Every year, people leave their careers to delve into tech. However, this career migration is a lot slower for women. In this article, five Nigerian women talk about why there are still so few women in tech.
Anu, 29, Software Engineer
There is the societal assumption of what careers for women should look like. If career paths are stripped of gender roles, there will be more diversity in tech. Recently, a male colleague told a female colleague, a front-end engineer, not to switch to backend engineering because “backend engineering is hard for women.”
I also think there are not enough women out there inspiring young children or teenagers to consider tech roles. Young people need to see other women thriving and succeeding. Then there’s the sexual abuse — abuse is prevalent in every sector, even in places with more women, but imagine working in an industry where you are the only woman in your department.
Mercy, 28, Project Manager
As kids, boys are given building toys as gifts while girls receive homemaking toys, which affects how we think about these things. In my university, there more boys were studying technical courses too. So when tech jobs became mainstream, I’d say it was easier for men to transition into these fields because they already had skills that were easily transferable to technical roles. These days, more women are transitioning, but it’s not as simple because we are up against men who have gathered years of experience in tech.
In an industry dominated by men, we are bound to face men who expect women to carry out sexual favours in return for tech opportunities even if we are adequately qualified.
Ugonna, 28, Frontend Engineer
There’s a lack of opportunities for women because society thinks women are not wired for technical jobs. Women who eventually get into tech face sexual harassment in the workplace. They have to deal with either sexist colleagues or hostile work environments, or both. There’s also the pay gap. Many companies offer lower salaries to women at the same level as their male counterparts. Women have to work twice as hard to get the recognition that their male colleagues get. I have been lucky enough to be managed by women, so it’s easy for me to report harassment to them. That makes me feel safe.
Ehi, 27, Cloud Engineer
I think it’s mainly harassment keeping women away from tech jobs. I remember when I was first interested in tech in 2019. I sent this guy a message on Twitter, and we got talking. Next thing, he was commenting on my boobs and saying it’s making him horny. I blocked him and removed my mind from tech for a long time. It wasn’t until the lockdown period that I gave software tech another shot.
Also, men typically direct women to non-technical tech roles. I remember the same guy encouraging me to do UI/UX because I am a girl. It doesn’t make sense to me because women invented tech. Go read about Kathrine Johnson.
KK, 30, Writer
I think the barrier to entry is high for women, especially in Africa. There is also little advocacy about the issue. More people are talking about it, but the changes so far are still small. There is also the fact women feel uncomfortable reporting to men in these high-pressure climates. When tensions rise, disrespect tends to happen, but when women speak up against it, they are tagged “emotional.” The issues are interconnected, and until women feel safe enough in these spaces, women participation will remain low. For that to happen, we need accountability and advocacy in these spaces.
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