The recent appointment of Susan Mulikita as Liquid Telecom Zambia CEO had me so chuffed I started thinking of how many other women in tech Zambia has. I knew quite a few who work both directly and indirectly in tech, but never get the audience or attention or positions their male counterparts do.
So, how do we get more women in tech?
I can think of 6 ways:
- Deliberately – create an employee ratio of even as much as 50-50 to ensure women have the same access to opportunities as men. I see more and more ads that say ‘Female applicants welcome’ and that crap needs to end because sometimes the selecting panel is already biased and looking for men. That statement may just be put to look inclusive when actually not.
- Look for actual talent – if companies do take the time to evaluate some of the people they work with or who apply to work with them, they will find gems of women waiting in line. It’s counter-productive to place an unqualified person in a position just to look inclusive, get people, like Susan, who actually studied that area they’re in.
- Open up the Boys’ Club – rather, destroy it! It limits women and keeps the good stuff amongst the men. Or maybe women need to create a Girls’ Club, where they share advice and opportunities amongst themselves in the tech sector. It just seems like having camps doesn’t do anything for anyone, because it just widens the gender divide in any sector. Come together, collaborate, include everyone.
- Get training – if you already work with women in your tech company and you see that women are mostly holding back, as a team leader/boss/supervisor, it’s your duty to identify what areas they’re good at, or where they could be good at, and encourage them to do more of it. You might be surprised! Assist them with training opportunities to improve their skills if need be.
- End the stereotypes – I’ve seen even the most educated men say dumb sh** about a woman’s place in the workplace. Stop it! If you have the same role, how is she beneath you? She’s not responsible for making your coffee or keeping the workplace kitchen clean. Do it your damn self. The negative attitude towards women in tech has to stop. If you can do it, she can do it too, maybe even better. Don’t be an ass, include women in your class.
- Start them young – the education system needs to stop unconsciously dividing the boys into ICT classes and the girls into home economics classes. It is the role of the system to identify what students are good at, and encourage them to take up what classes they should take up. If a girl wants to study computer science, let her do it! If a woman wants to be part of the technical team that goes out in the field to fix stuff, she should go! If she wants it, she should have it. She doesn’t need the permission of a man to do what she wants. Not in these times.
I’d be happy to hear your views too, what ways do you think we can get to having more women in tech?