Building workplaces where over 700 million women in Africa can thrive has been on the mainstream agenda in ensuring women in the corporate world are sufficiently empowered.
While whole-some empowerment of women in education and entrepreneurship is important, creating a space in the tech world for women to boom without stereotyping is vital for equity.
The International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023, with the United Nations (UN) theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, was celebrated differently across the continent.
The theme urges global leaders to make the digital world more accessible to women, with a special target being on workplaces, to focus on a gender-equal world free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination.
Africa’s largest mobile network operator, MTN, commemorated IWD by appreciating its embracing of gender equity, seeing that more female techs have joined the executive board in leading the giant company.
The organization has been organically strong on diversity throughout its history, seeing that women constitute 39 percent of MTN’s workforce.
The gap, however, is still wide, with women being disadvantaged in the workspace in terms of pay parity, talent representation and disadvantageous working cultures.
Closing the gender gap in Africa
Where access is available, digital technology is opening doors for the global empowerment of women and girls. It is inevitable to recognize the major role technology has played in unlocking the advancement of gender equity.
Since the beginning of time, women have made significant contributions to technology. However, a persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women in Africa from unlocking their full potential in workplaces and societies in broad.
Even though much is done to break the bias and ensure women are put on the same ground as their male counterparts, complaints of gender discrimination in the recruitment process have been witnessed where women are made to feel less powerful.
A 2021 report compiled by The Bid Deal Africa reveals that tech startups led by female, single founders and female-only founding teams have raised less than 1 percent of the total raised on the continent by African startups.
Tech leaders need to acknowledge the hindrances women face and provide more opportunities for capital and female participation and representation in the digital world.
Over the years since its establishment in 1994, MTN has invested in sophisticated communication infrastructure, developing new technologies to serve over 275 million customers.
The fintech and digital enterprise renewed their commitment to upskilling the girl child and bridging the digital divide in women as they celebrated IWD 2023.
“I see women in the forefront of driving growth and innovation in technology, the faces of women entrepreneurs who drive financial inclusion for women in call centers, the network engineers and the women in the boardroom. They inspire me with their competence, impact, perseverance and determination,” said Ralph Mupita, MTN Group President and CEO.
While speaking in a webinar labeled Doing for Tomorrow Today, Mupita explained that MTN’s commitment is to see 50 percent of women in the workforce by 2030 and 30 percent in tech, which they are accomplishing by training millions of women in digital and ICT-related skills across their 19 markets in Africa.
“MTN is presently sitting at 40 percent in achieving gender equity at work by 2030. We have increased women’s representation across all areas of business, including higher representation within technology roles at the executive level and the boards, on the 30 percent vision, we are at 17 percent,” revealed the MTN CEO.
In 2022, MTN reached 2.6 million women through its CSI initiatives and upskilled them in coding, robotics, data science, and other ICT-related skills.
Mupita terms this progress as just the beginning and calls for unity to ensure gender equality.
“We recognize that we have a long way to go until women feel they truly belong in tech spaces and the broader society. To drive the advancement and empowerment of women and girls in society, MTN will continue to hold discussions on matters women,” Mupita explained in his closing remarks.
The women@work network
Employee retention and satisfaction in tech greatly borrow from innovation.
MTN has continued to be creative in service by striving to make the African woman seen by connecting her to opportunities across the continent.
Talent mobility in Africa inspired the network provider to launch a women’s exclusive platform, women@work network, an important and pivotal channel to promote inclusivity and networking.
The in-house digital platform showcases and connects over 5000 women talent to the entire MTN Group.
The content in the discussion forum of women@work is specially tailored for women.
It helps them build a professional profile, network with others, search for opportunities, explore interests as well as learning from and sharing experiences with other women in the footprint.
In the near future, this gender equity vision channel will be able to connect the user with coaches from across the footprint and have access to exclusive thought-provoking content.
The network inspired by women at MTN has click options for vacancies, the inspired hub for support and mentorship, and the “let’s connect” key for networking with others, among several other selections.
The women@work platform can be accessed through Microsoft (MS) teams.
Celebrating the day of the woman
Women worldwide come together once annually to celebrate women’s day every March 8.
Individual women and organizations are also recognized for their achievements on this day, while many try to raise awareness on the rights gaps witnessed with time.
The UN’s theme this year underscores how the fight for gender equality has evolved in the 21st century.
Before, themes would be about fighting gender-based violence, providing accessible education to the girl child and fighting poverty; however, the modern woman has beat the odds and is now fighting on the same ground a man has.
In a rich panel of tech women at MTN, the historical International Women’s Day was celebrated to encourage women to take up spaces in the digital world.
Questions of talent exchange, job dissatisfaction and other factors that disadvantage women in tech were answered.
“People leave because they are dissatisfied about something and this is the reason why most women in tech are not staying in the industry. Even as we strive for equality, we need to fight discrimination of gender to ensure the women that join this workspace stay,” noted Yolanda Cuba, MTN Group South and East Africa Region Vice President.
She noted that organizations need to be aware of global dynamics and be deliberate in their choices if they truly want to impact the woman.
On her part, Sylvia Mulinge, the CEO of MTN Uganda, insisted that meritocracy has to play big in companies while choosing employees for promotions and job opportunities.
Mulinge noted that women thrive in an environment where they are appreciated and are afraid of male-dominated industries because they lack a conducive culture and clarity of work.
“Gender equity in tech does not only need women who are courageous but also require men who are enlightened and will make room for them, make them feel safe at work and respect their boundaries while at it,” stated the CEO.
She called on leaders to create room for women while trusting that they would deliver as much as men would.
While many barriers exist for women trying to take up tech roles, Mitwa Ng’ambi, CEO MTN Cameroon, explains that the vicious cycle of lack of representation does not germinate from the present but is instead rooted in our history.
She explains that conversations about careers deeply impact women from urban Africa compared to those in semi-urban and rural Africa.
“Most technical courses are marginalized in rural Africa and women are encouraged to take up more social sciences and finance courses. We do not see it then but the ripple effect is felt now as we try to get female executives to take up tech roles,” explained the chief executive.
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Lynette Maja, a digital brand ambassador, also hosted other MTN tech women CEOs, who included Uche Ofodile of Benin, Mapula Bodibe of Rwanda, and Mitwa Ng’ambi from Cameroon, on a panel of remarkable power horses.