For many years, tech was perceived as a field for men, leaving little room for women to break into and grow in the field. However, African tech trailblazers like Mary Mwangi, Naadiya Moosajee and Miishe Addy are founders of thriving tech companies debunking this long-standing myth and proving that women can do it too — and just as well!
To engage our ALX community and hear your thoughts on this topic, we ran a poll on Instagram. Drawing on insights and advice shared by girls and women in tech across the African continent, here are our Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts women can follow to conquer the African tech ecosystem.
There are so many fields in tech and it can be quite overwhelming for us!
Tech is a vast field with hundreds of options to explore, and at first glance, it can be incredibly overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is to take some time to do thorough research and start fishing out the options that are best suited for you. Not every shoe will fit, and that’s okay. The beauty of tech lies in its diversity.
On any path you decide to undertake, it is always better to walk the road with someone else. We cannot emphasise enough how crucial it is to find a support system to motivate you throughout your journey, especially in the tech world. Tech can feel lonely, isolated and downright scary, but the burden is significantly lighter with the right community. Building a network begins with putting yourself out there and communicating with others. Let people know who you are and what you’re interested in, and build loyalty by adding value consistently from there. Remember, your network is your net worth.
One of the biggest barriers women face in tech is finding people, especially women, who are as enthusiastic about their tech journey so that you can have people to go through the ups and downs with you.
Like a lighthouse, a mentor is a necessary guide for your journey through the murky waters of career development. An excellent mentor will help you navigate your newfound career interest and assist you in seeking opportunities. Besides that, you get to learn first-hand from a specialist who already has experience in the industry. Once you connect with someone who has trekked the path you endeavour to pursue, you’ll find comfort knowing that they can guide you to victory too.
A lack of confidence acts a gatekeeper to a woman’s success.
“I am not good enough” is not an option. Taking your first few steps to pursue tech is testament that you are more than capable. Remember that as human beings we are designed to adapt, learn and grow — all of which you will do as you embark on this new journey. Rid yourself of any toxic thoughts that tell you that you’re inferior to others. Walk into your field of choice with a can-do spirit and commitment to learning and you’ll set you up for success. Remain determined and expectant of favourable outcomes. It all starts with the mindset!
The cost of training, resources and certification really deter women from pursuing tech.
Many women are unaware of the vast number of resources and opportunities available for their taking. There are several options to help you kickstart your career if you look in the right places. Our very own ALX is the perfect example to plug into. There are several free and subsidised courses and scholarships that aim to promote women’s participation in STEM. You can access motivation, inspiration and knowledge right at your fingertips.
The internet is a limitless resource, and what should be one hour of research could turn into a four-week exploration. Do not get caught up in the theory; simply start. Begin building your portfolio to help get your career off the ground. You will have more impact learning as you go, rather than catching yourself in a whirlwind of could-be’s and should-be’s. And again, if you hit a roadblock, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised how many others can relate to your struggle and help you overcome it.
Women need to support women and create communities and mentorship to show how those who have gone ahead did it and pave the way for the incoming generation of women changemakers.
Understand that you cannot be perfect or work at optimal capacity 100% of the time. As much as you will progress, there will be times where you will slide back down, but that’s human and that’s okay. Failure is not a measure of your capability or lack thereof. It is simply a learning experience that redirects you to greater output, value and impact. The same goes for criticism — it’s a gift to fuel you to strive for success and gives you a chance to work on your blindspots and improve. It’s through failure that you come out stronger and wiser than ever before.
Women constantly question themselves with, “ Are you sure you’re cut out for this? It’s a man’s world!”
This goes for two things: stereotyping gender and the African continent. You have to shed the idea that women are more inclined to behave or perform a certain way. It will only lead to boxing yourself in, which won’t get you very far. It is also very easy to fall into the negative belief in “African problems” and place yourself at the tail-end of the race. It’s true that Africa has its unique set of challenges that may impact your journey, but they are not a recipe for your doom and gloom. Familiarise yourself with the stories of African women in tech like Sarah Menker, “the woman who knows what the end of the world looks like”, Tarneem Saeed, “the entrepreneur at the forefront of Sudan’s economic renaissance”, and a host of others who are breaking boundaries on the continent, and know that if they made it, so can you. Like them, be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Salary disparities are a major hindrance to women who want to explore tech.
As a woman, society will have many opinions about you — from how you should live your life to the career paths you should take. It is up to you to rise above any low expectations and prove yourself. Never settle for less than you deserve. Always negotiate a salary that reflects your experience and talent. Never get so comfortable that you do not allow yourself room to grow and flourish. Lastly, don’t allow anyone to dictate your pathway or patronise your values. You are your own entity and you are in charge of your career.
Being in a novel and fast-paced world can drain the energy out of you before you even realise it. Don’t get caught up in deadlines and blue screens without taking time out for yourself. Regularly recharge your battery and re-energise your spirit. You can do this by creating the habit of setting aside a short amount of time each day to unplug from your work and screen. And when possible, you can take longer vacations and retreats to reset completely. What’s important to remember is that this career journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace your workload and trust that little progress is better than no progress.
As you embark on your new and revolutionary journey, we urge you to remember who you are and how far you’ve come. Always remember to navigate your path with patience and kindness to yourself. Above all, stay true to your purpose and take up space where you belong.
ALX is at the forefront of equipping young women with the most in-demand career skills that will power the future. Find out how ALX’s female-only software engineering cohort is creating a space where women can excel, thrive and lead.