Connected African: Empowering Girls Through Tech
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Welcome to Day 3 of the Social Media Week Conference in Lagos. Today, the session kicked off with Purple hosting a masterclass on empowering girls through tech. Purple is concerned about the under-representation of women/girls online. Through the Purple Academy and Purple Social Network, it is initiating the drive to get more of the female gender online.
Its primary target are young people between the ages of 16 and 25. Its focus is on the digital space, which explains why its website is customized for mobile. Recently, the Purple app was developed. The mobile application enables users to add friends thereby creating a community. Purple understands the uniqueness and dynamics of community, and chose to invest heavily in community management. There is also the Purple Social Network where people come together to discuss issues, in addition to the Purple Academy, which offers free online courses.
The masterclass panel, which seeks to see how more women can be included in online discussions, consisted of Maya Horgan, Founder of Ingrassive and a representative of Seni Sulyman, Country Director of Andela.
Maya Horgan agrees that tech can be daunting for women and argues that supporting female founders is actually an investment, as stats have shown that there has been a higher return on investment realized with women tech founders compared to their male counterparts. She offers three tips on how women can forge ahead and make a success as founders of tech companies:
- Ignore criticisms and focus on what you want to achieve as a woman
- Develop all the skill set required to be a top woman in tech
- Remember that the stats are in your favour as you strive to make a mark
The second panelist gave a background of Andela as a global engineering organisation focused on developing the next set of tech leaders. At Andela, female tech developers do very well, and sometimes even better than their male colleagues. Andela has started a call to action which is to have more women in tech, and believes this can be achieved and sustained in the long run if we begin the model the girl child to appreciate tech by doing the following:
- Create characters that depict girls in more non traditional roles in cartoons and movies
- Set a target for the minimum number of women we want in tech within a specific period
- Propagate the message of diversity and messaging at different levels
- Change the narrative in religious and traditional centers where women do not hold leadership positions
- Sanitize our language and change stereotypes about a woman’s role in the home and society
- Demystify what the typical developer/coder looks like, just like Andela did by using the image of women in hijab
Every interaction with a woman is an opportunity to create more awareness about tech; tech for women should not always be synonymous with entertainment and social media. Lots of young girls can be inspired by a woman like Funke Opeke, the CEO of notable tech company, MainOne.
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