By Mercy Makinde
WE live in the era of technological advancement where innovations like computers, phones and even the social media has greatly impacted in the way we live, work and do things.
This has made technology essential to economic development and advancement. Even Goldman Sachs listed technological capabilities as one of the top five criteria for Growth Environment Scores, a composite indicator of economic growth.
However, a lot of Nigerian women are not technology savvy to say the least! We see them incessantly diminished in the STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics) discipline. Just as we have very few of them as Tech Entrepreneurs. The number of Male Directors far outnumber that of Female Directors, hence more males control the content produced using Technology.
This phenomenon invariably extends to the Continent as a whole as African women remain considerably mislaid in the technology sector in terms of leadership, labor force and even usage. Technology has been under utilized in unlocking the economic potentials of women.
Now the questions that seek answers are these: What is responsible for the technological gender gap? Is modern technology out rightly too complicated or is it due to the ancient fiction that girls are just not good enough for the so-called “STEM careers”, or to use technology? More germane question is: Can anything be done to negate this orientation? Perhaps an excavation of the roots of the problem may help.
From infancy, women or perhaps the girl child is consciously raised to be technologically obtuse. While her male counterpart is privileged to have toys that they can dismantle and re-integrate, the girls are sentenced to a life of hair braiding for baby dolls. Anyone whose adventurous imagination slides beyond this maternal duties is quickly reminded “you are not a boy…behave like a Princess!”
In High School, these girls with this kind of upbringing would natural tend towards the Art courses so you find them in the Home Economics lab as opposed to the Introductory Technology or ICT labs. And this is very normal. As a matter of fact if you have more girls in these labs then it would appear to be an abnormality.
The story does not change in the tertiary institution as the girls outnumber the male counterparts in the Humanities department. While the host of young men flood the Engineering and STEM faculties.
Little wonder in later life, the word technology is daunting and even intimidating to the women folk and even in the very mundane use, we find them lagging way behind. This is the reason you find women with over priced Smart phones yet they only use 3% of its function – Calls, SMS and Chat!
Many do not know how to set a simple reminder on their phone or download an App.
It is the same reason a woman would rather text a question to her friend rather than type same question on Google! A typical woman would rather ask for your BBM pin rather than scan your Bar Code. A good percentage of them shy away from Internet Banking, booking tickets or anything else online. And guess what? They are most unapologetic about this! It pretty much feels normal or perhaps “feminine” to be technologically ignorant or naïve!
But seriously, are we losing our femininity if we embrace Technology? Is that the reason only Daddies fix the light bulb in the home?
Is that why installing equipment or gadget in the house is the sole responsibility of the Man? Perhaps that is the reason only our sons get the computer games. I remember while growing up, a lot of boys loved the video games while the girls were not as fascinated.
So while technology may be “masculine culture”, would we say it is not feminine life styles? Another factor that mitigates against women and technology in Nigeria besides orientation and up bringing is accessibility.
What is the percentage of women that can afford these technological devices, Power and Internet service to enhance their work and livelihood? Therefore to bridge this gender gap efforts must be directed at sectors like Power and ICTs, making same readily accessible.
Seeing where the world is heading with technological advancement, are there areas in which women could and should participate in this ICT revolution? How can women use technology to their advantage? How can it improve their lives?
Whether through the mobile phone, Internet use, new career and Tech Business opportunities, and Nigerian Women can explore ways to utilize technology to facilitate their empowerment and better their lives.