Maximizing technology for women’s advancement
We live in the era of technological advancement where innovations like computers, phones and even the social media has greatly impacted in the way we live, work and do things. This has made technology essential to economic development and advancement. Even Goldman Sachs listed technological capabilities as one of the top five criteria for Growth Environment Scores, a composite indicator of economic growth.
However, a lot of Nigerian women are not technology savvy to say the least! We see them incessantly diminished in the STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics) discipline. Just as we have very few of them as Tech Entrepreneurs, the number of Male Directors far outnumber that of Female Directors, hence more males control the content produced using Technology.
This phenomenon invariably extends to the Continent as a whole as African women remain considerably mislaid in the technology sector in terms of leadership, labor force and even usage. Technology has been under utilized in unlocking the economic potentials of women.
Now the questions that seek answers are these: What is responsible for the technological gender gap? Is modern technology out rightly too complicated or is it due to the ancient fiction that girls are just not good enough for the so-called “STEM careers”, or to use technology? And a more germane question is: Can anything be done to negate this orientation? Perhaps an excavation of the roots of the problem may help.
From infancy, women or perhaps the girl child is consciously raised to be technologically obtuse. While her male counterpart is privileged to have toys that they can dismantle and re-integrate, the girls are sentenced to a life of hair braiding for baby dolls. Anyone whose adventurous imagination slides beyond this maternal duties is quickly reminded “you are not a boy…behave like a Princess!”
In High School, these girls with this kind of upbringing would natural tend towards the Art courses so you find them in the Home Economics lab as opposed to the Introductory Technology or ICT labs. And this is very normal. As a matter of fact if you have more girls in these labs then it would appear an abnormally.
The story does not change in the tertiary institution as the girls out number the male counterparts in the Humanities department. While the host of young men flood the Engineering and STEM faculties.
Little wonder in later life, the word technology is daunting and even intimidating to the women folk and even in the very mundane use, we find them lagging way behind. This is the reason you find women with over priced Smart phones yet they can only use 3% of its function – Calls, SMS and Chat! Many do not know how to set a simple reminder on their phone or download an App. It is the same reason a woman would rather text a question to her friend rather than type that same question on Google! A typical woman would rather ask for your BBM pin rather than scan your Bar Code. A good number of them shy away from Internet Banking, booking e-tickets or any online transaction. And guess what? They are most unapologetic about this! It pretty much feels normal or perhaps “feminine” to be technologically ignorant or naïve!
But seriously, are we losing our femininity if we embrace Technology? Is that the reason only Daddies fix the light bulb in the home? Is that why installing equipment or gadget in the house is the sole responsibility of the Man? Perhaps that is the reason only our sons get the computer games. I remember while growing up, a lot of boys loved the video games while the girls were not as fascinated.
So while technology may be “masculine culture”, would we say it is not feminine life styles? Another factor that mitigates against Women and Technology in Nigeria besides Orientation and up bringing is Accessibility. What is the percentage of women that can afford these technological devices, Power and Internet service to enhance their work and livelihood? Therefore to bridge this gender gap efforts must be directed at sectors like Power and ICTs, making same readily accessible.
Seeing where the world is heading with technological advancement, are there areas in which women could and should participate in this ICT revolution? How can women use Technology to their advantage? How can it improve their lives?
Whether through the mobile phone, Internet use, new career and Tech Business opportunities, the Nigerian Women can explores ways to utilize technology in order to facilitate their empowerment and better their lives. Find below some practical ways:
1. Economic Empowerment: Women who choose to be stay-home Mums or Full Time House Wives can make money while at it. With the advent of Internet and Social Media, they can sell their good and services even more than the woman that has a high street store because they have the capacity to reach out to millions of people world wide at the same time without stepping an inch!
2. Personal Development: Women can learn so much from the “how to” and “do-it-yourself’ sites all over the internet with formal and informal activities that can help them improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. Technology can help them become a better version of themselves.
3. Leadership Roles: Because women can now be heard and not just seen as the social media has lent them a voice, it is now easier for women to amplify each other’s ideas. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are useful tools for people who want to rally support for important causes or engage the public on a topic of concern. #BringBackOurGirls war was majorly fought on social media and that is how they got the attention of International media and foreign celebrities to join the campaign. Yes, the speed and connectivity of social media can make women more empowered just by sharing their thoughts and having a voice on issues that affect them or their nation. They can use technology to stand out as leaders and demonstrate their knowledge and capabilities.
4. Educational Advancement: Online degree programmes at all levels abound for women to take advantage of. A woman who is saddled with the responsibility of looking after her husband, kids and other dependents and properly keeps a job can actually earn a foreign degree from the comfort of her home or office. Thanks to technology!
5. Employment Opportunities: Technology has resulted in more jobs across all industries…be it in telecoms, banking and manufacturing. Technology has simplified the task and made it easier for women to get jobs that would otherwise have been an uphill task for a feminine gender.
6. Women’s Violation Awareness: The social Media particularly digital media has completely changed the speed and transmission of current events in the world. We all can attest to how quickly news spreads on the Internet. Before a man drops his weapon of assault on his wife, you are already aware right in your home… sometimes with video and picture exhibit! We are a lot more aware of the plight of women around the world.
Other spheres of life where technology has positively impacted on women in the Medical field where Sexual and Reproductive health issues have been given attention thereby greatly significantly reducing Maternal Mortality rate.
Agricultural Technology has also resulted in increasing the yield from seeds, water, and soil and this has in turn resulted in massive increase in food production allowing the rural woman farming not just to feed her family but to produce enough to sell. With this extra income from farming she is able to support her family and send her daughter to school. That way she is spared the nightmare of being forced into early marriage because of inability to look after her.
The advent of Digital Financial Services such as Mobile Money Transfers, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale Terminals (POS), Debit and Credit Cards has increased women’s economic and financial status. It makes it easier and safe for them to transact business, reducing misappropriation.
The list of the advantages of Technology in women’s lives is inexhaustible. Women often need to be flexible about their location, time and nature of business and employment because they have responsibilities at home and with children. It opens up so many interesting possibilities that fit into women’s lives and bring them into the working economy.
Mercy Makinde is a speaker, writer, coach and entrepreneurship advocate. She owns an online radio station, Iaspire Radio, Nigeria’s first motivational radio station; www.iaspireradio.com and a motivational & inspirational blog; www.iaspireblog.com.