The recent event to celebrate the global campaign, the International Girls in ICT Day, organised by eBusinesslife in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and other stakeholders in the industry, has placed more emphasis on grooming more young girls that will take up the challenge of exploring ICT-related careers.
The event which held on Thursday in Lagos, is part of a year-long campaign instituted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to sensitize young girls to explore career options in ICT and related fields, which prior to now have been male-gender dominated.
Introducing the event, the Convener and Publisher, e-Business Life Communication Limited, Mrs. Ufuoma Emuophedaro, aligned with a report by the ITU stating that the ICT sector remains a buoyant and growing sector for employment, and a key economic factor reinforcing both national and international development.
According to her, “Any professional job we can think of today has a strong tech component. Technology has become a critical tool in fields as diverse as art, history, archaeology, law, primary teaching, to mention but a few. As such, tech qualifications will give an advantage in a competitive job market, earn a high salary and give career mobility.”
While encouraging the students to tap into the future, Mrs Emuophedaro stated: “The future of the ICT sector promises to be an exciting one. It is estimated that within the next 10 years, there will be more than 2 million technology jobs that cannot be filled because of lack of qualified ICT specialists.”
In quoting a statement by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, she said, “Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all. There is overwhelming evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies and countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous… Gender equality is the unfinished business of our time.”
She noted that that given the rising need for software engineers and web developers, and coupled with the projection that advances in gender equality can result in a $12 trillion boost to the global GDP by 2025, it is hardly surprising that the world is making more space for women in STEM.
She applauded female mentors with whose efforts more girls have and will dare to pursue careers in STEM in the near future. “On a global scale, we are heading towards 40% of women in tech positions in the next 5 -10 years. Let’s hope that in the future years, there will be more and more females in IT and science. We also don’t want companies to hire women because they have to, or because they feel pressured by society. Hire women because it’s worth it!”
Deputy Director, New Media and Information Security at NCC, Mrs. Olatokunbo Oyeleye, in her address, recalled that the ITU on April 8, 2011 announced the establishment of an International Girls in ICT Day to be held yearly on the fourth Thursday in April, which was a direct result of the adoption of its Resolution 70 – “Gender mainstreaming in ITU and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).” The Resolution was to incorporate a gender perspective in the implementation of all ITU programmes and plans.
Mrs. Oyeleye, who represented the NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Prof. Umar Danbatta cited examples of young girls that broke the gender barrier with exploits in STEM fields, noting: “And they are a proof that breaking gender norm should become the norm.”
He continues: “For gender norms to be broken, there needs to be a deliberate and intentional promotion in the field of STEM in our schools for girls, and this must start at a young age. This is vital when attempting to promote gender diversity within STEM. The STEM industry is crying out for more female talents to balance the gender inequality.”
Prof. Danbatta noted that the NCC has a series of initiatives to promote Child Online Protection (COP) within the nation.
Educating children on ways they should keep themselves safe online, and avenues to report if they fall victim. Therefore the NCC invites participants to share their experiences and proffer solutions by sending an email to COP.
Nigeria, being a member state adopts the outcomes of ITU resolutions including Girls in ICT, which is celebrated across the nation.
Since the birth of Girls in ICT Day in 2011, over 377,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 11,400 International Girl in ICT Day celebrations in 171 countries.
Speaking on the opportunities open in the field of ICT, General Manager, IT Operations, MTN Nigeria, Mrs. Yetunde Ojo enumerating that there is a wide variety of jobs in the industry noting that IT skills are transferable across industries and continents. She also observed that despite each job requiring a distinctive set of skills and personal traits, almost all IT jobs depend on strong technical knowledge.
“But each has a different emphasis, whether the job centres on coding, managing hardware, applying software, data science or managing systems or people. In some companies one person performs multiple roles, in larger companies focus on a specialised skillset is expected. Technology is consistently evolving. There are always skills shortages in the latest Technology.”
She advised the young girls, to among other things, to practice using Technology, starting with simple tools such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint, then going through tutorial, identifying all the capabilities, and trying them out.
“Self-develop, train, do certifications; Remain open minded; Attend free classes; Learn from friends; Keep researching and find out how you can be part of evolving Technology; Training and personally evolving is key. Self-training, company sponsored training, certification, use material on the internet, tutorials on Youtube, join communities.”
While noting that opportunities are always being created in this dynamic, growing field of ICT, Mrs. Ojo further advised the students to make the most of the opportunities and develop their knowledge and skills wherever they find themselves. “There’s always something you didn’t know before.”
President of Caleb Ayanwusi Foundation (CAF), Dr. Caleb Ayanwusi, in his speech stressed on the necessity to support the critical need for more girls and young women to have “important roles in the striving innovations and creativities in the ICT world.”
Represented by its Project Manager, Mrs. Ejiinkeonye Nice, Ayanwusi noted that the Foundation, in collaborating with eBusinesslife in creating awareness about the gender digital divide and supporting technology, education and skill training, is encouraging girls and young women to actively seek careers in ICT with interest in STEM, thereby improving their problem solving abilities in general.
“Indeed we are proud to be part of this global event & would be very happy, if every one of these girls/young women will further from here to become the best ICT professionals the world will know in the future.”
In her speech, Quality Assurance Engineer, SystemSpecs, Jane Amaife, noted that gender roles are the makings of a society developed and practised over time, but today, although held back by societal models of the past, stereotypes are being shattered.
While assuring the girls that they could be whatever they desire, Amaife frowned at the challenges that still need to be surmounted in the sector.
These she said include the fact that more than half of university graduates are female, yet only a handful venture into ICT, with only about 4 in 10 female graduates in STEM, a number which she said reduces as they progress in their education.
Also with gender segregation in the labour market, females occupy less than 30% of jobs in ICT with few of the women in decision-making roles.
Other challenges, she said, include insufficient female role models; lack of awareness and resources and societal roles imposed on women.
Amaife, however lined up some career opportunities to include in fields such as Informatics, Web and multimedia (Arts, graphic design, UI/UX design), Hardware development and medical informatics, which includes scientific informatics, ERP systems, supply chain management systems (SCM) and CRM systems.
In her presentation that demonstrated practical issues around the challenges that women face in a career in ICT, Voice/Edge Specialist, Inq Digital Nigeria, Olanrewaju Justice-Anyi noted that one of the major challenges include opportunities in workplace. She however encouraged that this can be overcome by the young girls by trying to be the best in the ICT field they have chosen because when they are good, they cannot be overlooked.
Justice-Anyi challenged the students to be innovative and be dogged in their chosen career despite challenges they may face because they can do as good as any other person on the career path.
The event attracted support from the nation’s telecommunication regulatory body, NCC, MTN Nigeria, Galaxy Backbone, VDT Communications, Inq Digital, SystemSpecs and Caleb Ayanwusi Foundation.
With the theme, “Expand Horizons, Change Attitudes: Breaking Gender Norms in Career Choices”, the event featured graphic Design Competition among participating schools; quiz competition among students, Roundtable discussion by students and outstanding achievement Awards to the NCC, VDT Communications, and the Founder and Executive Director, Cybersafe Foundation, Constance Staveley for their contributions in the growth of ICT and support for Girls-In-ICT campaign.