Marne Dunn is Intel’s Digital Empowerment Director for Community Education. Although she has worked in top positions at one of the world’s leading software companies for nearly twenty years, she is still expected to be the one who brings the tea when in meetings with other counterparts in some parts of the developing world.
The reason to some is simple-she is a woman. Perhaps that is why she is so passionate about educating women and girls especially in the area of technology. She spoke to Vanguard Hi-Tech on just how Intel’s She Will Connect programme is helping to level the playing field by giving more women access to technology, so much so that no one would simply assume that any woman on board a tech team must be the ‘tea girl.’
By Laju Iren & Geraldine Anunukem
WHAT is life like as a woman in technology? What challenges have you faced in the past and what challenges do you face now that are germane to the work place? It’s been a really interesting experience. Coming into the ecosystem through Intel, especially on the technical side, I was the only female in the room. Travelling internationally, that became worse.
For example I have heard of experiences in India where the only job of the woman on the team is to bring tea. So when I travel to such places, it’s their expectation that I am there to support my male colleagues. Sometimes, I sense their surprise when I begin leading technical discussions.
It’s pretty normal for a woman in technology that these are things that they would face. As more women get into ICT there would be a lesser concern as there will be many other women in the room, but for now there is still gender digital divide in respect to the poor level of ICT
What are the implications of the wide gender gap in this part ofthe world and what can be done to solve it?
Some of the implications really have to do with access to information. Women always create a ripple effect when they learn something new. When women have access to information, they tend not to keep it to themselves. This in turn affects the quality of businesses, families and life in general. So you can imagine the ripple effect when that access is not there.
I think there are several reasons why this gap exists, one has to do with the perception of technology, and the other has to do with the perception of what it means to be on the internet. We found out that when we asked women why they weren’t connected they would say things like, “there is nothing on the internet for me.
If that’s your perception, there is no way you would go anywhere near the internet because you don’t believe there is anything there for you. So one thing we are changing is perception. So part of what we are looking at is how do you talk to women about what their specific needs are and introduce how technology can help them.
For girls who desire a career in tech, the main thing is to stay curious and keep learning and asking questions and look for those role models. There are women in technology in Nigeria that are around, so don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do it because you are a girl.