Browse Category: Special Series

African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech “Lean In” for Social Media Week

Last year, for Social Media Week in Lagos, I organized CODE RED, an event that convened African women entrepreneurs in tech and media. The experience of watching women connect across sectors, exchange ideas, share experiences, and swap business cards was magical, inspiring, fulfilling. For this year’s Social Media Week (themed “Upwardly Mobile”), I hoped for a similar space and, so far, the program does not disappoint.

The first panel I attended – Face the Facts: Lessons from Leading African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech – was described as “a discussion on practical strategies for women and tech companies seeking more women talent,” featured a refreshing mix of women tech professionals and entrepreneurs, including:

Though the panel was only an hour long — which definitely impeded a deeper (and, honestly, more authentic and vulnerable) conversation about key challenges faced by women in the tech industry in Nigeria (another post, another day) — each of the panelists managed to offer the audience at least one nugget of wisdom acquired from successfully (and unsuccessfully) navigating their careers as women in male-dominated spaces. I’ve shared a few of them below, with a few of my own… Enjoy.

1. Tech and “Masculine” Aren’t Synonyms, No Need to “Man Up”

The FutureSoft CEO’s accounts of having her interest in technology constantly questioned (and, at times, dismissed) due to her very feminine gender presentation was poignant, and refreshing; I’ve seen way too many women entrepreneurs dress more “masculine” in an attempt to dissociate themselves from femininity’s (ill)perception as frivolous, unsubstantive, and less intelligent, than stand up to this harmful stereotype. (Funny, since I am yet to hear about women with more masculine gender presentations enjoying sexism-free careers, but hey…). Fact: Whether in heels, power suits, gender masculine or gender non-conforming ensembles, African women founders and CEOs are on the rise all across the continent.

2. Succeeding in Tech Isn’t Just About Knowing How to Code

Of all the women on the panel, the co-owner of Tranzit Nigeria (a local taxi app) seemed to be the most tech savvy (to me at least). Perhaps that’s why most of her remarks focused on the importance of developing other non-tech skills necessary for business. She encouraged women interested in careers in technology to adopt the habit of constantly assessing and investing in the development of broader skill sets. Her comment underscored an oft overlooked fact about tech businesses, which is that they are still businesses; women in tech need to acquire – or at least familiarize themselves with a range of skills (such as people management, finance & accounting, marketing etc) to grow, and ultimately succeed.

3. Knowing (Enough Of) Your Shit Is Enough

African women entrepreneurs in tech should be wary of imposter syndrome (an irrational worry that they won’t measure up if they don’t credential-up). Every single one of the panelists mentioned developing deeper technical expertise as a necessary path to success. I don’t necessarily disagree, but, in my humble opinion, there was almost a little too much emphasis placed on education and credentials, and not enough on raw talent, or even experiential learning. It makes sense that in order to combat the gender discrimination rampant in the tech industry, many women place more emphasis on the acquisition of technical skills and credentials higher than their male counterparts, focusing mainly on their shortcomings over their accomplishments. “You need to know your shit to compete” is often the mantra, and justification for passing up valuable opportunities. I offer an alternate: “Know (enough of) your shit, then go for it.”

4. Create a Support Network

Almost all of the panelists shared their positive experiences reaching out to other women – and men! – for advice and/or ongoing mentorship. The founder of Women in Tech Ghana expressed deep appreciation for a prominent long-time mentor in her life, and both the CEO of FutureSoft and Founder of Ella.ng cosigned the importance of seeking both emotional and financial support from friends and family. But just as a strong inner circle can be crucial to staying motivated, so can colleagues and acquaintances be to staying grounded. The co-owner of Tranzit Nigeria reminded the audience that reaching out to peers for constructive criticism – even if they happened to be outside one’s industry – could lend invaluable perspective.

Check Out These Other Awesome Women-Friendly #SMWLagos Events: 

The full schedule is available on Social Media Week Lagos’ website here.

Love as a Revolution Totally Sucks

Dear Reader,

I’ve missed this space. But I hope it hasn’t been too long since we last connected. The piece below came to me during a morning reflection earlier this week. I’d been experiencing interpersonal issues with someone very close to me and was wrestling with myself as to the best way through to the other side.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing it… I guess I’m hoping that others who’ve experienced deep feelings of frustration, with their beliefs or themselves, will reach out so we can at least give each other a virtual hug.

Here it goes,
Spectra

 

Love as a Revolution Totally Sucks

Leading with Love, especially when you’re hurt, angry, wounded etc, is so difficult, mainly because it’s… well, just plain unfair.

You will not explode, you will not explode, you will not explode...Really, to repeatedly “rise above” the most frustrating, painful, or otherwise emotionally debilitating situations due to racism, sexism, homophobia, other power struggles, or even our personal relationships, practically demands we deny our human instincts: to flee, to defend, to scream in the face of violence.

And all for what? For the sake of “elevating ourselves”, and in so doing, others, to a lighter, healthier place? Why should I have to bear the burden of elevating so many other assholes to a lighter place?? Why should people who continue to wreak havoc upon those with less power benefit from the rest of us trying to be our “best selves”?

On days like these – when I can feel my blood about to boil over, and I have no patience to teach others how to treat me better, and would rather just open my mouth and use my literary talents for revenge, I have to remind myself that the alternative is much worse.

Succumbing to my emotions, placing my own needs above everyone else’s, reacting from a place of anger, pain, and whatever else – especially against people who I do not understand, and I feel so strongly have wronged me in some way – doesn’t make me any better, or different; it just makes me a hypocrite.

And I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to use as many tough moments (as I have capacity) to practice re-centering myself in compassion. I want to nurture my curiosity about others feelings and emotional contexts so diligently that it eventually begins to kick in more often than my survivalist instinct to fight or flee.

I want to walk the talk, practice what I preach, be able to look others and myself in the face, and do much better than say “do better”, but “well done.”

That said, I’m human. So, on some days, my emotions do get the best of me, and I clam up, retreat, raise my voice, say mean things, and I let myself down.

Rather than beat myself up, I need to remember that this is okay, too. Because it reminds me that I’m no better than the folks I’m trying to “rise above.” That personal growth is one half perspective, and one half harsh truths. And that the most important thing to remember isn’t the person you are, or even the person you’re striving to be, but the journey that exists between the two.

Don’t ever stop trying.

Love As a Revolution Always Wins

CODE RED: African Women Rising in Media and Tech (Social Media Week Lagos Event)

Dear Readers,

I’m breaking my blogging fast (I’ll explain later) to bring you news of some of the work that has been occupying my time in Nigeria.

(Yes, despite the fact that the government has gone crazy with their human rights violations of late, life must continue — hope will persist, allies will rally, and love will always win.)

Social Media Week Lagos (SMWLagos), a leading media platform and worldwide event with local presence and global reach across five continents, including Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia, kicks off this week in Lagos!

Last year, the week debuted as the first and only African city to serve as an official host for this global event. Naturally,  there were a number of hiccups that coloured the week’s reception – scheduling issues, late starts, poor attendance etc, to name a few — but the organisers have clearly learned from their mistakes.

This year, Social Media Week has been way more organised, and judging from plethora of keynotes, workshops, and social events on their calendar (over 50), extra thoughtful about curating events hosted by and for a diverse group of constituents, including women.

Incidentally, I’m hosting an event called ‘CODE RED: African Women Rising in Media and Tech.’ In line with the theme, “The Future is Now: Always On, Always Connected”, CODE RED, a networking event, will facilitate connections between women who are trailblazing in social media and technology.

The event aims to not only celebrate the gains African women have made in media and tech, but ensure the sustainability of those gains, by broadening the conversation about gender in media to include girls, the next generation of media producers.

Check out the event below. And if you know any Nigerians/Africans attending Social Media Week Lagos who might be interested in this event, please share this post with them  :)  

Love,
Spectra

AFRICAN WOMEN RISING

Technology has impacted everything, including media. Its rapid adoption has created new opportunities for media professionals to deliver content to their audiences, disrupting existing institutions and business models. As a result, Africa’s new media landscape is thriving, and women, no longer just passive consumers of media, but avid content creators, media producers, and tech innovators, are at the heart of it.

In Nigeria, women not only run the most widely-read blogs (Linda Ikeji’s Blog and Bella Naija), but are at the forefront of game-changing ventures such as the refreshing pan-African television station, Ebony Life TV, and new media tech startups, such as Ndani TV, the fastest-growing online video platform in Nigeria.

However, the sudden increase in visibility of women across digital media and technology doesn’t capture the entire story. In traditional TV, radio, and print across Nigeria (and indeed, the continent), African women’s voices are still under- and misrepresented.

FACT: According to a global report on the status of women in the media, 83% of all news subjects in the world (including Nigeria) were  male, while less than 17% were female.

There is a lot at stake.

The negative impact of the gender imbalance in media representation affects more than just women; adolescent girls who need positive female role models to inspire, guide, and fuel their aspirations, are stifled by the dearth of narratives about women.

Incidentally, the plethora of African women with powerful stories and expertise worth sharing often lack the media savvy to promote and amplify their work, thus, remaining invisible as success models to each other, and role models to the next generation of media producers: girls.

There is a lot at stake for women, but there’s even more at stake for girls.  

Ensuring that African women and girls continue to participate in media and technology is critical for Africa’s success in the global tech and innovation arena. This is why we need everyone – including men – to invest in African women and adolescent girls as both producers and creators of media and tech. This is why we need you.

Now more than ever, we need fresh and creative perspectives to see this vision through; you might see yourself as an unlikely proponent of this agenda, but, on Wed February 19th, we invite you to see yourself differently.

Choice 2

CODE RED, an invite-only event for African women in media and tech (and those who love them), will convene trailblazers in media and tech for the purpose of galvanising an ecosystem that is both women and girl-friendly.

CODE RED is a call to action, an alert, both for the challenge and the opportunity ahead of us. It is a movement of culture shapers, amplifiers, and innovators coming together to unleash our collective power in the most important currency of this digital age — connections. Because where there are connections, there are solutions.

Are you a TV producer searching for positive girls’ story? A techpreneur in need of some good PR advice? A blog editor seeking new contributors? A digital media maven with klout to share? Most importantly, do you support girls and women in media and technology? If yes to any of the above, CODE RED is for you.

EVENT PROGRAM

Connect with African Women in Media and Tech

Meet and learn about African women in media, including TV, Film, Print, Web, and Mobile. Learn about African women trailblazers in technology, from brand new startup CEOs to popular mobile app developers.

Learn about Girl Hub Nigeria and Tech Cabal

Connect with the folks behind the girl effect in Nigeria, our work connecting and convening leaders for girls in Northern Nigeria, and our phenomenal event partners, Tech Cabal, a web blog at the forefront of the narrative about technology in Nigeria.

Join the CODE RED Movement

We’ve distributed invitations to over 100 media producers, content creators, tech innovators, and, change agents for the purpose of connecting, and intentionally amplifying each other’s work. We are expecting a room full of some of the brightest, powerful, influential, and inspiring leaders, and we hope you will be one of them.

EVENT DETAILS

CODE RED will take place at ‘A Whitespace’ in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday  February 19th. Dress code is semi-formal or traditional in your interpretation of CODE RED. Be there or…be there.

++CODE RED: African Women in Media and Tech++
Hosted by Girl Hub Nigeria in partnership with Tech Cabal
Wed February 19th, 5 pm – 8 pm
@ The Whitespace | 58 Raymond Njoku, Ikoyi, Lagos
Official RSVP (Required): http://coderedatsocialmediaweeklagos.eventbrite.com

Note: This is an invite-only event. To request an invitation (or nominate others to attend), please complete this form.

Dear Western Saviorists, Stop Reducing Africa to a Play Pen for Your Personal Development

I went on a rant on Twitter today about western saviorists reducing African cultures to tools for their personal and professional development. It’s pretty much all archived in my storify. Have you heard about this new book? Why do you think Africa is so seductive to westerners – white people, especially – seeking to discover themselves? http://sfy.co/aQ92 #storify #westernsaviorism #whitesaviorism

African Women in Tech: Learn More about SpeakYoruba App Developer, Abake Adenle

In my last post about the challenges of learning African languages in adulthood, I mentioned that there aren’t as many resources available to help people (re)learn African languages (as compared to the suites of products available to learn western or eastern languages like French, Spanish, Mandarin, etc).

However, due to innovations in e-learning — including the use of smartphones, this is changing; African language learning resources are becoming more readily available and accessible to not just Africans, but the entire world.

Take for instance a new app developed by mobile content developer AJA.LA: SpeakYoruba is the first in a series of mobile apps aimed at preserving and promoting African languages. According to the site:

“SpeakYoruba is perfect for kids young and old looking to build a basic Yoruba vocabulary, or for anyone with an interest in African culture, music and heritage!”

As the African diaspora continues to expand its borders, the need to promote and preserve African languages becomes increasingly important. Through the SpeakAfrica Apps project, the team aims to develop a series of apps capturing the aesthetic beauty of African culture and providing a modern platform linking Africa’s diaspora with heritage African culture.

I recently interviewed the lead developer for the SpeakYoruba app, Abake Adenle, a Nigerian diaspora living in the U.S. about her motivation for developing the app, including its reception so far.

Side Note: I must say, I was already pretty excited to have discovered the app, but I was even more thrilled to learn a women tech entrepreneur was behind it. We need more e-language-learning tools for African languages in the world, but we need more African women entrepreneurs in technology and innovation, too. #proud

Check out the short interview with Abake Adenle posted below.

SPECTRA: This app has created a way to connect Diaspora to their home countries, namely first generation Yoruba Nigerians for now. How much pressure are you getting from other Nigerians to produce apps for the other languages?

ABAKE: A lot! Before the app launched Techloy (Nigeria’s top tech blog) posted about the app and numerous people on twitter started asking about when a version for their language would be made available. Since the app launched in the Apple App store, I’ve asked users to provide feedback on additional features and updates for the app, and beyond developing a version for Android, expansion to other languages has been the most frequent request.

SPECTRA: Do you have any interesting stats on the users who have downloaded the app so far? Where are they based? Age range? Nigerian or other Diaspora?

ABAKE: The majority of downloads come from the US and UK (with most coming from the US) and only a handful of downloads coming from Nigeria, which is pretty much in line with my expectations and broader app download trends. I think the most interesting “trend” I’ve noticed is interest in the app from what I call the “young adult” demographic. I initially designed the app with children in mind thinking their parents would download the app for their kids, but so far most of the downloads seem to come from “young adults” looking to build basic Yoruba language skills.

SPECTRA: Which other languages are in the pipeline? (Don’t worry, we won’t hold you to it)

ABAKE: At the moment, I am working on adding more cool features and tools to SpeakYoruba, developing a version for Android and hopefully expanding to include more languages popular across West and East Africa :)

SPECTRA: Beyond teaching people the basics of African languages? Do you see any other uses for the app thus far? 

ABAKE: I think SpeakYoruba is a great platform for presenting various aspects of Yoruba culture in a modern way. For example the app’s soundtrack is a Yoruba folk song performed by Baba Ken Okulolo, one of Nigeria’s high-life legends. The song is one of the things people say they like most about the app and I am extremely happy to be able to use a Yoruba song/a piece ofYoruba culture many children may not get the chance to hear in a way that is modern, fun and educational.

SPECTRA: It’s refreshing to see African women in technology. Most power lists in technology coming out of Africa contain men predominantly? Your thoughts?

ABAKE: It is unfortunate that more women aren’t part of the “tech scene”, especially in Africa. However, I think it is important that women who are there now, women like Sheryl Sandberg and Ory Okolloh, should be recognized. Also, there are numerous programs in place outside and within Africa encouraging women to participate in technology. Hopefully, with each new generation, we’ll see more and more women becoming part of the tech scene.

SPECTRA: What are some of YOUR favorite apps? 

ABAKE: My favourite apps are usually news-related (New York Times, Bloomberg, etc.) or just good old iBooks as I have been reading more and more books on my iPad. One standout app for me is BeatSneak Bandit, a fantastic game by Swedish gaming company Simogo; it’s pretty addictive!

SPECTRA: Anything else you’d like people to know? 

ABAKE: I am currently running a promotion where anyone who sends proof of download (a screenshot showing the SpeakYoruba app icon) to info@ajalaco.com will receive a free “I Can Speak Yoruba” t-shirt or tote bag! I am very pleased with the feedback the app has received so far and am looking forward to updating the app with more and more features and expanding to more languages. Download links can be found at www.SpeakYorubaApp.com!

SPECTRA: How do you say, Love Is My Revolution, in Yoruba? 

ABAKE (taking the hint…): Download the app ;)

 

Check out the SpeakYouruba App trailer below:


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