Women in Tech
Women in Tech Africa Diaspora Launch in London with Rita Usaga,Ethel Cofie,Josiah Eyison and Rashada Harry
Women in Tech Africa are excited to announce that 2019 has started on a ‘winning’ note.
Women in Tech Africa has been nominated for the WSIS Prizes 2019 –the category (Action Line) C6.
We encourage you to show your support for the vision by voting for WOMEN IN TECH AFRICA in the category (Action Line) C6.
Deadline for votes is 10th of February and is open to the public so everyone can vote.
The first day of Women in Tech Week was exciting . Some highlights from Ghana(Kumasi), Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Germany and Mauritius
We were honoured to have a tweet chat with Salome Gathoni on Digital Africa and the way forward for Africa. She shared insightful tips on areas governments are to focus
on to get Africa where it ought to be in terms of technology. Salome also shared tips on how to cope as a female in a male-dominated field such as technology. Check our twitter page for the full conversation.
Mauritius, Zambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Nigeria saw the launch of Women in Tech Week 2018 as they celebrated Digital Africa Day.
In our #Uganda #womenintechweek . our Speaker Astrid Haas spoke on Economics of Mobile Money . But more importantly like a boss she had a baby on her hip and technical knowledge on her lips . We salute her #womenintech #leadership #technology #motherhood
Women in Tech Week officially commences today, the 18th of September to 22nd September 2018, running in
16 countries with over 50 events and a great selection of speakers.
Day 1 , Tuesday 18th September – Digital Day
9:00 am – 1:45 pmDigital Africa Day- Zambia, View Event Venue , Zambia,University of Zambia- Library Basement, Lusaka ZambiaNigeria
10:00 am – 1:00 pm Digital Africa Day – Port Harcourt, View Event ,Venue Nigeria,Tiva Creatives Office, Port Harcourt RiversSierra Leone
10:00 am – 12:00 pm Digital Africa Day- Sierra Leone, View Event , Venue: Sierra Leone,10:00AM, Freetown Sierra Leone
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Digital Africa Day -Kenya Chapter- Live Tweet Chat-18th Sep 2018, View Event
4:00 pm – 7:45 pm Digital Africa Day- Imo State, View Event
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm Digital Africa Day – Lagos, View Event Venue Nigeria,NG_Hub by Facebook, Yaba Lagos
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm Digital Africa Day, Uganda, View Event Venue ,Uganda,Roundbob Offices, Kampala
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Digital Africa Day – Tanzania, View Event
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm Digital Africa Day – Germany, View Event
A Woman’s Worth – DigitalAgeConversations by Edith Utete ( Zimbabwe Chapter Lead WITA)
“Please also pay special attention to women. Women care for the other people much more than men. Men care for themselves. Women are going to be very powerful in the 21st century because last century people compared muscle; this century people compare wisdom. Hire as many women as possible – this is what we did and this is the secret sauce.”
- Jack Ma on one of Alibaba’s successes
Lately, if you are like me (fixated with all things tech) you will find that there has been a lot of talk about the role and participation of women in the tech space, at tech conferences – in the audience and on the panels, in the workplace and at school and in all things STEM related. You would have also probably heard responses to calls for equal opportunities for women being met with responses like, “What’s stopping them?”, “Who’s stopping them?” and “There is a discrepancy?” While I have a lot of personal and intense opinions about the matter and such responses, I will start by being as level headed as I can be, under the circumstances, and do what I consider to be the most rational thing, which is to share some interesting information that I have come across.
Contrary to the comments that there is no discrepancy in terms of gender balances in tech, research continues to show that there is apparent lack of gender diversity. In the US women hold 25 per cent of jobs in tech and only 14 per cent are in architecture and engineering roles while the ratio is even smaller in leadership positions and innovative roles. The percentage of women in Computing occupations has significantly declined since 1991. Some of the reasons for the exodus of women in tech according to a 2016 survey, included nature of the workplace as a central factor, poor prospects of development and advancement, inadequate support, exclusion from innovative roles, unequal pay and benefits (or distorted benefits in favour of male counterparts or subordinates – true story, I had this experience once upon a time) and lack of flexibility to help them balance work and personal responsibilities.
Why does diversity matter? Besides the clear example given of a successful company, Alibaba, in my prelude, research has shown that balanced teams are more innovative and efficient. There is improved and diverse creativity, problem-solving and productivity and companies are provided with larger talent pools. Another bonus of having a diverse gender balance is that companies are able to attract and retain female clients by providing solutions to female pain points.
Now! Now that we have got that out of the way and just in case we still have someone asking the questions that gave me an itch in unreachable places I will now turn to another matter…. that of the girls or women who ARE actually in the tech space in one way or the other. I have had the opportunity and privilege of meeting and inquiring about the whys, whens and hows with quite a number of these amazing and brilliant women but some issues that they brought up made me realise why so many younger women and girls would be discouraged or afraid of entering the tech industry.
For starters in my world, and I have picked up that this is the case in most parts of the world, being techie (or a tech geek/genius) requires you to be super intelligent and unfortunately most girls do not feel or are made to believe that they do not fit that description. We have been boxing potential and ability based on gender so much that STEM subjects are generally perceived and accepted to be the male only domain. So! When, in those rare moments, a girl ventures into the unknown territory of super intelligent beings the first instinct is to become one of the boys. Why? So that she can be accepted, respected and in order to squarely fit in. Suddenly, a woman feels or is made to feel that she has to lose her “femininity”. I can definitely relate to this having been in male dominated environments in many seasons of my life – from growing up in a pre-dominantly male environment, to having very strongly influential men in the form of father, uncles, brothers, friends and peers that I adored and looked up to, to working in male dominated industries where women were usually very few at the boardroom table or in management positions. I remember putting away my makeup, precious heels, brightly coloured clothes and sweet smelling perfume all in a bid to fit in and to be taken seriously. This was after MANY reminders from friends, family and colleagues that I had to tone it down otherwise I would never be taken seriously, valued or considered the formidable team player that I believed myself to be. Sadly, this shift neither made me liked, respected nor valued to the extent that I envisaged and to many I remained the young girl who thinks too highly of herself.
I have also heard how being a “cool girl” in the tech world requires that you be able to keep up with the team (aka the boys). One interesting observation that I picked up from Sarah Stockdale in “The myth of the ‘cool tech girl’ And why she’s dangerous”, is that, “The cool girl in tech plays ping pong, drinks beer at work, is “one of the guys”, participates in inappropriate slack .gif threads, says things like “she’s overreacting”, “I don’t consider myself a feminist, I just work hard”, “I’ve never experienced discrimination at work”. The cool girl doesn’t call out sexist remarks, she laughs at your “jokes”, she defends you to other women, and helps silence them. The cool girl is ‘one of the boys’.”
Unfortunately, as Sarah points out, the “cool tech girl” is a myth and a mere coping mechanism, not a real person. She is the product of environments which do not feel safe for women, which force women “to cope by reflecting the patriarchal norms that oppress them – like a warped funhouse mirror.” It has been said that, “If you don’t feel safe to be yourself, you’ll find someone safe to be.” When I have used this phrase some have responded by saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” So sadly, most sisters are faced with only two options, to fit in or to head out! And the sadder consequence of their actions is that future female contributors to this amazing industry end up feeling intimidated and opt to keep out of the “kitchen” from the onset.
I have countless examples that make women feel unsafe in the tech space – from the Uber board member who made sexist comments about women on boards to the local cases that I have encountered in the practice of the law and as a female STEM mentor, of sexual harassment and inappropriate remarks on social media or in the workplace. Fortunately, instead of merely whining about these issues, I have also managed to pick up some possible solutions to them:
- Mentoring of young (and even older) women in tech
The call that has often been made in most cases have been for more female mentors to avail themselves to younger women by sharing experiences (successes and failures, wins and errors), BEING VISIBLE (so that other women and girls can SEE that they will not be alone), and raising their voices to encourage younger generations to join them as well as male counterparts to accept them as they are.
Sarah Stockdale proposes that women in tech; “Be a role model of how you can lead a successful career while supporting women… Challenge the people around you to get better and do better… The more women feel empowered and supported, the less we’ll need this harmful persona.”
As part of the Xennials generation (those people who came into the tech boom in our 20s and had a childhood free of social media) I also feel that while we can be mentors we are also in need of mentoring even by the younger generations, the Millenials (those who were born into and live and breathe tech). All generations have something of value to share so we need to explore how best we can combine our “super powers” for the greater good.
- Dealing with Sexual Harassment cases head on
It always breaks my heart when I come across numerous cases of sexual harassment where, instead of getting assistance, the “victim” ends up feeling like they should have kept their grievance to themselves because reporting such cases often leads to intimidation and further victimisation. Sometimes it is subtle such as being subjected to unfavourable working conditions or more obvious ways such as non renewal of work contracts or transfers to less favourable environments. What we can do in these cases is to take ALL reported (and non-formally reported) cases of sexual harassment seriously and to deal professionally and timeously with them.
Sarah suggests that we, “Challenge corporate norms and values that can lead to sexist nonsense. If one of your corporate values is “aggressiveness”, start there.” A contributor named Stormy also added that it is important to back up the people who do speak up when there are inappropriate ‘casual’ jokes or comments. And that it can be done privately if publicity is not your thing. Women should not be made to feel like they are ‘uptight’, ‘emotional’, ‘overly sensitive’ and cannot handle a ‘joke’. The ones who speak up should also not be labelled ‘scary’, ‘difficult’, ‘annoying’ and ‘over reactionary’.
In addition, Rui Mai points out that, “… to avoid any sort of confrontation or conversation about it because to say anything is just automatically equated to complaining and weakness. When it’s precisely the opposite. It takes courage to speak up. Strong girls speak up. Cool girls speak up.”
- Addressing the “Bro-culture”
Sarah states that, “If your company doesn’t perpetuate the kind of culture that makes women feel like they need to be ‘one of the boys’, they won’t need the coping mechanism of the ‘cool tech girl’.” Some companies invariably prefer to hire someone that they can easily relate to or someone that they can ‘have a beer with’. This immediately discards women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, breastfeeding, of a particular religious or health standing and anyone who personally is neither a socialite nor a beer or alcohol drinker. Mothers, religious staunches and recovering alcoholics become the wrong fit in the ‘bro-culture’ environment according to Ryan Mitchell’s analysis.
On the other hand, Nikki J. North makes a valid point in that what we should focus on is not enabling sexism. The so called ‘bro-culture’ may just be what some females are comfortable with and appreciate because… after all we are all INDIVIDUALS. My thoughts on this are that while it is obviously impossible if not absolutely ridiculous to expect a culture or environment that suits everyone comfortably, from where I’m standing, when at work we should all be valued for our different contributions no matter what shape and form they take as long as our performance ultimately promotes the company’s standing in the marketplace despite our personal tastes and preferences. To be made to feel less valuable or an improper fit because of one’s beliefs, preferences, age or sex is an absolute No! No! And any practices that do not promote retention or attraction of women into their industry of choice should be re-evaluated with a progressive mindset. A possible solution would be to make an attempt to accommodate everyone (based on skill, competency, merit) without being too one sided towards one particular sex.
- Promote development across the board
There will be need to build programs to train and grow female associates that leverage their technical and innovative skill sets. Women and men need equal opportunities to grow and thrive.
- Re-assess job roles
In my experience as a labour lawyer and consultant one of the reasons that cause women to leave seemingly promising careers is that women are consciously or sub-consciously assigned projects that are execution oriented as opposed to creative and innovative roles. Even where women are in leadership or strategic roles their input is not given the same weight at the table in contributing to the strategic development of key products and business goals. It would be helpful to assign projects without employing any gender or age biases and assessments can be made thereafter.
- Recognize and acknowledge
The contributions of both men and women should receive the same weight and be recognized and highlighted in the same measure.
- Recruitment and hiring practices free from prejudice
I suppose it goes without saying that in today’s enlightened and advanced world job postings and hiring practices should have gender neutral approaches and descriptions and yet I have experienced and so have some of my peers and clients, the clear prejudice in recruitment by some companies based on gender and the perceived limitations that come with being female. I specifically remember when I was younger being asked at the third interview in one company how many children I had, if I had reliable child care, if I planned on having more children in the near future and a whole host of other inappropriate and irrelevant questions which were designed to ascertain my ‘suitability’ for that particular environment. Having a mixed gender interview panel or team is also recommended.
- Retention and advancement
It has been recommended that evaluation of performance be done on an equal and objective basis not based on personality or gender. There should be “constructive feedback and clear yet challenging goals to maximize associate development.” (Insights provided by Jodi Goglin in an article titled: “Women Are Opting Out of IT, Here’s How to Bring Them Back”).
In conclusion, I would like to point out that while women opt into or out of tech jobs for different and unique reasons, and that while pursuing a tech career can largely be considered an option, the reality is not as simple as it may seem. We still have, in local and global cases, women and girls who are not privileged to have the options, who are discouraged by different factors from pursuing their passions, who feel unworthy or incapable of competing in that space, who lack self confidence or information, who do not have visible role models or mentors, who are not given fair and equal opportunities from the word go, who are subjected to unfavourable or sexist cultures and environments, who are not recognized or valued for their contributions and who are given less creative, innovative and “worthy” roles. There is still need to take a bit more interest in the issues raised as opposed to the dismissive and demeaning undertones that usually accompany the discussions on a “Woman’s Worth” in the workplace. These mindset and attitude shifts will certainly assist companies to succeed and reach a wider market for the greater good.
The Growth of Mobile Money in Malawi
Mobile money is the currency stored in one’s mobile phone. Typically, a customer would bring money to a local agent who would deposit the money into the customer’s mobile phone in the form of mobile money. These agents are also able to withdraw money from a customer’s phone and provide cash. The agents often are local shopkeepers or just phone credit vendors who are trained by the mobile company providing the services.
Over the past 4 years, Malawi, a country where an overwhelming majority of the population lives in the rural areas has enjoyed and experienced the benefits of the Mobile Money services. This is so because 55% of Malawians do not have access to any form of financial institution and only 19% of the total population have formal bank accounts. Since bank accounts are so scarce, mobile money offers an accessible alternative for safely depositing, withdrawing, transferring and even saving money. Apart from bank accounts being scarce, most of the local people especially those who do not have a very good education background find it very difficult to open a formal bank account because of the requirements and language barriers since most of the banks use English for their various processes.
Mobile money has made it so easy for such locals to have a less involving alternative to these formal banks by having less requirements to attain the service and using local agents who easily explain the whole procedure to those who would want to use mobile money. Not only this but also the companies providing the mobile money service usually have Mobile Money Accelerator programs which raise awareness and the importance of using Mobile money services. These usually take place in the rural areas where one would not find a bank. So far in Malawi office projects for these programmes have been established in the rural parts of Mchinji and Lilongwe in the central region, Rumphi in the northern side and Blantyre in the southern part.
Furthermore with Mobile Money, one does not need to have an identity card or any other authentication requirement to have a mobile money account unlike the banks. All these factors put together, have made the mobile money service to be accepted and used by a good number of people in Malawi especially those who run small businesses in rural areas but cannot have access to a formal bank account. People involved in these small businesses who are mostly women are now able to have a safe place where their money can be stored and saved without having to go through a tedious process. Currently, at least 1.5 million Malawians use the Mobile Money service as compared to the 1.2 million people who are using formal banks. This clearly shows that there is a fast adoption and rapid growth of the mobile money service in Malawi.
Even though Mobile Money usage in Malawi is growing and being accepted, there are still some challenges which are hindering its growth. Firstly, there are only two of such services; “Mpamba” (money in the context of capital) provided by Telecom Network Malawi (TNM) and “khusa mmanja” (money in the hands) which is also provided by Airtel Malawi. This increases a lot of down time for the service due to request congestions caused by so many users wanting to access the service at the same time. As a result, some users of the service feel discouraged thinking that it does not really work and as such they end up not wanting to use the service and withdraw their money out of frustration. To solve this, there is the need for the appropriate authorities to encourage more service providers to reduce these congestions and alleviate the frustrations
Secondly, the agent network involved in the mobile money service is very small. Right now, there are only at least 10,000 agents involved in this business. This is because the commission involved is very low and demotivating to other interested would be agents. Hence, to have a great community of agents to spread and bring the gospel of Mobile Money service, there is the need to have a good raise in commissions. Otherwise, it would be difficult for the Mobile Money service to be taken to all parts of Malawi.
Lastly, if mobile money service is to continue growing at a good rate in Malawi then it would be very essential to review and change the pricing, transaction costs and how they are affecting client and agent behaviour. Most especially, attention must be given to the model of charging per transaction as the current status is often a disincentive.
Profile of Writer Bridget Nyirongo, Malawi.
Bridget Nyirongo is a young Malawian female Computer Scientist (Software Developer)
passionate about using her technical expertise to see and realise a high
representation of females in the male dominated field of Information and
1. Kenneth Mbewe, The Oracle News, June, 2014.
2. Carrie Hasselback, Technology for Economic Growth: How Mobile Money Expands Financial
Inclusion in Malawi, FHI Project.
3. Charles Simango, the Malawi Nation News, February, 2015.
4. Sunduzwayo Madise. Payment Systems and Mobile Money in Malawi: Towards Financial Inclusion
and Financial Integrity. University of Malawi, November 2014.
6 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE BUYING NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Deciding which new technology to buy for one’s business is always a daunting task. Especially when you do not have much technical expertise with the many different technologies out there. These technologies can range from different types of software or hardware. The influx of technologies requires a buyer to seek the answers to certain salient questions prior to purchasing. Hence whatever decision that is made must be well informed.
Business owners must seek the answers to the seven (7) questions below before investing in any new technology for their business:
1. Which parts of your business need the technology?
Ask yourself; which part(s) of my business really need(s) the technology in order for the company to work better?
Knowing the exact part(s) of the business which needs the technology will prevent you from wasting money. This might be the case if in your business there are some processes which are done manually such that you spend much of your time doing these tasks, for example; report writing, stock taking, business trend analysis and the like. In this case to reduce the amount of time to complete a task, you might consider purchasing soft wares that are automated and speed up these business processes hence, saving you time and money.
Also note that if a technology you desire to purchase would be rarely used in your business, then avoid purchasing it since there wouldn’t be any or little returns on investments.
2. How does it work?
Knowing how to operate the technology you desire to purchase is extremely important. Understanding the functionalities of the technology and the benefits it brings to your business processes is paramount to your purchasing decision. You will need to ask yourself; ‘is the technology easy to learn? Do I and my staff need a special training on the technology prior it purchase? You will need to factor the cost component on any training and under cost that comes with understanding and knowing how to operate it before making a decision to purchase.
3. What are the indirect costs of this technology?
Usually, when buying new technology, one is tempted to only consider the capital cost of the technology and little attention is given to the total costs of ownership during the life time of the technology. These indirect costs may include; maintenance costs, additional support for the technology.
You might relate to this situation where you are purchasing a software system for your business and the software vendor is the only one who knows the technicalities of the software. The vendor becomes the sole repository of the maintenance know-how of the technology and takes advantage to charge throat cutting prices. Certainly this would be very costly and might adversely affect your bottom-line.
Even though this is a crucial question to ask, getting the accurate feedback to make an informed decision on purchasing the new technology often becomes stressful. Vendors of the said technology rarely provide all the needed information to the question. A good number of people purchasing the technology would only discover these costs after the actual purchase. Try to do more of online research on the technology. The internet has made it possible to solicit a lot of information on any product or service. Also, speak to an array of IT professionals who might readily provide the needed information.
4. How often will the technology change?
It is believed that technology changes every six months. Prior to purchasing any new technology, ask yourself; ‘How soon will this technology become obsolete? How soon will there be an upgrade? Is the version I am purchasing the latest? For instance, users of Microsoft would clearly see that their soft wares keeps on evolving. It was then Windows XP and its now Windows 10
These technological changes makes it very difficult to take a decision on purchasing technologies. More so, the questions of whether to buy a completely new one or to upgrade the existing one often becomes a dilemma. Mostly, the right decision to make will depend on the type of technology you desire.
5. How will the new technology make or save money for your business?
Any new technology that is decided on should always be in sync with your business strategies. The new technology adopted must align with the business strategies of your firm to ensure high revenue and profit generation.
Always analyze the new technology to understand how it enhances your business strategies. If the two do not sync, you will be wasting your time and money purchasing a technology that wouldn’t benefit your business operations. However if a technology investment will improve the efficiency of operations then it is worth it.
6. How long is the payback period?
The duration for returns on investments is very critical. It is important to clearly consider the length of time required to recover the cost of technological investment.
They payback period of any investment is a very important determinant of whether purchase a new technology. Often technologies with longer payback periods are typically not desirable but they are often worth it.
Brief Profile of Writer” Bridget Nyirongo, Malawi.
Bridget Nyirongo is a young Malawian female Computer Scientist (Software Developer)
passionate about using her technical expertise to see and realise a high
representation of females in the male dominated field of Information and