Supporting gender equality in the tech industry

Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy. Photo/Courtesy

According to a PwC report, women presently hold only 19% of tech-related roles at the world’s top ten technology corporations, compared to men who hold 81 percent. Women have 28% of leadership roles at major worldwide technology organisations, while men hold 72%. 

There is a strong need to  provide young Kenyan women with the required skills to seek equal opportunities in the future. However, where should we begin?  We spoke with industry leaders ahead of International Girls in ICT Day to hear their opinions.

Change stereotypes

With conversations on ‘jobs of the future’ happening everywhere, why does it feel like we are not making any progress that is quite definitive for everyone, questions Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy, Global Head at Zoho for Startups. She wonders why most of the vision-and-mission statements only put ‘gender equality’ on a treadmill 

To support gender equality in tech, Krishnamoorthy goes on, the key players who have the power to propel this movement and those that can translate mere words into actions have  to constantly work on changing the stereotypes.

With the assumption that the people in the driver’s seat of future innovation and policymaking already recognise the critical nature of gender equality in technology, Krishnamoorthy makes six recommendations for amplifying their support:

1. Support equality from early on—early education on diversity and inclusion.

2. Don’t just stop with being an ally. Create more allies whose words match perfectly with their actions.

3. Be present, bring your own chair to the table, and be a lighthouse of a mentor.

4. Invest time and money on training to overcome conscious and unconscious bias;  find and bring together more people who are truly intentional and are willing to pass the baton of knowledge on.

5. Create and make available a marketplace of tech tools for learning and development like robotics kits, sandbox developer platforms, etc., that help in proving that technology can be a leveler.

6. Empower young girls by helping them enhance their innate emotional quotient (EQ), keeping in mind the intersectionality.

Society should  be aware of gender biases children grow up with 

When it comes to getting more women into tech or other spaces, says Aisha Pandor,  women  are underrepresented.  Pandora is the CEO of home services company SweepSouth. 

“We often hear that when females are assertive they’re seen as aggressive, but when males are assertive, they’re confident,” she says. 

Pandor adds that as a society we need to be aware of any gender biases our children grow up with, and consciously untrain them; otherwise they occur at such a formative stage of development that they become entrenched, and difficult to undo.

We  also need to highlight more women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in everyday life,” she says.

She argues that if girls and women start seeing more women in spaces they wish to be part of, they’ll see their ambitions as relatable and achievable, and feel more encouraged to chase their dreams in this regard.

Educate, mentor and guide 

Despite our progress, there is still much more work to be done; as strange as it may sound, the gender divide in our technology business begins even before girls enter the workforce. 

“Research indicates that girls are significantly less likely to study technology with the intention of considering a career in the sector,” says Dori-Jo Bonner, Strategist at Striata Africa. 

Bonner believes this should not be the case, the youth of today have emerged in tech much more than ever before, from entertainment to education the next generation is introduced at a young age to technology and all it has to offer. 

She adds that mosf young girls do not learn about  the job prospects available in the technology industry and the important need for women to be acknowledged and make a difference in this space. Therefore, she says, It is crucial that the society educates,  mentors and guides young girls about these options.

Break down barriers

Yes, the gender gap is everywhere. And arguably progress has most definitely been made, but there is still a long road to go.  The tech industry, in particular, is exploding, and the number of jobs available is growing. We need to break down barriers by providing mentors and role models who are women in technology to young girls.

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