Our women and girls deserve a better deal
The 2023 International Women’s Day is being celebrated today under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” It is based on the premise that while women have made tremendous contributions to the digital world in which we live, their “accomplishments have been against all odds, in a field that has historically neither welcomed nor appreciated them.” As Nigeria therefore joins the rest of the world to mark the 2023 International Women’s Day, we must celebrate the achievements of our mothers, sisters, and daughters while working towards the removal of the several barriers that inhibit them, especially in the tech space.
Indeed, there can be no better time than now to begin addressing all the impediments that are placed against Nigerian women. Despite the overwhelming percentage of women in the country, available data indicate that very few are in the digital and technology space. While the tech ecosystem in Nigeria rose from $4.9 billion in 2021 to $10billion in 2022, the fact that only 6% of fintech companies had female chief executive officers, is very telling. Yet, in recent times in the tech industry, Nigerian women have closed huge business deals and are taking on leadership hats in their organisations. On a day such as this, therefore, we must salute the likes of Seun Runsewe of Chipper Cash, Tope Omotolani of Crowdyvest, Adaora Nwodo of Unstack, Yanmo Omoregbe of Bamboo, and others who continue to make the country proud.
The challenge of course is enormous. But we must join the efforts of our women as they fight all forms of discrimination that continue to keep them and our country down. For instance, women in the Nigeria tech space make up just about 22 per cent of the industry workforce. Reasons for this include lack of accessible opportunities, cultural stereotypes, society’s male suitability for tech roles, etc. For instance, it has been assumed for many years that science and technology belong to the male gender while the females are more prone to the arts and humanities domain. This unfortunate narrative has led to programmes and initiatives by International Organisations to create awareness and instill the importance of the females in the digital and innovation space.
However, the surface has just been scratched. There is a lot more that can be done, especially in Nigeria. A partnership between the public and private sectors can come up with programmes to encourage STEM education for girls. This can be done through such initiatives as scholarships, mentorship programmes, and awareness campaigns. According to a study by the World Bank, providing scholarships to girls can increase their enrollment in STEM education by up to 40%. It is also important to provide mentorship and training, create funding opportunities for women-led startups in the country, promote inclusive policies and practices, increase access to education, challenge gender stereotyping, create support networks, address unequal pay structure, and provide digital skills training, especially for women in rural areas.
Whether in the tech space or in other areas of life, critical stakeholders in Nigeria must come to terms with the fact that our women and girls deserve a better deal. They have proved wrong the erroneous notion imposed by patriarchy that women are inferior to men while gender equality is not just a human rights issue, it is essential for the achievement of sustainable development and a peaceful, prosperous society. Circumscribing access to opportunities that ultimately empowers women who make up about 50 per cent of the Nigerian population is counterproductive for the development of our society.
As we join the rest of the world to mark the 2023 International Women’s Day, we must assure our women that we care about their welfare and the prosperity of our country.