Fighting stereotypes in the tech world with initiatives: An internship for women

SaaSArticles - Fighting stereotypes in the tech world with initiatives: An internship for women (source: SaaS Industry)
At a Glance

TeamApt launched an internship program for women on women’s day this year and shortlisted five engineers from thousands of applications. In an email interview with SaaS Industry, TeamApt enunciates the existing stereotypes surrounding women in tech and the need to address the same

In October last year, The Software Report published its Top 50 Women Leaders In SaaS for that year. In January this year, it released another report highlighting the top 25 women in SaaS in Europe. And it is not just women in software; reports of women in tech, leading women entrepreneurs, and many more are being released now and then to remind us of the achievements of women in a space perceived to be dominated by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. 

The scenario is the same in the larger tech space as well. In conversations about entrepreneurs and innovators, people may bring up Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg but would not emphasize Anjali Sud, Cher Wang, or their likes. Only people working closely with them or their business partners talk about them very often.

The scenario has been very similar across the globe for decades now. In Africa, specifically, women are finding it hard to get their names across their domains and also struggling to fight stereotypes in establishing a foothold for themselves in the tech sector in the world’s second-largest continent.    

Stereotyping Women in tech: Africa’s picture

Talking about the prevalent stereotypes in Africa, Chinaza Nduka-Dike, Head, People Operations at TeamApt, Nigeria’s fintech company that develops digital banking and payments solutions, told SaaS Industry via email that these stereotypes begin from Africa’s culture.

In many African environments, girls are conditioned and shaped from a young age to consider science and tech as fields for boys. Boys receive toys that help to pique their interest in tech, while girls get dolls. Some African cultures even believe that women are not meant for the classrooms leaving us with societies where the women are majorly illiterate.

Chinaza Nduka-Dike, Head, People Operations at TeamApt,

According to statistics, in the tech space, only 28 percent of women worldwide seek jobs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) at the moment. Women are dropping out of STEM courses as a result of societal, cultural and gender stereotypes. Girls confront inadequate educational opportunities and resources in STEM topics worldwide. Many women-led tech firms in Africa push women to seek tech careers to overcome barriers in STEM education and the IT industry. 

Chinaza opines that it has witnessed stereotypes in the secular or corporate world, where men are typically considered more competent than women. Such a notion is often based on the assumptions and practices in the early stages of students’ lives where boys learn science and engineering in school and women learn to play musical instruments and etiquette. 

This stereotype has unfortunately affected the way women are remunerated. Even when women occupy the same role as men, evidence shows that men tend to earn higher

Chinaza Nduka-Dike

But the situation seems to be improving. According to the United Nations Africa Renewal Magazine, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs globally, at 27 percent. It is predicted that about 2.5 million engineer and technician jobs will be created in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) to promote clean water and sanitation. As a result, more women will be able to pursue careers in technology. In Africa, there will also be a market for women-led tech firms. 

Corroborating the stats, Chinaza acknowledges the digital divide but stresses that it is way smaller than a year ago. 

We are beginning to see women adopt technology, especially with the proliferation of the mobile phone and social media. Many women want to be able to connect with family and friends, market their business on platforms like  Instagram and WhatsApp or book delivery services. So, we’re witnessing exciting new uptakes in tech adoption.

Chinaza Nduka-Dike

Now is the time when many female-led startups are emerging out of Africa. Some startups include Jetstream Africa led by Miishe Addy; Tech Women Network led by Jumoke Dada and Easy Solar led by Nthabiseng Mosia, among others. 

Here is where TeamApt steps in to flip the script further. 

Not long ago, in March, on Women’s day this year, TeamApt launched a six-month paid internship program called Women in Tech, with the sole purpose of creating opportunities for them in tech, fostering the widely discussed topic of gender equality. 

We’re creating awareness that there’s room for women in tech and encouraging the ones who have taken the step to acquire a degree in tech. We are providing a path for women to harness their skills and garner quality experience from experts in the industry that will help advance their careers. It is also aimed at ensuring diversity when tech decisions are being made; that way, you have real individuals who understand the stereotypes influencing policies that could remarkably promote gender diversity,

Chinaza Nduka-Dike

The selection for the internship concluded in mid-August this year, with the company shortlisting five candidates for engineering roles: Tefe Mebuiefene (Frontend Engineer), Marvelous Frank-Solomon(Backend Engineer), Binta Umar(Backend Engineer), Omenebele Ananenu(Backend Engineer) and Barakat Ajadi (Technical Support Engineer). 

The internship targeted engineers and technical support staff majorly. However, Chinaza revealed that TeamApt would explore other domains in the coming years. The six-month program would help the beneficiaries with real experience in live environments and garner them the skills to thrive in their roles. 

“After three weeks of joining TeamApt, I learnt how to use Java to create APIs, and I was able to implement a feature using the knowledge I gained. I also had to use Kubernetes during development. I am gradually learning how third parties API integration works.  I have also gained more understanding about APIs and using Postman to test APIs,” Marvelous, one of the new interns, said.

Those hired were assigned mentors to ensure that their growth remains consistent and measured throughout their journey at TeamApt. Additionally, they were provided all access to training and learning materials for the entire internship duration, with a chance of being retained as full-time staff based on a performance and availability basis.

It is to be noted that the five shortlisted women were from thousands of applicants, who went through technical and aptitude stages, and conversations with engineering leads of the company.

Barakat, another new intern, said that the internship had been incredible. “I love the team spirit and how everyone displays the core value of TeamApt. I am in a team full of passionate people willing to help me get to my full potential at the organisation, always ready to answer questions and explain concepts to me. I love every bit of it!” she added. 

Today, technology has been playing a significant part in driving gender equality in workplaces. Accenture, for instance, earlier this month, invested in a technology of Pipeline that provides a SaaS-based technology to address gender disparities in workplaces. Reports have indicated how the increasing dependence on technology has helped bridge a gender-based digital divide. 

Alongside technological advancements, organizations like TeamApt are stepping forward with initiatives and programs to address the gender gaps in society.

It is said that one must be the change they wish to see in others. Much like many organizations today, TeamApt does not discriminate against recruitment on the grounds of gender. About 43 percent of its workforce are women. Encouraging women to have a seat at the tech table or be given an opportunity to take one is one of the primary visions of TeamApt. 

Chinaza stresses the need for a collaborative effort from all to drive a change. From TeamApt’s part, it would continue employing as many women as possible, with a primary focus on promoting a tech community where gender balance is attained. Hence, having such initiatives, driven by the goal of equal opportunities, would see improvement.

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