By Cyril Ilayah
Stakeholders who attended this year’s Women Entrepreneurs & Executives in Tech Summit (WEETS) last week Thursday in Lagos have charged women and young girls to be proficient and compete favorably in every area of the economy where they found themselves.
They believe that the excuse of having barriers against women is no longer tenable as technology has permanently closed the gender gap that hitherto existed in Nigeria’s Information and Communications Technology sector.
Delivery a keynote message titled ‘Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Women and Girls to Thrive in the Digital Economy’, the Chief Broadband Officer at MTN, Onyinye Emeka-Ikenna, noted that technology is one of the most dynamic and influential sectors of the economy that is shaping our lives and society in profound ways.
Thus, the growing interest from women in technology and is breaking through the glass ceiling and making their mark in the field.
“While we admit that there are many factors that contribute to the low participation and retention of women in technology, many opportunities for women to thrive in technology still abound,” she argued.
These opportunities, according to her are aided by increasing demand for technology, growing awareness of the importance and benefits of technology and empowering networks, where women can leverage online platforms such as Medium, LinkedIn and Twitter to showcase their work, share their insights, connect with other professionals and access valuable resources and opportunities.
Also speaking, her Excellency, First Lady Of Lagos State, Dr. (Mrs) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, noted that women and girls need to understand the abundant opportunities offered by the digital age to improve their lives, career and businesses.
The First Lady, who was represented at the event by Mrs. Mayowa Ikuforiji, Wife of the Former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly believes that in today’s rapidly advancing world, the digital economy offers countless opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth for both genders, without excluding women.
By creating inclusive workplaces and educational institutions, we can empower women and girls to pursue careers in technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership positions within the digital economy
While admitting that there are some barriers for women, the First Lady noted that it is essential to challenge these barriers and foster a culture that promotes gender diversity, equal representation, and equal pay.
“By creating inclusive workplaces and educational institutions, we can empower women and girls to pursue careers in technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership positions within the digital economy,” she emphasised.
She also called on Governments, civil society organizations and private sector entities to collaborate to implement policies that promote gender equality, protect women’s rights, and ensure equal opportunities in the digital sphere.
Recent figures show that while women now make up around 50 percent of the global workforce, they hold fewer than 1 in 10 senior technology jobs. In Silicon Valley, only 2 percent of VC tech funding goes to start-ups with female founders – and a mere 7 percent of VC venture capital partners are women.
This, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) noted is worrisome, even as the figures also indicate that qualified women are quitting the tech sector at twice the rate of men.
“We know it is a difficult world for women. But we have made significant achievements in women/girls mainstreaming in ICT entrepreneurship for socio-economic development in Nigeria,” the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta said in a keynote speech he delivered at the summit.
These efforts to encourage women, according to the speech delivered on Danbatta’s behalf by Mr. Reuben Mouka, Director of Public Affairs at the commission, include establishing the Women in ICT (WICT) Forum, launching the Digital Skills for Women and Girls Initiative, organizing the Nigerian Girls Can Code (NGCC) Competition and providing funding and support to women-owned ICT businesses.
Apart from these achievements, NCC has also developed a National ICT Gender Policy to promote gender equality in the ICT sector, conducted research on the status of women in the ICT sector, organized workshops and trainings on ICT for women and girls and awarded scholarships to women and girls to study ICT.
Meanwhile, Ugochi Emmanuel, the convener of the Women Entrepreneurs & Executives in Tech Summit (WEETS) 2023, earlier in her welcome address, stated that WEETS is a movement towards equitability, empowerment, and progress.
“As you may have observed, our thematic focus encapsulates the spirit of our shared journey. It highlights the challenges that women and girls have faced in accessing opportunities in the digital economy, and it underscores our collective commitment to shatter those barriers and create a more inclusive future,” she said.
According to her, women have been at the forefront of innovation and development from policy making to regulatory services, from business to fashion, from science to media arts, from entertainment to education, and from health to technology and oil and gas.
The Women Entrepreneurs & Executives in Tech Summit…Towards a women-driven tech space, with the Theme: ‘Reskilling Women & Girls to Thrive in the Digital Economy’, was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja. The Summit was organised by TechLife Media and Communications Limited and powered by TechLife with Ugo. Being the third edition, the Summit accelerated progress and identified Nigerian women across the board who have been able to maximize the enormous opportunities offered by the digital age to better their communities, careers and the nation as a whole.