By Molly Wasonga, source: CIO.co.ke
Mobile access and use has globally grown dramatically in recent years, but not equally. A gender gap in both mobile ownership and mobile internet use persists across markets, and is significantly wider in certain regions, particularly South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Mobile Gender Report 2019 conducted globally by GSMA alludes that affordability, literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security concerns are the most important barriers to mobile ownership and mobile internet use for women.
“Affordability, particularly of handsets, is the top barrier to mobile ownership, while literacy and digital skills are the main factors limiting mobile internet use among those who are aware of it,” reads the report in part.
The report further reported that twice as many women more than men cannot operate a smartphone whereas more men than women can access internet in their homes.
Against this background, there continues to be deliberate efforts to bud more women into the technical space, for the power to deliver best not just on the mundane but also the technical duties in the space. Tasks such as using mobile phones (smart) have been skewed to the male that overtime, women have socialized to letting men, buoyed by the belief that tech is manly and never having this expressed otherwise, take lead in such.
During the Pwani Innovation Week 2019 hosted at the Swahilipot Hub in Mombasa, a consortium of Gender inclusion in tech pulled efforts together to scale the agenda, even among school girls as young as in elementary school.
“Empower women to embrace online working in this age of digital economy to enable them earn even as they stay at home to give care to their families,” said Laura Chite the CEO CIO East Africa and a Co-Founder Hernovation. Adding; “Women’s impact is not individually felt, it ripples to the larger society even for digital economy.”
Laura, who delivered a keynote on empowering women in the digital economy age at the #PwaniInnovationWeek also noted that 140 million worth of trade could be transacted if the gender gap was closed.
Also speaking at the forum was Maureen Mwaniki, the Q&EHS Manager at Huawei Technologies (Kenya) Company Limited. She averred that women’s contribution is vital in the growth of any economies thus they must be incorporated not as a favor.
“It is not being favored as a woman to occupy the tech space,” she said. “It’s defining your place in a table full of male competitors and proving your worth while at the table.”
Maureen who believes in innovation as being talent packaged in a creative way, encouraged ladies to embrace innovation in their various careers and to most importantly, defend their positions at work, always identifying themselves first with their careers before the identification as a woman. She is the Founder for Women in Tech Huawei in Kenya, simply put WITH.
Ruth Kaveke, a Web Designer and Founder of Pwani Technogalz, who played host to the women in tech attending the #PwaniInnovationWeek, confessed her passion for coding and how that has driven her to mentor many young and old women alike into a traditionally male reserve.
Ruth identified a love of computers at an early age, and lucky for her, she got mentors who constantly talked her into nurturing that zeal. She’s hitherto trusted in passion and mentorship as the pillars to onboard and retain women in the technical spaces. Her message to parents is to help identify their children’s passions early and assist in growing it.
“Expose young children to numerous opportunities from which to choose and grow a career,” she said. “Do not exclude girls while exposing boys to technical opportunities so they do not exclude such as possible future careers.”
The ladies unanimously agreed although women face gender related challenges at work unlike their male counterparts they have to work nonetheless and keep their heads above the challenges.
#PwaniInnovatioWeek is an annual forum in its fourth year running, hosted in the coast region to enhance innovation and creativity among the locals and to enhance the creation of solutions to the local problems.