By Nellie Umutesi-Vigneron
I recently attended an event hosted by ThoughtWorks Pan Africa in Atlanta, GA. This was completely random as I am not in the technology field, but my good friend Enyo Kumahor, Regional Director of ThoughtWorks Africa, was the featured speaker and invited me to join. ThoughtWorks is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois with operations throughout the world. Their mission is to ‘better humanity through software and drive the creation of a social responsible and economically just ecosystem’, basically the use of technology for the betterment of humanity.
Accompanying the featured speaker was Mariéme Jamme, Chief Executive Officer of SpotOne Global Solutions and co-founder of Africa Gathering, a volunteer-led organization whose main focus is to provide a platform for Africans to display their work, share their ideas and connect with others.
‘Come Home’ was the theme surrounding the event. The event started with a meet and greet around food and drinks and then we moved to the main area for the presentation. It was an informal presentation with plenty of audience participation. With the assistance of a moderator, each speaker introduced themselves, their professional backgrounds, recounted their move to Africa, the various challenges that Africa faces, the need for Africa to start consuming African technology, the various technological innovations made on the Continent as well as how essential it is for Africans to tell their story of innovation and progress to offset the daily portrayal, in the media, of Africa as a ‘charity case’. One topic really peaked my interest: the dearth of African women in the technology sector. Here is a fact for you:
In Africa, where women form a majority of the population and half of the overall workforce, but only fill about 15 percent of the tech jobs.
While there are many reasons to explain this trend, I was more interested in researching what, if anything, was being done to reverse it. I was happy to learn that there are indeed many initiatives on the continent to get more girls and women involved in technology. Some of these organizations are:
– GirlGeekKampala (www.girlgeekkampala.com) – Based in Uganda, GirlGeekKampala is a group of young enthusiastic girls who have come together to encourage the culture of programming, via competition and mentorship, among female university students.
– ShestheGeek (http://shesthegeek.co.za/) – Based in South Africa, aim to empower women through training with technology.
– Black Girls Code Johannesburg (http://www.blackgirlscode.com/) – Black Girls Code was founded in San Francisco by Kimberly Bryant who noticed a lack of African-American women in the field of science, technology and engineering. The Johannesburg Chapter targets girls between the age of 7 and 17 and exposes them to various technologies through a series of workshops.
– Women in Technology Uganda (http://witug.org/) – Founded by Barbara Birungi, WITU seeks to ‘encourage, inspire and train more women in the tech field.’
– AkiraChix (http://akirachix.com/) – founded by Judith Owigar, this organization aims at developing a successful force of women in Technology through training and mentorship.
As technology becomes increasingly part of our lives, it is important that the women of Africa are not left behind. In acquiring these skills, many young girls and women will be able to access information, gain employment, remain competitive and even create profitable businesses for themselves.