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The Nigerian Woman in Tech

by Olaitan Adeshola

 Nigeria’s technology sector is booming, and its exponential growth over the years has brought it to the forefront as an emerging economic powerhouse which in the long run has the potential to stand alongside the finance sector, and even the oil and gas sector.

 The Nigerian tech sector has attracted diverse professionals who make the sector thrive, and their contributions to the sector have been thrust into the spotlight to be scrutinized. A good number of surveys shows that there is a gender imbalance among these professionals in the sector, with the men far outnumbering the women.

 One of such surveys conducted jointly by the Center for Global Development and One Campaign reveals a low participation of women because many tech firms do not hire enough women. Results from the sample size of 93 firms in the survey reveals a median of two female employees per firm, while there were no women employed by 31 firms in the sample.

 In terms of participation at the top levels of the sector, the survey also reveals the dominance of men, with a total of only 6 firms having a woman occupying top management positions. The male dominance also shows when considering ownership control in the sector. Women own a low 30 percent, and of these firms owned by women, the median of ownership shares is 20 percent.

 Women make up half of the Nigerian population, so why does this survey cast a grim picture for the participation of women in the Nigerian tech scene, what is the plight of the Nigerian woman in tech, and what does the future hold for them?

 Also, society’s view of the kind of professional fields each gender should be in has led to the disproportionate gender representation in Nigerian tech. At university level, it is not uncommon to see between 10 to 20 females in a total population of 100 students offering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, which are solid pathways to accessing opportunities in tech, while you will easily find females far outnumbering males in social science courses like accounting, economics, marketing, human resources, sociology, and psychology; in Nigeria females are mostly encouraged to study medicine or pharmacy if at all they decide they want to study a science course.

 Another notable barrier for Nigerian women in tech is the financial barrier. Women founders of tech firms have complained about the gender obstacle they face when trying to source for funding needed to either maintain or expand operations.

 The dominance of men in so many economic sectors has created a large professional and social network for men to easily obtain financial support for their business compared to women. A good example that points to this is a comment made by the female co-founder of a fin-tech start-up, PiggyBank, that “local investors relate better with men” whenever her tech firm sourced for funding, so she allows her male co-founders to do it.

 In more recent times, Nigerian women in tech are beginning to break the male dominated programming of the sector, and are now a more influential force to reckon with. The pioneer women in tech have shown the younger women that despite the obstacles in such a male dominated space, it is possible for women to thrive.

 Nigerian women in tech can be seen visibly flourishing in e-commerce, financial tech and many other branches of the tech industry. More importantly women now have more female role models and mentors to guide them into the tech space.

 Women in tech have called on the Nigerian legislature to sponsor bills that will pull down barriers preventing women from accessing equal opportunities as men in the tech space. Such bills would support funding the education of girls in STEM, set up tough regulation that eliminates discrimination of women based on marital status, provide social support like maternity leave with pay, and enforce equal pay to both men and women.

 The rapid digitalization of Nigerian economic sectors is an opportunity for women in tech to continue growing, and with the positive results they have recorded so far, it is certain that the future is bright for all Nigerian women in tech.

Kindly Share Your view on this. Is it true that there is gender imbalance in the technology industry.

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