Barka da asuba,
That’s “good morning” in Hausa
At the start of senior secondary school in Nigeria, students are typically divided into two broad categories: science students and art students, or STEM and non-STEM.
(STEM is short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics)
I was a science student. And after a while, I started to notice that the classes I was in had fewer and fewer girls, so that by the time I entered university and eventually the workforce, there were fewer women in the lecture hall and even fewer in meeting rooms.
Tech has a well-documented gender diversity problem. Every year, Women’s History Month presents an opportunity to acknowledge it and to proffer solutions.
Nigerian digital bank Kudabank recently called for women to apply for its internship program. After the deadline closed, Kuda quipped that it had received unsolicited applications from men.
There was predictable pushback, the bank was accused of gender bias.
This led to discussions from Twitter Spaces to Clubhouse and even a subliminal message by rival digital bank VBank.
Kudabank has given its reasons for starting a women-only internship program.
According to them:
1. Right now, we have more men than women working at Kuda and we must close this gender gap quickly.
2. We have internships for everyone but this exclusive internship is one of the ways we’re celebrating Women’s Month.
It would be remarkable if the internship program led to full-time job offers for the women that are successful.
Fixing the broken talent pipeline
have shown that an aptitude for STEM is equally distributed among young boys and girls. However, this equality isn’t reflected much later in their careers.
This is due to a number of factors, from young girls being discouraged from a career that’s traditionally seen as “for men” to a lack of female role models in tech.
These factors conspire to drive that gap that starts to form in secondary school. Would you like to know how the gap eventually ends?
Here are 2 examples:
- A recent report found that 72% of women in tech report being outnumbered by men in business meetings by a ratio of at least 2:1, while 26% report being outnumbered by 5:1 or more.
- Closer to home, a recent report found that of the West African startups that cumulatively raised $1 million in the last 10 years, only 10 percent had at least one female co-founder.
Initiatives such as Kudabank’s women-only internship ought to, therefore, be seen as less of a punishment for men and more of an attempt to correct an imbalance created by cultural attitudes not a difference in aptitude.
In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, STEM careers are forecasted to be some of the most in-demand. Solving this imbalance problem now could prevent women from being significantly economically disadvantaged in the coming decades.
This article proffers more solutions
because obviously, gender equality is a problem that companies like Kudabank can’t solve all on their own.