Digitalisation: Digital skills for entrepreneurial women

The tech industry is still largely a male domain, but more and more women are now taking jobs in the sector. Ghana and Rwanda are just two countries where this is happening.

Women occupy only one in four jobs in the tech sector. There is also a digital gender divide in Ghana and Rwanda. Women and girls want to change this and are now learning to programme and acquiring the skills to set up their own business.

In West Africa, the Ghanaian capital Accra has become the hub of a vibrant start-up scene. Here, the applications of the future are being developed, such as programs that use machine learning to help diagnose eye disease or apps that enable households to save energy. Ivy Barley is just one of those involved. Barley is a social entrepreneur who taught herself to code and has now set up an initiative for women working in the tech sector to support each other. Barley and her team teach programming skills to women and support them in their entry into the job market. She says ‘The future of the tech industry is female and African.’

Digital skills taught by women for women

Barley’s initiative Developers in Vogue supports, among others, graduates who want to become software developers. The courses are run in cooperation with Ghana’s National Vocational Training Institute. The initiative also offers coaching and mentoring programmes run by women for women who want to set up a digital business. Within a year of the initiative’s launch, more than 100 women are already part of the community. The programme for sustainable economic development that the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is carrying out in Ghana, partners with Developers in Vogue to provide trainings for digital skills for women and girls. In cooperation with Ghana’s vocational education and training agency, the programme develops and carries out training courses in information and communication technology. Coaching and mentoring programs to help young woman found their own companies are also part of the project.

This is just one of nine projects run around the world by the German development cooperation under the umbrella of the #eSkills4Girls initiative, which aims to support digital capacities for women and girls. GIZ runs #eSkills4Girls on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) with the aim of closing the digital gender divide and boosting women’s employment perspectives in an increasingly digital workspace.

The initiative promotes education, employment and entrepreneurship for women in the digital economy. The #eSkills4Girls initiative was launched in 2017 in the wake of Germany’s G20 Presidency. Around the world, women occupy just under a quarter of all jobs in the tech industry, one of the most important growth sectors. This means that women are losing out on the opportunities for economic and social development that working in the sector involves.

That is why #eSkills4Girls is supporting female role models in the tech sector, as well as cooperating with local stakeholders and organisations and forming strategic partnerships with the private economy. For example, a training programme called Africa Code Week is run each year in partnership with software producer SAP. It gives children and young people their first taste of programming skills. From 2017 to 2019, as part of Africa Code Week, GIZ supported workshops dedicated to building digital skills. More than 28,000 girls and women across 17 African countries took part. 

Skills in demand

GIZ also supports projects in Rwanda that help women into jobs in the tech sector. The country’s digital economy is growing rapidly, but women have so far been largely unable to benefit from this growth. On behalf of BMZ, a programming academy specifically for women – ‘WeCode’ – has therefore been set up.

The concept behind ‘WeCode’ is based on two parts: for the first part, the women are taught new digital skills and complete the programme to become all-round developers or developers for mobile apps in order to find a job on the domestic market. For the international part, ‘WeCode’ specializes in offering technical services that are increasingly being outsourced by companies. Participants in this part develop the necessary skills for quality management and software testing. Ineza Mutimura, Principal of the Moringa School, which runs the training courses, says ‘Within six months, participants acquire the skills to develop solutions for the software market.’ From over 1,000 applicants, 300 women were selected for the first two years of the programme.

Against the background of rapid change in the technology sector, participants do not merely learn the specific technological skills for individual applications. The aim is rather to equip them to adjust to changing conditions in a dynamic industry and to acquire new skills rapidly. Angela Karenzi is training as a web developer at the academy. She says, ‘We don’t just acquire programming skills. We’re also learning to develop our personal and leadership skills.’

Women like Angela Karenzi and Ivy Barley are role models for young women and help to dismantle the clichés and stereotypes that are still common. And they are not alone. In a publication documenting the eSkills4Girls initiative, 30 women from around the world tell their success story and illustrate the wide range of opportunities the tech sector offers.

Last update: April 2020

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