By Ugwoke Udoka
Technology has come to stay. People from their homes can pay for their children’s school fees, buy items and get them delivered at their doorsteps or even sell their wares and get money paid to them instantly.
With the deluge of technology start-ups in the South East, it is disheartening that women and girls are seemingly oblivious of technology.
Many of them are not interested in partnering with these start ups neither do they want to be pioneers of any invention. This may be attributed to the Nigerian girl child mentality of her “duties ending up in the kitchen”.
Besides, the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria believes that the duty of his wife is only in the kitchen. Could it also be that women and girls are resistant to change? Does this really explain why in a Mechanical Engineering class of about a hundred students, less than ten are women?
There are women all over the world that have created or partnered with inventions that have made life easier for the world. Margaret Wilcox in 1983 created a combined clothes and dish washer. Dr. maria Telkes and Eleanor Raymond in 1943 created the first home entirely heated by solar power.
Sheryl Kara Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and the founder of leanin.org. Tracy Chou is the lead soft ware developer at Pineterest; Virginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty, an American business executive is the CEO of IBM.
As a country, we have women who are leading from the front too: Dr. (Mrs) Omobola Johnson, was the first Minister of Communications (Nigeria); Funke Opeke is the founder of MainOne. Nkem Okocha is the founder of Mamamoni, a social enterprise and FinTech startup that empowers poor rural and urban slum women with free vocational/financial skills and micro-loans; Juliet Ehimuan is Google’s Country Manager, a position she assumed since 2011. But, they are mostly based in either Lagos, Abuja or operating outside the radius of South East.
These are technology driven women, who have identified problems and solved them with technology. It amazes me that women in the South East Nigeria are not towing this path enough. Many of the tech start-ups in the South East are owned by men. Take for instance Raadaa.com, Teneece, TechEconomy.ng, Genesys Tech Hub, CfaTech.ng and many others. You could argue that Linda Ikeji is one of us; Adanma Onuegbu is the CEO of Signal Alliance. How about if more of our women and girls were more technology conscious?
To an extent, women are blessed with patience and the sixth sense to go through various processes. What if this quality was put into technology? Just like Sheryl Sandberg, many women and girls in the South East are gifted and can improve our tech world if they can get interested. That’s why I was very happy when Awka, Anambra State based start-up, extraclass.ng, has emerged winner of the N1 million Taiwo Bankole Ogunyemi prize at the Techtiary Forum 2017. This is a morale booster for women/girls in the technology space- developers, start-ups, etc.
The Forum was put together by Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise, which connects youths with ICT-enabled opportunities.
The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan, presenting the N1 million cheque (mock) to the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Extraclass.ng, Onyinyechi Nmecha, applauded the innovative platform and urged them to work harder; making good use presented by the prize money. Now, that’s cheering news, but Onyinyechi and her team are starting from scratch; in a region that seem alienated when it comes to women and girls in technology.
An article , The Real Reason Most Women Don’t Go Into Tech, published by Gene Marks on Forbes.com on the 16th of arch 2015 stated that in many software development companies, startups, construction firms and other businesses that employ engineers, developers, database experts and other technology types, there are always more males than females, with the feminine number almost inconsequential.
He identified that most graduate degree taken by women lean towards Education, Nursing, Social work and Counseling. This is majorly because women love to be ‘stay at home moms’ as it offers more flexibility than a typical technology job.
What greater output it would be if women are ignited with the passion for technology. Greater problems would be solved majorly in collaboration, which does not necessarily have to be only between the make folks.
If women in the South East can be more technology conscious, it would spur a passion for technology in women in other regions of Nigeria, which would make Nigeria more competitive when it comes to technology.
Igniting the technology passion in women takes education, awareness, sensitizations and opportunity creation.
I look forward to a Nigeria that can compete with Japan, USA, China, Germany and other tech countries if only women can be more conscious.
Ugwoke Peace Udoka, writes from Lagos