Towards women’s inclusion in tech ecosystem

The Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Malam Kashifu Abdullahi Inuwa, has announced plans by the federal government to introduce the National Gender Digital Inclusion Strategy (NGDIS).

Announced during the recently concluded Young Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Citizenship and Leadership, Rinsola Abiola, in Abuja, Malam Inuwa stated that this effort is part of the FG’s commitment to fostering inclusivity across the country.

There is a persistent gender imbalance in the adoption and participation of technology, which limits the potential for growth and innovation in Nigeria’s digital revolution. Despite the fact that the country has made tremendous progress in building digital infrastructure and access, women are still disproportionately underrepresented in the tech industry and face major obstacles to learning digital skills and fully engaging in the digital economy.

It is therefore imperative to address the structural issues limiting women’s possibilities in the digital world as Nigeria works to harness the transformative power of technology for socioeconomic development.

Ensuring that women have equal access to the advantages of technology and closing the gender gap in digital inclusion are crucial components of Nigeria’s digital transformation. Even though women make up half of the population, they still encounter unjustifiable obstacles when trying to obtain digital skills and chances in the computer sector. This discrepancy threatens Nigeria’s potential for general tech growth and innovation as well as gender inequity.

According to a 2023 World Economic Forum research, women make up just 28% of all ICT workers worldwide. In Nigeria, women make up only 22% of the workforce in this profession, making the gender disparity even more pronounced.

Additionally, according to the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), a technologically and innovatively advanced Nigerian organisation, just 22% of graduates from Nigerian universities majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are female.

For a country that is set to progress economically and technologically in the future, these figures are extremely worrisome and troubling. In the near future, the participation rate in the IT industry may not rise much if safeguards are not taken, given the low percentage of female STEM graduates generated by our colleges.

Upon close examination, it is clear that there are a number of deeply rooted reasons that contribute to the barriers that Nigerian women face in gaining digital literacy. It will probably continue difficult to achieve women’s digital inclusion unless these problems are resolved in their entirety.

The persistence of gender stereotypes is one of the main causes of women’s low levels of digital participation in Nigeria. Cultural standards frequently place a higher value on boys’ education than on girls’, supporting social views that restrict women’s access to higher education. These prejudices aggravate gaps in educational attainment, prevent women from obtaining formal education, and maintain the gender gap in digital literacy. They also make it more difficult for women to learn digital skills.

Nigeria also establishes conventional gender roles that place women’s home responsibilities above their aspirations for education and technology, setting social expectations and role definitions. Because of this, teenage girls might be deterred from investigating or pursuing professions in the IT sector, which would support the stereotype that these fields are better suited for men. These deeply embedded ideas restrict women’s potential and lead to their underrepresentation in the tech industry.

Moreover, the perpetuation of gender stereotypes also has psychological effects on women’s self-perception and confidence in pursuing careers in technology. Constant reinforcement of stereotypes that depict women as less capable in the tech fields leads to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt among aspiring female technologists. This psychological barrier discourages women from pursuing educational and career pathways in technology, limiting their potential contribution to the digital economy and perpetuating the cycle of gender inequality in the tech industry.

Also, the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in tech-related professions is a concerning issue that contributes to a lack of visible role models for aspiring female technologists in Nigeria. Without prominent female figures to look up to and emulate, young women may struggle to envision themselves pursuing careers in technology. The absence of female role models reinforces the perception that the tech industry is predominantly male-dominated and may deter women from considering it as a viable career path. This scarcity of representation perpetuates the cycle of gender inequality in the tech sector and limits the diversity of perspectives and talents within the industry.

As a result, this leads to limited access to mentorship and support networks further worsen the challenges faced by women seeking to enter and succeed in the tech industry. Mentorship plays a crucial role in providing guidance, advice, and opportunities for professional development, yet many women in Nigeria lack access to mentors who can offer support and guidance tailored to their unique experiences and challenges. Without mentors who understand their specific needs and circumstances, women struggle to navigate the complexities of the tech industry and overcome barriers to advancement.

Another significant factor hindering women’s participation in the tech industry in Nigeria is the lack of supportive workplace policies and practices that accommodate the unique needs and challenges faced by women. Many workplaces in the tech sector still lack adequate support systems for women, such as flexible work arrangements, family-friendly policies, and inclusive organizational cultures.

Women in Nigeria often face additional responsibilities outside of their professional careers, such as caregiving duties and household responsibilities. Balancing these responsibilities with a demanding career in the tech industry can be challenging, particularly in environments that do not offer flexibility or support for work-life balance. Without access to policies such as flexible working hours, remote work options, or parental leave, women may struggle to juggle their professional and personal commitments, leading to burnout or career stagnation.

Lack of educational and training programs that address the specific needs and challenges faced by women in pursuing careers in technology also contributes to the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry in Nigeria.

Beyond formal education settings, there is also a need for accessible and inclusive training programs and resources that cater to women who are already in the workforce or seeking to transition into tech-related roles. Skill development programs, coding bootcamps, and online learning platforms can provide valuable opportunities for women to acquire new skills and advance their careers in technology. However, these programs must be designed with the specific needs and preferences of women in mind, offering flexible scheduling, mentorship support, and a supportive learning environment.

Efforts to increase women’s participation in the tech industry must begin with addressing these ingrained barriers. The underrepresentation of women in the tech industry in Nigeria is a multifaceted issue that requires comprehensive and concerted efforts from NITDA and other stakeholders to address. By working together to address these constraints, Nigeria can create a more inclusive and equitable tech ecosystem that benefits individuals and contributes to sustainable economic growth and development.

Achieving gender equality in the tech industry is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic imperative for Nigeria’s future prosperity and competitiveness in the global economy. By unlocking the full potential of its female workforce and fostering an environment of inclusion and innovation, Nigeria can build a thriving tech industry that harnesses the talents and creativity of all its citizens, driving progress and prosperity for generations to come.

Shuaib S. Agaka,

Kano.