Despite what many think, technology in the 21st century has not failed women. With technology evolving, so are women – their roles in society, their voices and their invaluable contribution to innovation and meaningful transformation.
Currently, women still remain under-presented in emerging technology, there are still underlying issues of gender stereotypes, skills shortages and equal opportunity I do believe however that the technology has the power to contributing greatly to addressing these issues.
Emerging technology is all about openness, accessibility and inclusivity. Technology has allowed any woman to voice her opinions, let her thoughts be known and find others like her, when she is in need of support while pursuing education, career goals or business solutions for entrepreneurial growth and sustainability. Embracing the emerging technology starts with mentorship, where young women need to be kept inspired as well as motivated to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This process needs to be adopted at an early stage. For example, at primary or higher education level.
The stories from across the continent and globe remind us of how technology is making female leadership more visible – changing the workforce of the future for the better. We are seeing women-led innovations from all parts of the African continent. From innovations in healthcare out of Nigeria to coding clubs for girls in Ghana, Uber for cargo solutions in South Africa and innovations built on machine learning in Kenya, we are seeing more women drive game-changing innovations and businesses.
For example, IBM has been on the mission to advance women in STEM, particularly in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), data science and more. This is achieved through innovative programs such as Pathways to Technology (P-TECH), where young men and women graduate with an associate degree in applied science, engineering, computers or other competitive STEM disciplines, along with the skills and knowledge to step easily into high-growth, “new collar” jobs.
There has been a lot of progress, but the sad reality is that despite women across the continent finally having equal opportunities as men, they still have to work harder to get to places of power and work even harder to stay there. Sustaining equality for generations requires concerted effort from women in leadership roles by sharing information and knowledge to ensure our places of work continue to thrive.
Emerging technology is opening new opportunities for organisations to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). While women in leading positions can now be found in every field in the business world, some still struggle to break through the norms and hardships in life. In ideal situations, women are able to study and get a good education, enter into partnerships with significant others who understand the need for females to hold roles of leadership in the workplace and in their homes.
Today we still have a large population of women (young and old), stuck under the oppressive rules brought upon by their circumstances. Lack of basic education in rural areas of the world, lack of basic health and sanitation, lack of basic understanding of human rights – all these lead to our women staying on the same level as previous generations and preventing growth, learning and development from taking place.
Many support groups have been formed and applications developed to help women cope with many pressures that they encounter daily. From having to be a mum at home and then a leader at work, women have to put on many faces to deal with the obstacles that they face on an ongoing basis. With technology, our leaders can find the help they need to continue being strong women.
This foundation is what has created the start of many opportunities for women in technology today. We’ve witnessed the changes that come and carry the hope that this will create a future where our young girls will continue to not accept second best, make bold decisions and contribute to all facets of life. We carry the hope that our young girls will take up more STEM subjects and leverage educational opportunities to strengthen their confidence, leadership skills and public speaking – leading to a technologically advanced and connected generation of women to come.
Today, it is the connections women make through technology which continue to empower, educate and inspire them. They remind us of the incredible heights women can reach together, motivating us all to dig deep and build true connections in an ever-changing world.
Sandhya Sonne is General Manager at GTS