Sometime last year, Tolu Agunbiade and I wrote up a series about girls who code. While the reception was mostly warm, we also got panned in some (Twitter) quarters for what they described as token feminism. Our noble intentions notwithstanding, we had unwittingly stepped into a sexist controversy minefield.
I was of course grateful for a constructive reminder to not celebrate women in tech “just because”, but I’ve also always felt that reality is just what it is. And the reality is that the gender gap in tech is as real as the nose on your face. The role of women in technology all over the world could be significantly larger than it is.
Since that episode, I’ve been resolved to do more than talk. CODE RED which we were proud to have helped organise with GirlHub during the Social Media Week was one of such outlets via which our actions could speak louder than gallons of spilt ink.
That is why I find the 40 Forward challenge/initiative interesting. Google is committing $1 million to 40 startup focused organisations around the world to get them to deliberately seek out means to increase the participation of women in technology, in their respective locales.
From simply changing the times of events to accommodate busy moms to teaching young girls to see themselves as entrepreneurs, 40 of our partner communities will soon launch new programs and outreach initiatives to encourage women founders. We’re calling this collective effort #40Forward.
The Co-Creation Hub is Google’s local partner in this and has designed a program which they say will “identify aspiring and existing female technology entrepreneurs in Nigeria and provide them with necessary resources and support to grow successful businesses”. If this concerns you, click here.
Minister Johnson stressed at the Digital Girls Club launch that women are underrepresented in the field of ICTs pic.twitter.com/45pGt6NUUd
— Fed.Min.of Comm Tech (@ngrcommtech) March 13, 2014
The honourable minister of communications technology, Omobola Johnson has been especially purposeful about addressing gender imbalance in and via technology. Just yesterday, she inaugurated the Digital Girls Club at the Federal Government Girls College, Bwari, Abuja, which is said will launch simultaneously in twelve states across the country. The hope is that the clubs will increase the chances of girls in secondary (high) school getting into technology.
Perhaps the greatest but alas unsung hero of women in technology in Nigeria is Oreoluwa Somolu that has been silently working to get girls into technology via the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC). Why the phenomenal work that she and many more like her do never finds its way into mainstream awareness is beyond me. But in the end it comes down to the gender ratio, and right now it is very skewed. Perhaps if in the first instance we concentrated on getting the numbers of women in tech up, it won’t be long before the impact and dividends will become obvious across board.
— Cherie Blair Fndn (@CherieBlairFndn) March 11, 2014
Still it is important to recognise what already exists and encourage it. I got some flak for doing a series on girls who code, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let that stop me from curating a list of tech women initiatives in Nigeria. Maybe in Africa. Any and all help to that end is appreciated.
The post’s image is that of my friend, Kunmi Otitoju. Her online fashion design store is the first in Nigeria to accept Bitcoin.