In the past, the field of technology used to be dominated by men. This was not just a fact in Kenya but in all countries around the world. Technology was seen as too difficult for little girls who were expected to only raise children and take care of kitchen matters when they grow up. There are many other reasons for women not having much representation in the field of technology and one was given by Jane Margolis, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Margolis interviewed hundreds of computer science students in the 90s at Carnegie Mellon University, which had one of the top programmes in the country at the time and she said, “Many of the women at Carnegie Mellon talked about computers being in [their brother’s] bedroom and there were a lot of father-son internships around the computer that weren’t happening with the girls.” She added,
She added, “There was a cultural assumption that the norms of being in computer science were that you would do it 24/7, were obsessed with it, wanted nothing in your life but computers – and that was very much associated with male adolescents.”
“It was very much based around a male norm. Females were made to think that, if they didn’t dream in code and if it wasn’t their full obsession, they didn’t belong or were not capable of being in the field, “she concluded.
Things have since changed and now we have more women who are taking on men in the field of technology and excelling just as well thanks to initiatives such as the Akirachix in Kenya and many other women-only accelerators around the world.
One such accelerator is TechWomen which is an initiative for emerging women leaders in technology and is the brainchild of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. TechWomen was launched in 2011 with 37 emerging women leaders from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Territories.
2012, the program expanded to include women from Tunisia and Yemen. In 2013, the cohort doubled in size with the addition of women from Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In 2015, it expanded to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The 2017 TechWomen program brought to the fore women from Kenya who went on to compete with other countries and emerged winners in the Action Plan Pitch Competition. The group, which called itself Dignit and that comprises of Ruth Kaveka, Chao Mbogho, Ciiru Nyaga, Topyster Muga, Silantoi Favor Janet won a seed grant to carry on the Digniti project aiming to improve toilet sanitation in rural primary schools in Kenya.
Although we have made significant gains we are not yet there and hence the need to celebrate the women are making progress in the field. So let us get to know these women, who are making waves in the world of tech,
- Chao Mbogo- Lecturer Kenyan Methodist University
At 35 years, Chao Mbogo is a computer science, information systems management, educational technology and e-learning expert. Chao Studied Ph.D. Computer Science at University of Cape Town and Studied M.Sc Computer Science at the University of Oxford. She is currently focusing on educational technology, technical training, and research. Her goal is to learn a new dimension of economic and social value of entrepreneurship as well as learn real experiences from an industry expert.
- Janet Leparteleg- ICT Management Trainee, ICT Authority
Janet is 30 years old and she is an expert in the field of computer security, information systems management as well as data mining and analytics. Currently, her focus is on Computer operations and/or security, solutions architect and technical product design. Her goals include being hands-on in technical training and exposure in system security and big data analytics. She also wants to get soft skills relevant for growth in her career and to be a mentor to young girls in technology. Janet also desires exposure and networking with experienced people in her area of interest so as to learn from their personal experiences.
- Ruth Kaveke- Website Developer, ZoomIT East Africa Limited
Ruth is 26 years- old and she is an expert in computer science and graphic design. Her current focus is on HCI/UX/UI, search optimization and web analysis. Her goal is to learn more on Tools and techniques used for search engine optimization, web security as well as website traffic and analytics.
- Topy Muga- Senior Director, Financial Inclusion, Sub Saharan Africa, Visa Inc
Topy Muga is a telecommunications, engineering, information systems management and computer science expert. The 35 year –old is currently focused on electronics or telecommunications, localization and overseeing the delivery of technology products. Her goals include linking social media platforms to mobile payments for customers, developing technology solutions that increase financial literacy and idea selection for strategic product development.
- Charity Wanjiku – Chief Operating Officer, Strauss Energy Ltd
Charity Wanjiku is 36 years old and she is an expert in architectures, renewable energy, science, engineering and environmental matters. Charity is currently focused on energy, renewable technology or green technology. Wanjiku also manages technical employees and is also the technical and program manager.
Just as with the others, Charity also wants to achieve some goals and they include learning a new dimension of economic and social value of entrepreneurship and learn from real experiences from an industry expert. She also wants to gain knowledge and skills on how to run an energy enterprise efficiently and in a profitable manner. Charity also wants to understand integration of smart IT systems in renewable energy solutions