The need to empower our women and the girl child as Father’s Day gift has become a fundamental obligation. Gender issues in human occupation have become a constant dialogue and significant factor in global development. Moreover, this problem has become a predominant concern in the Information and Communications Technology Ecosystem.
Therefore, it is instructive to recognise that a 21st Century nation that goes to war without the input of her women folks in the technology domain is without doubt applying a failed strategy. Women perform overly critical but unsung activities which determine successes of the winning nations; both during and at post-war encounters.
Bringing it home to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); women have and are still playing amazing roles and contributing spectacular results in the advancement of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). However, their numbers are still low in proportion of the global workforce in ICT. It is noteworthy to affirm that the first Software Programmer and renowned Mathematician – Ada Lovelace is a woman. She had created a niche for herself and work and earned the Ada Lovelace Day; now globally celebrated annually on 13th of October for her achievements in STEM.
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It is also important to acknowledge, Katherine Johnson, the mathematician who performed the calculations in orbital mechanics; which resulted in the success of the first US space flights for NASA in 1986. She is a woman of high velocity thinking – a mind-machine! Similarly, Annie Easley, an African American was instrumental to the invention of the battery technology which has become an inevitable factor for human mobility. She was a renowned researcher in computational mechanism at NASA.
Now, let us bring the narrative to speed.
For many fundamental reasons, the world is at war with ICT. Technology has always had two sides of the coin of good and the ugly. Remember the Manhanttan Project and Hiroshima experience (never again!). The central focus of this piece is the need to advocate for a deliberate inclusive intervention from African vision-bearers to promote the empowerment of women and the girl-child to embrace ICT. The contributions of women in the advancement of human history and particularly in education/technology and creation of wealth are innumerable. Especially in the field of software, women are becoming knowledge champions in coding.
According to research.hackerrank, the Gen.Z women are taking the global tech arena by the bull horn. Specifically, the Gen Z women group are 21 years old or younger. Many of them are interested in STEM as career and usually start coding before the age of 16. They are adamant about their dream and make statements such as ‘for now we were concerned about millennials at work’. This next generation of women coders will change the world!
For example, existing records show that more than 60% of Gen Z women started coding at a relatively young age of between 16 – 21. Today, 25% of girls-in-tech, due to direct result of the rising number of opportunities for education are involved in coding at age five. Reality check reveals that, just as women in top-tech companies have taken those companies to greater heights beyond all expectations; the reliable assumption is that smart women in tech can lead a nation into technology prominence, if strategically motivated.
Many examples to advance the above submission exist.
Sheryl Sandberg, who helped establish Facebook as a platform for small businesses, also assisted the company to become a $138 billion tech giant. Others are: Amy Hood – Executive Vice President and CFO at Microsoft since May 2013; Belinda Johnson –COO at Airbnb since 2018; Melinda Gates – former general manager of Microsoft, who is a philanthropist and a co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Funke Opeke – (the first Lady of Fibre Optics) – CEO at Mainone Nigeria and Chioma Ekeh, CEO of TD Africa, an Africa-wide digital distribution company, among others.
Further reliable assumptions foresee the possibility of women taking over the driver’s seat of African e-Commerce. The striking irony is that global Big Tech is in short supply of smart IT minds and forever searching; whereas there are qualified and innovative women-in-tech out there, side-lined by gender issues!
Women are changing the face of global e-Commerce through digital marketing. The assessed values in the emerging trend points to the fact that the greater involvement of women in critical business positions, the greater the wealth creation.
Based on Gartner’s recent report, ‘Digital Commerce’s impact on overall revenue continues to increase for brands. In fact, per our understanding of the report, it shows a 44% increase in revenue coming from digital commerce year over year’. Equally, the International Trade Centre (ITC) has found that despite having less access to technology; women use digital platforms to their business advantage. ITC affirms that four out of five small businesses engaged in cross-border e-commerce are women-owned; while just one in five firms engaged in offline trade is headed by women.
With the historic advantage of the first woman and an African – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as head of WTO; the place and role of women in world affairs will wax much stronger.
Meanwhile, though the surging trend of women-in-tech is not yet enough; the world is beginning to witness an amazing trend of intensive involvement of women-in-tech and especially in e-Commerce. New evidence show that e-commerce and digital technology are bringing women to the fore of global trade.
The World Economic Forum says one in three Middle East start-ups is female founded. Also, Cairo-based ExpandCart, a vibrant e-commerce platform claims that one-third of small businesses on its platform are owned by women! Indeed, a McKinsey study on Indonesia’s e-commerce sector shows that women involved in online commerce generate more revenue than that contributed by those in traditional commerce. Another significant revelation based on the experience of Taobao of China claims that 50% of its online shops were started by women; whereas only 3.7% of businesses across 67 other industries in China are headed by females; according to the South China Morning Post. Beyond the immediate tech-business issues, there is an increasing gender concern globally.
The matter affects family structure, child-upbringing and care, education, human rights, discrimination, and many more. All these have deep implications and inhibit sustainable development goals and impacts on national security. However, given the emergence of Quantum Computing, AI, Block Chain, and Big Data-enabled e-Commerce; as well as the trajectory of job demand for software engineers and web developers; it is not surprising that the world’s requirements for the future of work is dramatically changing.
Indeed, it has created more opportunities for women in ICT. The major setback for women in tech is the professional discrimination against women and their earned skills. The negative side of this matter is that brilliant women in tech quit their jobs; mainly due to stressful impact of discrimination, unequal growth opportunities, lower wages for same job done by men; or due to sexual abuse at the workplace and many more ills.
However, corporate entities around the world have started to address the gender issues in the tech-space; primarily because studies have now shown that the high percentage rate of job quit by women in STEM in 2018 is as high as 53%! Also, businesses with less women in tech are suffering revenue losses against those with higher women workforce in tech.
Records on survey from 41 nations shows (www.honeypot.io) that currently, Bulgaria is the country with most women-in-tech – 30.28%; whereas Sweden boasts the highest percentage of women in parliament – 43.5%. The resounding outcome of the same survey reveals that advances in gender equality can result in a $12 trillion boost to the global GDP by 2025. This presents an opportunity window for African women.
Therefore, the most intelligent gift on Father’s Day is to empower 10 million women and the girl child with tech (STEM) abilities in the next five years and watch the Nigerian/Africa economy respond with incredible growth. Indeed, the growth and accelerated development of global e-commerce and sustainability of digital transformation resides at the mercy of women. Finally, the secret of women in tech has immense potential and values for creation of wealth. Africa’s digital economy can benefit immensely if we establish proactive policies, strategies and investments to empower women and the girl child; especially in the tech space.
The following evidence shows that this is achievable by presenting a rollcall of some of the world’s richest women in technology.
Laurene Powell Jobs – once the spouse of the legendary Steve Jobs. She owns stakes in both Apple and Disney and is the founder of Emerson Collective Foundation (Emmerson.collectives.com). Dagmar Dolby is the largest shareholder of Dolby Laboratories. Judy Faulkner is the founder of a US software company (Epic Systems) that develops ways to store medical records electronically. Zhou Qunfei – she is the founder of Lens Technology, a Chinese tech company, and the current CEO. (hnlens.com).
Lest we forget, there are many unsung rich African women-in-tech and many emerging ones with eyes on the ball!