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‘Too Few African Women In Tech’

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Across the continent, we are failing to get girls and women interested in IT,” says Ghanaian IT entrepreneur Enyonam Kumahor, who has been in tech for many years. Besides running her own firm, the Cobalt Partners, she is the co-founder of Ghana Women in IT (GWITT), a platform providing Ghanaian women working in technology an opportunity to network and share experiences, whilst encouraging others.

“Half of the African population is female, yet the number of women in tech is less than one per cent of the continent’s total IT workforce,” says Kumahor. She stresses that this however does not mean that the entire region is under-performing.

“Ghana is doing well. We have various women running their own very successful IT businesses. Others are heading large tech companies. Mobile phone operators Airtel and Tigo are headed by women, and so is the Ghanaian branch of Microsoft. Kenya is not doing bad either. In South Africa, on the other hand, there is a genuine lack of diversity. This is worrisome,” she says.

Statistics by the South African Institute of Information Technology Professionals confirm Kumahor’s statements. The data shows that women in the Rainbow Nation hold 20% of all professional tech jobs. The global percentage stands at 56%.

There are several reasons behind the poor appetite for tech amongst Africa’s female population.

“There is a sense that tech is too difficult for women, that it is a guys’ environment, and that we can’t be mothers, wives, and software developers,” says Kumahor.

“Female science students are often pushed into more traditional fields. Medicine and engineering are all seen as more preferable to IT. We need to demystify technology and make it more accessible to girls and women. We need to start harnessing the female interest from a young age, for instance by developing school programs that make tech fun.”

While men have a definite responsibility in opening up the field of IT to women in Africa, they are not the sole role players, Kumahor stresses.

“There is a shortage of visible and vocal female role models in IT. Women who have made it in technology, should show their faces more. They are too quiet,” she says. “I don’t hear many established tech women from Africa talking about giving up-and-coming counterparts a chance. Personally, I think that each and every successful female IT professional should take a couple of newcomers under her wings, and mentor and inspire them intentionally. This is not yet happening. GWITT hopes to play a part in changing this and persuade women to get involved.”

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