How Igbo Women in Tech are Breaking Gender Barriers
Technology has been a reserve of the male herd since time immemorial, but Igbo women are revolutionising gender equality in that industry. They add individualism and novel inventions which are defining the future of technology. However, they still face considerable challenges due to ingrained gender biases. In this article, we will explore Igbo Women’s contributions to tech, the unique perspectives, key challenges faced, efforts to break barriers and answer FAQS.
Igbo Women’s Contributions to Tech
They have been pioneers in using technology to drive entrepreneurship and uplift their communities in Nigeria. They started companies specializing in e-commerce, fintech, digital media etc. For instance, Odunayo Eweniyi is one of the founders of PiggyVest—a savings and investment app that has over 1 million active users. Other prominent founders include Abisola Alawode of Healthtracka and Chibuzor Obiora of Chanja Datti.
The tech leaders are helping get more girls and women into STEM fields through targeted programs. Organizations like Fempower Africa provide mentorship and coding classes to equip the next generation with digital skills. Role models like Franca Ezeani, a software engineer, are showing Igbo girls that tech careers are achievable.
The Unique Perspectives Igbo Women
Bring to Tech Igbo women’s backgrounds and experiences give them invaluable perspectives for building solutions tailored to overlooked groups. For example, having dealt with unreliable electricity and lack of digital payment options, Igbo women founders are innovating in areas like renewable energy and online banking.
Coming from a Traditionally masculine culture, they are adept at persevering in hostile environments, enabling them to push ahead in the similarly male-dominated tech sector. They tap into the sense of strength, independence, and achievement orientedness which Igbo culture tends to impart in women.
Many Igbo women in tech are leveraging this heritage of adaptation, fearlessness, and hustle to drive their companies forward, while advocating for other minority groups. They see entrepreneurship as a way to increase opportunity, for themselves and others.
Key Challenges Faced by Igbo Women in Tech
While they have achieved much, systemic biases continue to stymie greater inclusion and advancement in Nigerian tech. Key challenges include:
- Perceptions and assumptions that women lack technical/leadership abilities: Igbo culture and tech both grapple with conceptions of appropriate gender roles and skills. Igbo women constantly must prove themselves to skeptics.
- Discrimination in hiring and promotions: There is sizable wage and leadership disparity. Even women who push ahead are pigeonholed rather than given opportunities to advance to executive roles.
- Balancing work demands with family obligations: The expectation to handle domestic duties often solely falls on women in the Igbo context, limiting their capacity to scale their careers. There is a lack of structural support.
- Limited funding for women-led ventures: Just 4% of 2015-2019 VC funding in Africa went to all-female founding teams. Yet research shows women deliver higher ROI. There is a clear need to back women.
- Minimal female networks and role models in tech: 71% of Nigerian students in STEM higher education programs are male. The low visibility of Igbo women tech success stories contributes to the imbalance. Girls lack inspiration.
Efforts to Break Barriers
To tackle these roadblocks, various activists, organizations and training programs focused on African women in tech have emerged across the continent over the past decade. Here are a few examples of Igbo women leading the charge:
- Chioma Agwuegbo – Founder of TechHer NG, an education and advocacy organization empowering women and girls to excel in technology across Africa.
- Nnenna Nwakanma – Co-founder of DIGILOG Women, an initiative providing digital literacy and participation skills to women at the grassroots level in rural areas of Nigeria.
- Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin – Founder of Girl Coding, an organization that has taught over 40,000 girls in Nigeria valuable programming skills for free since 2012.
- Onyeka Akpaida – Founder of Girlhype, a program focused on raising the next generation of female technology leaders in Nigeria through camps, conferences and mentorship.
- Morenike Adebayo – Director of CODE Linux & Blockchain Institute, a tech academy training women on skills like software development and cryptocurrency in southwest Nigeria.
These leaders also advocate for policy changes around education access, hiring practices, workplace conduct standards, and venture funding allocation that will better support the rise of Igbo women in tech.
They are spearheading technological innovation across Nigeria while changing cultural expectations. But substantial roadblocks related to discrimination, lack of visibility, and insufficient structural support continue to hinder females in Africa’s tech sector. Targeted education, expanded networks/funding channels and policy overhauls enabling women’s professional mobility will be key to dismantling barriers inhibiting Igbo women’s tech leadership trajectories. Realizing their enormous potential will uplift local communities and fuel national prosperity.
Are Igbo women well-represented in Nigerian tech company leadership?
Not very well. Women comprise 35-40% of tech employees in Nigeria, yet a tiny fraction of director+ level roles. Cultural attitudes and lack of sponsorships hinder Igbo women from reaching upper ranks. Initiatives promoting women in tech seek to address the imbalance.
What are some examples of Igbo women tech leaders breaking barriers?
Prominent examples include Abisola Alawode, founder of medical startup Healthtracka, Chioma Agwuegbo of advocacy organization TechHer NG and Chibuzor Obiora who founded agribusiness company Chanja Datti. They are leading innovations, spearheading advocacy work, creating jobs and ushering young women into STEM careers.
How can we encourage more Igbo girls to pursue tech careers?
Mentorships, coding camps focused on girls, spotlighting Igbo women tech success stories, destigmatizing tech as a career path for women, policy changes ensuring classroom technology access equity and hiring reforms will collectively inspire more Igbo girls to achieve in technology long-term.
What cultural barriers do Igbo women face in the tech industry?
They often contend with cultural expectations around marriage and childrearing that can limit their career advancement, as well as biases about women lacking technical abilities. They must balance community obligations and rebut assumptions.
Do they have good access to STEM education opportunities?
Historically access has been limited, but new nonprofit initiatives focused specifically on girls, like Girlhype and Girl Coding, are working to provide them with more tech education and skills development opportunities early on.
While Igbo women tech leaders are making major headway, substantial work remains to achieve gender parity in Nigerian technology. Deeply entrenched sociocultural belief systems must evolve, discrimination must be stamped out through updated workplace conduct laws, and access to capital and markets dramatically improved before we see proportional Igbo female representation across Africa’s tech ecosystem. However, through the efforts of advocates, educators, founders and funders, the future is bright for impending generations of Igbo girls to shatter assumptions and ascend to the top echelons of the industry. Their innovations will unleash new potentials for economic mobility and community prosperity.