have personally assisted in bridging the gap in my own little way. Some of the ideas I propose may not be applicable in certain instances but believe me they are better than nothing. One of the best ways to ensure and encourage women in tech is to build a community of women for women. The idea of successful and professional women helping younger or inexperienced women to succeed in tech is a proven method for fast tracking the needed change in the industry.
As a naturally intelligent gender, women tend to exhibit brilliant traits in fields that are quite volatile and hard to grasp for men. This prompts the need for more active roles for women in community leadership. It’s natural to get inspired by people who you look up to and seek to be like them or even better. They must also accept the fact that men are the dominant force right now, but it shouldn’t hinder them from having professional relationships, that will help them acquire the required skills and knowledge to be independent.
Lack of female role models especially in our part of the world has added to the gap. So we need the few women in tech, talking about the CEO’s, the Co-founders of tech companies and even women striving at individual level to act as role models. They need to speak out, and share their inspiring stories to younger women. This will help alleviate the superstitions surrounding the industry and show the society more insight about the countless opportunities in the tech field and through these we can have a generation of engaged females ready to take on tech as a career.
Awareness, there is no such thing as too much awareness or publicity when it comes to educating the society about the importance and benefit of having women participate in tech. Some of our people (parents and guardians mostly) are so immersed in the past that they don’t see how women can benefit from technology especially as a means of livelihood. There is a huge task of redefining this mindset, after all tech is not about muscles but intellect and creativity.
The role of women in tech, their challenges, contribution and potential is an enormous issue; it can’t be summed up in a single article. Although I have read a number of interesting piece on this topic, I believe we need more input on how to overcome the present constraints in order to have a more balanced and competitive atmosphere for all tech enthusiast regardless of gender.