The potential of woman entrepreneurs remains largely untapped across the world. Few industries experience this as dramatically as technology: according to the World Economic Forum less than 20% of those working in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) are women.
And yet, technology has never been more important for our increasingly interconnected societies. Social media. The YouTube generation. The advent of mobile money taking the African market by storm. Technology has already proven its capacity to fundamentally reshape our societies. It is fast becoming the creative driving force behind almost every sustainable business in our global economy. It has the potential to help overcome some of the largest issues facing the world today. However, we definitely cannot achieve these lofty heights if we continue to ignore 50% of our potential global tech workforce. Enter Women Who Code.
Women Who Code is a free meetup-style network of women. Since its launch in 2011, Women Who Code have connected more than 80,000 women globally and produced 4,200 free technical events in 20 countries. Late in 2015, Afia Owusu-Forfie created Women Who Code’s first Sub-Saharan African programme in Ghana’s capital Accra and, in the spirit of supporting innovation and community enterprises, I was delighted to be invited to represent Challenges Worldwide as the Accra branch set foot in Kumasi for their maiden test events last month.
On the evening of Fri 7th October I headed down to Kumasi’s bustling Tech Junction and, after only a couple of failed attempts, secured a good price for a taxi to drive me out to Garden City University College for the ‘Excel In Your Career’ workshop I was to help lead. Thanks to impenetrable traffic and many a road trench, I arrived with just 2 minutes to spare before kick-off. I was shown into a room and was delighted to see nearly double the number of students we had anticipated. I was greeted by the friendly face of my fellow Women-Who-Coder-Afia Owusu-Forfie- who had Skyped in from the US to lead the session virtually.
Over the next two hours we ‘interviewed’ five brave community volunteers one by one, all in front of a packed room. It was fantastic to see the women show a real range of backgrounds and passions and really rise to the challenge of the evening. The most interesting thing for me was to witness the similarities between the women here in Kumasi and those I’ve met back home in London during similar tech career workshops. The Kumasi women had the same fears and concerns about interviews and our feedback session focused largely on the same issues with self-confidence and belief in their own awesomeness. This alone really proved to me the importance of a global network of women to help overcome these potential barriers to success. The comradery atmosphere in the room was really inspirational and, despite a couple of technical issues, a powercut and a massive downpour of rain, it was a brilliant evening where empowerment was definitely top of the agenda.