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Google: Bridging gender gap through more women initiatives

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• Announces Plans To Train 20,000 Women In Africa

Over the years, American tech giant, Google, has established itself as a force in the emerging market. Not only does it drive business, it also brings more people on the Internet through the Next Billion Users (NBU) initiative. To this end, the search engine has taken into consideration the need for more gender-sensitive initiatives, and has further opened doors of opportunities for more women to thrive.

According to a 2012 World Development Report, women account for 40 percent of the global labour force, and are more likely to work in less productive sectors than their male counterparts.

A similar report by UN Women also shows that women are more likely to be unemployed than men. Currently, the tech giant is tackling various challenges facing women through three initiatives: Women Will, Launchpad Women and Women Techmakers.

Google will empower participating women with Entrepreneurship, Workplace Readiness, Leadership and Technology Skills, starting with an empowerment drive. While expanding its work in this year’s Women Will Africa, in commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day, the technology giant revealed that it is ready to expand the scope of three female-friendly initiatives to give more women the opportunity to thrive.

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Google’s Head of Brand and Reputation, Africa, Mojolaoluwa Aderemi Makinde, said her focus was on key areas- Education, Gender Equality and Youth Empowerment.
She said: “We are operating on four pillars: leadership, entrepreneurship, workplace, and digital literacy. Today, we’re expanding our reach around gender equality. A quote by Kofi Annan basically says that gender equality is not a goal in itself, but a precondition to achieving the sustainable development goals for good governance, for building societies. So, today, we are unveiling the work we’re doing as Google to further the gender equality agenda, and to also help in closing the gaps around gender inequality, that are specific in Africa. There’s statistics that tell us that it will take 142 years to close the gender gap in Africa, as against 65 years in European countries.
  
“The three initiatives are not new. Last year, we launched Women Will in Africa. This year, we’re strengthening our commitment. So, we’re doubling down on our commitment. Last year, we reached 10,000 women across Africa, with Women Will. This year, we want to reach 20,000 women across Africa. Women Will is an initiative for women in general. We have 26 chapters across eight countries in Africa. And 12 of those chapters are in Nigeria. So, every woman can be a part of Women Will  
  
“We have the Women Techmakers, which is specifically for women in technology, and then, Launchpad Women, which is an offshoot of our Launchpad programme. It’s aimed at growing women leadership and women capacity within startups.
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“We are targeting 20,000 this year through the Women Will, starting with a tour we will be embarking on in April, to reach women across many cities across the four pillars. Google remains committed to providing a platform for women to achieve their potential and to grow.

“Since 2016, we have trained young people and SMEs living in Africa via our Digital Skills for Africa programme to help them find jobs and grow their businesses. Our digital skills training has been offered in 29 countries across Africa, with over 60 percent of trainees having confirmed recording business growth, starting new businesses, finding jobs or growing in their current jobs. To date, we have trained more than five million people, 48 percent of which are women.”
 
While speaking on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, Each For Equal, and the need to bridge gender gap, Makinde said: “There are so many things we need to do. First of all, the basic root of everything is awareness. So, as a people, we need to be aware of the fact that this divide exists. So, once we have that awareness, we will work out what to do to close the gaps. We believe that with the right skills, women can truly improve themselves. They can fully contribute to nation building. They can contribute significantly to our economy, and we will also see a significant progress in our GDP.

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“One of the ways we are addressing the low number of women in the tech industry is with our Launchpad programme. We also have the Google Developer groups, which span across many countries, as well as many cities in Nigeria. They host lots of resources and lots of opportunities for people to learn and to develop deep skills across technology and to foster community to build products that are solving true local African problems and Nigerian problems.”

Google’s Head of Consumer Apps Marketing Sub Saharan Africa and Head of Marketing at Google Nigeria, Olumide Balogun, answering question on why there are many women-oriented initiatives but fewer women in leadership position, said: “Solving problems cannot be about organising events alone. It’s amazing that we have different events that are raising awareness about the issues, and we are congregating people on what those issues are. But in solving the issues, we must institutionalise them in our everyday life.

“We must ensure that in our workplace, in our homes, and our schools, we are intentional about giving women the opportunities they need and not be gender-biased. We cannot say because it is a tech job, women are not oriented on that field, or thinking that because it is a mechanical job, women cannot lift heavy things. I think it’s important for us to make sure that in our everyday conversations, these issues are raised, and that we’re intentional about solving them.

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