The International Women’s Day was commemorated on Friday, March 8, 2018. Women in Information Communication Technology (WICT) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology teamed up with the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) to celebrate the strides made towards gender parity especially in ICT as well as reflect on what needs to be done.
The celebration themed; #balanceforbetter brought together JKUAT student-clubs such as the Society of Engineering Students (SES), Society of Computer Science and Information Technology (SCOSIT), the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and high school female students.
Around the globe, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been leveraged for the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide. While acknowledging that gender disparity exists, the Keynote speaker, Ms. Eunice Kariuki, said the advent of ICT has leveled the playing field. She therefore implored the ladies to be proactive.
“Take advantage of the ICT infrastructure and take action. Technology has provided us with tools to tackle gender inequality and empower women,” said the Director of Partnerships, Innovation and Capacity Development at the Information and Communication Technology Authority.
According to Ms. Kariuki, the inadequate number of women in technology roles contributes to a vicious cycle where young women are dissuaded from entering the industry due to lack of inspiration, role models, or even a support system.
She lauded WICT-JKUAT and YTF for bringing together a diversity of mentors drawn from Finserve Africa, GIZ-Make-IT in Africa Project, KPMG, NaiLab, Safaricom, Zalego, Moringa School and IBM to empower and inspire the young women to take up ICT courses, leadership roles and promote gender balance.
“It’s not enough for young women to simply gain technical skills, we as a society need to afford them the support system, mentorship, and networks that will allow them to accelerate their career growth,” advised Ms. Kariuki.
While conceding that ICT remains the backbone of all innovations that spur development in every sector, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi decried the ICT digital gender gap.
According to research conducted by Kenya’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Board, women make up only 15% of the country’s ICT workforce despite the fact that they comprise of 50.3% of the total population.
“This under-representation in the ICT digital gender gap means that women are lagging behind in information access thereby missing out on many opportunities,” lamented Prof. Ngumi in her remarks.
While appreciating the organisers of the celebration, she said there is need to encourage and support girls and women to take up ICT so that they can actively engage in developing innovative engineering solutions that foster development.