The future of work demands everyone to upskill and reskill in emerging disruptive technologies. Yet research reports by the United Nations, the World Bank and World Economic Forum indicate glaring gender gaps on this front across the world.
Safaricom’s Project Manager of Technology Enterprise Services Tabitha Mutunga spoke to the Business Daily about the state of women inclusion in tech in Kenya, including barriers and opportunities.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced as a woman in tech?
You face challenges on a day-to-day basis because you have to keep on innovating. But you know in our culture a woman is known to be a homemaker and balancing work life and home sometimes can be tricky. I think largely that’s one of the challenges I face.
As an African career woman, especially if you have school-going children, it is hectic. You know people depend on you as a woman, you have to be productive at work and also make sure that your family is not compromised also. That’s one of the major challenges for every woman in the technology space.
But I think challenges exist even among men because you have to keep on changing. So, if you have a stiff mindset, you cannot innovate and that way I think you can’t survive in technology. There are so many new things that are coming in. We are now deploying 5G. You have to learn. You must know whatever is required for you to have a functional 5G out there.
On stereotypes, I think lifting things is the only advantage a man would have over a woman. But when it comes to mental power, the agility of doing things, I believe we can match what men are doing.
I think the stereotype that a woman is supposed to be at home taking care of the family is what hinders so many ladies from coming into technology. But it’s a very exciting space. You just need to challenge these stereotypes and then challenge yourself, throw yourself out there and see how easy it is to grow.
What has been your most successful tech project and is there any innovation you have come up with? Just what keeps you going?
The World Athletics Under 20 competition at Kasarani. Safaricom was a connectivity partner through the local organising committee to host the historic event. This was the first time it was held in Africa. It happened in a pandemic period where we would have so many spectators but they were not there.
Then Safaricom came in to provide stable fixed Internet connectivity to all the teams that required connectivity to showcase what was happening in Kenya.
Because the only avenue where other people would see and be part of the event was either online or TV. So, we needed to provide connectivity so that any person live streaming or uploading live happenings could do it seamlessly.
How has the women in technology programme impacted women’s careers at Safaricom?
One, it’s a place where we can share at our level. You know as women we go through challenges. So we share and you find out that you are not going through a certain challenge alone, and there are people in the same space who have been able to overcome and grow through the ranks.
You get motivated and you really want to give yourself all to whatever role you are doing in Safaricom. So it’s a platform that has also challenged young girls in school.
They should take up space in technology and see what life has to offer for them in the technical space. I thank Safaricom for allowing us to thrive, in both work and home. During the pandemic, we were able to work from home, and we were facilitated to work from home.
You are able to take care of your children and are given a good leave period to go and rest when you feel that you have fatigue and burnout. So, the programme helps us keep a balanced life. You can easily forget the family and also the work. But Safaricom has given us a thriving environment to work and make sure that we are able to take care of our children, and spouses.
What is your message to young girls who want to venture into tech?
There are a myriad of opportunities out there, do not limit your mindset, do not limit yourself because of stereotypes or how you grew up. There are so many opportunities in technology that will build your mindset. You will also have something to put in your pocket.
You deserve a good life as a woman, tech will put your finances into good shape. So, challenge yourself. Do not be afraid of anything. Take chances in the technical space.
You may not be an engineer or someone who is technically trained, but you can work in that space. And it’s a very exciting space when you keep on thinking and innovating on a day-to-day basis.
Be part of the new tech trends happening in the world, it’s fulfilling. Work hard, build your character, try to know what is happening, put yourself out there. Don’t dictate what you can do, be mentally agile, try and seek to know what is happening.
There are so many innovation hubs in university campuses. Try and see what is happening there. Study what is interesting to you or is of good value to the human race. So don’t limit yourself. You also need to learn how to work with other people and collaborate. In the current world, you cannot survive alone.