The underrepresentation of women in the Nigerian tech space is conspicuous and many would argue that the reason for this is a bit biased.
MasterCard, in celebration of International Women’s Day, has launched the rollout of its 2020 Girls4Tech programme in Nigeria which engaged 60 girls between the ages of 9 and 12 but also extends to girls ages 13-16 with Girls4Tech 2.0 as well as a 20-week coding program for girls 8-10.
Why just girls?
Ifeoma Dozie, Director of Marketing and Communications, MasterCard Sub-Saharan Africa says “this programme is designed to drive inclusion and equality by bridging the gender gap that currently exists within STEM careers and MasterCard is committed to reach 1 million girls globally by 2025 to make this a reality”
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, program encourages and inspires young Nigerian girls to embrace the STEM culture giving them a voice in the development of innovative solutions that will be relevant in the future.
These kids are mentored through practical exercises such as encryption, fraud detection, data analysis, digital convergence, cybersecurity and AI. The program also emphasizes important skills such as collaboration, creativity and communication to enable young girls to apply their technical knowledge to solve real-world challenges. With the current pandemic and schools having been shut down until the not so foreseeable future, MasterCard has introduced online access to their signature STEM curriculum for children, teachers and parents with Girls4Tech connect.
The IPSOS survey says 89% of African women are usually the decision-makers or co-decision makers for household purchases yet UNESCO says the share of women working in research and development is 32% in Sub-Saharan Africa which makes programs like Girls4Tech so critical as it allows for a larger representation of women in the field that would help facilitate designs solutions that better suits their needs and increase their opportunities for employability and a voice in conversations that drive the Nigerian digital economy.
Women make up on average just 22% of the total number of Engineering and technology university graduates each year, regardless of the fact that they make up almost half of the entire population.
So far they have reached more than 800,000 girls in 27 countries of 6 continents and over 100 girls in Nigeria since its launch in 2017. Over 4,400 employee mentors worldwide have been engaged as well, there’s a regular revamp of the curriculum as technology skills evolve.
Programs like Girls4Tech is imperative in the growth of the industry. Below are a few reasons why we need more women in tech:
- Research shows the most effective problem solving comes from collaborating with individuals of different genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and race. A calculated inclusion of these factors will lead to innovation.
- Women have the ability to tap into the largest economic force in the world. They control the larger percentage of all household spending in Nigeria and a lack of women in the field can lead to an inability to market effectively to that audience which in turn could greatly impact the success of many tech-related Nigerian companies.
- The Nigerian tech space could use more tech talent giving the critical skill shortages. There is a wealth of female tech talents waiting to be utilized, until this is achieved we may never really have competitive advantage in the global market.
- STEM skills are key to a country’s development and future prosperity. The majority of future jobs will require some combination of STEM, yet the numbers are rather discouraging. These kinds of programmes will help reduce the shortage of STEM skills that are needed to boost Nigeria’s economy.
- The gender gap in the STEM space is too evident. Nigeria is ranked 128th out of 153 countries in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report.
- STEM jobs are highly sought after- this is key when considering the high unemployment rate in Nigeria which stands at around 28%.
Nigeria has a lot of catching up to do in terms of tech innovations and the gender gap is undeniable in this field but the inclusion of women in tech growth efforts could be a really effective start to a revolutionary period.