AfricaCom: Could the next Bill Gates be female, and African?

IT leaders at the AfricaCom conference said technology is breaking down barriers for women to succeed in STEM jobs, but enterprises need to support diversity and inclusion initiatives.

diversity gender equality south africa south african woman at computer in office africa by delmaine
Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

Could the tech world’s next bigwig come from Africa? And could this individual be female?

Juliet Ehimuan, country director for strategy at Google in Nigeria, thinks so. Referencing an article she wrote back in 2018, Ehimuan explained that she made this bold assertion to illicit a response. She wanted to challenge young women to consider that the next tech heavyweight — be it a Jobs, Gates or Zuckerberg — could be someone who doesn’t look or sound anything like those who have come before her.

Speaking during a panel discussion at AfricaCom last week, Ehimuan and Emma Dicks, a director at CodeSpace, an education institution that specialises in teaching coding and software development in Cape Town, agreed that there is no reason to believe that this isn’t possible; it just requires a shift in mindset.

Both confessed that when they were choosing their career paths, becoming a doctor was the most logical step for a woman who wanted to make an impact and who had an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). But the picture is a little different today, especially because of how careers in tech have evolved and because emerging technologies have infiltrated so many aspects of our lives.

"Humans derive satisfaction from doing well," explained Dicks. "If I’m going to direct my energy towards something, I’m going to choose something I think I’ll be good at. With this in mind, we need to show women that they can succeed in STEM and the industry must make sure that they cultivate environments where women can and do excel."

To continue reading this article register now

7 secrets of successful remote IT teams