There are multiple paths – other than software development – for women interested in tech and start-ups.
– By Seun Runsewe
When the topic of gender inclusion in technology comes up, people often assume that the only ways to include women are through encouraging software development and other related technical skills. However, there is an important place for non-technical skills where women can also function: expertise in product management, digital marketing, sales, finance, legal, and human resource management are all essential to the technology ecosystem.
The Forbes list of the most powerful women in tech in 2017 and Inc’s 30 inspirational women to watch in tech in 2017 showcased women with very diverse backgrounds and skill-sets.
A few months ago, the women of Paystack (an online payments company based in Lagos) hosted a women’s meet-up with the sole agenda of shining a floodlight on non-technical opportunities through which women can gain entry into the tech industry.
The first thing we noted is that the tech industry is not necessarily an isolated one, and that every other industry has room for technical innovations and optimisation. If this is accepted, then more people will realise that they can remain in their field of expertise, and optimise that field through technology.
At the Women of Paystack event for instance, we found out that many of the participants already had interests and expertise in fields as diverse as education, agriculture, and more. They were simply interested in learning how to optimise their fields using technology.
You don’t need to wait until you have the fancy job at Google to be a true tech star. The journey can start anywhere! Tech-driven solutions have been and will continue to be led by trailblazing women from various backgrounds and with very different skill-sets.
One of the important first steps is overcoming unconscious bias. Often, a lot of women do not attempt to go into tech because they have been conditioned over time to think of the tech space as a man’s space. This bias must be fought against, and more women must be taught that many before them have succeeded in the tech space, and that they too can succeed.
I joined Paystack as the Business Lead and have had an amazing time contributing to the solutions and new thinking Paystack is bringing to online payments in Africa. I must re-iterate this: the key ingredients to find and own your place in tech are curiosity, interest, and the beliefs that nothing holds you back as a woman.
Other women in the space who are doing such amazing work include Adia Sowho (my woman crush), who was the former Director of Digital Business at 9mobile. She has contributed immensely through strategy and business development in the telecommunications sector. There is also Damilola Teidi, another brilliant woman who founded the ride sharing start-up, “GoMyWay” and currently serves as the Director of the incubation unit at Co-Creation Hub.
Elsewhere in the world, there is Meg Whitman, the CEO of HP who has a background in economics, and Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook, arguably one of the most dominant social networks on the planet. These women are proof that you don’t need to be a software developer to contribute to real-world, tech-driven solutions.
To get into the tech space, I also encourage women to join communities with active roles in tech that speak to their interests. Be seen and participate actively in communities such as DigiClan, a digital marketing community; Product Tank, a community for product managers organised by my colleague, Khadijah Abu; Dribble Meetup in Lagos, a community of designers in Lagos, and many other such communities for content developers, business developers and more.
For women interested in learning software development, you could check out, and join one or more of these popular developer communities: Devcenter, ForLoop, the Lagos Google Developer Group, Django Girls, and Frontstack.
Next, follow the works of leading women in the tech space and let their drive inspire you. Finally, seek out general tech related initiatives such as Google’s Digital Skills for Africa program, and women-in-tech focused initiatives, grants and opportunities created by governments and NGOs specifically for women interested in the tech space.
The tech industry needs more than men and women crunching away at codes to bloom. It needs men and especially women of varying skill-sets such as digital marketing, business development, design, and more.
Like me, more women should rid of their unconscious bias, and realise that they have what it takes to succeed in the tech space.
SeunRunsewe is the Inbound Sales Lead at Paystack, an online payments company that helps African businesses accept payments from anyone, anywhere in the world. Prior to Paystack, she was the Project Coordinator for Project Africa, KPMG’s initiative to push the frontiers of Financial Services in Africa. Seun studied Business Administration at Covenant University.
This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.