Tech-related fields in Nigeria have been growing rapidly. Fields like agricultural and financial tech are expanding because of a growing diversified workforce and generous amounts of funding.
The growth of Nigeria’s tech scene is correlated with the rising number of women now working in related fields. Though a woman’s involvement in fields like science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) may still be frowned upon by some, attitudes are quickly changing.
Nnenna Nwakanma, an activist for open data, open government and the open web across Africa, talks about the way women’s involvement in the tech scene has changed.
“I think those who are joining the tech world today have an easier path to tread,’ she says. “There were situations where people would refuse to recognize my authority, would patronize or objectify me, or refuse to fulfill contracts they had willingly entered into – all because of my gender.”
Nwakanma recently established the World Wide Web Foundation’s first gender data project, called TechMousso, which brings together the data and tech communities with women’s rights organizations to help solve gender inequality in Côte d’Ivoire.
Changing attitudes towards a woman’s involvement in Nigeria’s tech scene seem to be affected by the country’s growing demand for tech talent. Nigeria is being digitized rapidly, especially in the country’s biggest city, Lagos. This is where women like Ire Aderinokun step in, web developers with humble roots that are changing the way we interact with the web.
“I used to play an online game called Neopets, which had some HTML capabilities,” Aderinokun said. “From there, I got really interested and continued to learn more.” Her interest wasn’t cheered, though. “It’s definitely not what society expected of me. I studied psychology for my undergraduate and law for my master’s. When I said I wanted to pursue this, there were many people who told me not to.”
Nonetheless, she persisted, working harder than her counterparts, to pursue her passion and to help pave the way for future generations of women.
“Removing the stigma and assumption that tech is only supposed to be for men is necessary, and I think we need to start from as early in children’s lives as possible,” she said. Aderinokun believes that “mindsets” and “myths” that women can’t be involved in STEM begin early, and thus that the counter-effort must also focus on young girls–on their self-esteem and on programs that will help give them the skills to accomplish their dreams.
Thanks to these women and many others, Nigeria is headed in the right direction. Programs like She Will Connect Africa have trained hundreds of thousands of women in digital literacy and will yet train thousands more.
Each woman that is taught to think differently than her predecessors and differently about her own abilities is another key to the exponential growth that is seen occurring everywhere women join the workforce.
Every generation will grow stronger and able to change the world when women and men work together to help those who are unrightfully discluded.
In Nigeria, as it is in the rest of the world–including women is to everyone’s benefit.
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