Stop that sis!

Tope climbed down from her car and hung her bag. Then, she walked briskly into the building in front.

At the lobby, the security man stopped her.

“Where are you going, Ma’am?” he asked, his two hands in the air.

“I have an interview with XYZ tech,” she said, “And I’m almost late.”

“You? How?” he asked, looking at curiously her from top to bottom.

She was wearing a bright tee shirt and fitting denim trousers. Her hair was a large afro ball.

Her eyes widened and she stepped back a little, accidentally stamping her Nike sneakers. Fiddling with her bag, she brought out her iPad and showed him the invite she had gotten the week before.

It read,

“Dear Tope, we are very pleased with your application and have decided to invite you for an interview. The venue is at XYZ headquarters and we would like you to come in by 9 am. Thank you.”

He looked at her, still not convinced.

“Madam, the interview today is for full stack developers o. It’s next week that they’re interviewing for a receptionist even though you are barely dressed as one. So, go and come back, Ma’am. Dress well too.”

Tope shrugged. At first, she didn’t understand why he was saying this. She was almost getting angry. Then, she remembered what her friends told her when she was training to be a full stack developer.

“Tope, you’re a woman o. Why are you doing stuff that men do?”

“Your brain will soon burst. Take it easy.”

“No man will marry you o.”

The security man’s rude tap on her shoulders brought her back to the present.

“Leave this place, please,” the security man said.

Tope raised a finger in the air to excuse herself then she tried to dial the number that messaged her.

As she dialed the number, the man shoved her.

“Madam, you’re constituting a nuisance, please leave,” he said.

This time, her jaw dropped. She ended the call quickly and started leaving.

As she was walking out of the premises, she heard her name.

“Tope!”

She turned and it was Michael, the team lead she had been speaking with on LinkedIn.

“How are you doing? It’s so nice to finally meet you. Come on in, you’re in the right place.”

She forced a smile and made her way towards him. The security man glared at her as she walked past him. Michael noticed the exchange and made a mental note to handle it later.

He gave her a few minutes to get over the exchange she had with the security man. Then, they had a nice chat about her previous projects and the position. They laughed and it was an amazing experience.
A week later, she got her offer with a salary she’d never imagined was possible!

She drove to work and this time the security man bowed in fear as he greeted her. She smiled and squeezed him tightly. Then, she was ushered into her office by the new receptionist they had hired.

**
A good number of people are still yet to come to terms with the fact that women can do great in tech too. But in this day and age, we have seen that women can be anything they want to be. There are so many tools, resources, and information available, and more women are constantly being empowered to create solutions in the tech world. In light of this, men and women in our society should be aware of this and stop ridiculing women in tech. They should also stop trying to prevent or discourage young girls and women from getting in because girls and women belong in that space. As more girls and women explore the tech industry, there will be no telling the incredible innovations we will see in the nearest future.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022 – Temitayo Ayeni

Long ago, it was unheard of for women to venture into STEM. Many women who loved science, mathematics or technology were seen as unusual. In some extreme cases, they were called witches and burned. As time went on, although people stopped burning women for being ambitious, parents and people in society still discouraged their girls from studying science. They felt that women were too fragile to handle STEM education.

Right now, the narrative has changed and more women are exploring the field of STEM and navigating it with so much passion and excellence. But despite the changing narrative, there are still a good number of people in Nigeria and Africa who are not used to the idea of women in STEM. As a result, there’s still a huge gender gap in STEM. It’s because of this gender gap that I love to shed my spotlight on women in STEM who are shattering glass ceilings, breaking gender barriers and achieving amazing things.

Today, we will be chatting with an incredible woman in STEM, Temitayo Ayeni, technical business development manager and a trained electrical and electronics engineer. She believes in gender equality and loves writing articles and blog posts in her spare time.

Sit back, grab a cold drink and enjoy this exciting conversation.

1. Can we meet you?

My name is Temitayo Ayeni. I am a technical business development manager and a trained electrical and electronics engineer. I currently work in the Fintech industry where I drive market development by deploying payment services, and support businesses throughout the process of integration to APIs on their mobile applications and other platforms. In my spare time, I write articles and blog posts, I consider this my hobby.

2. What was your university education like?

Well, of course, schooling within the Nigerian educational system is no piece of cake. I attended the Federal University of Technology, Akure, popularly known for its strict academic life and an almost non-existent social life. Being among the few females in engineering, I did my best to ensure the challenge was worth it, and I am glad it turned out well.

3. How has the journey in a STEM career been like? Do you have any regrets?

To be honest, no regrets at all. I have metamorphosed from starting as a core engineer, to working in a financial institution and currently serving as a business executive in the Fintech industry where I apply my technical knowledge to improve businesses. STEM remains a field that is ever-evolving, full of opportunities and chances for growth. The industry continues to make actual visible impact on our daily quality of life, and I think it is a great opportunity to be a part of an industry that is changing lives and making the world a better place.

4. Many people think STEM courses are a no-go area for girls, what do you have to say about this?

I do not think any industry is a no-go area for girls, and most especially the STEM industry. Girls do exceptionally well in STEM courses and eventually blossom in their careers. Actually, the industry needs more women who are driven and poised to support technological advancement. As a young girl, I heard people say things like “don’t study engineering it’s for boys” and like I have always said, this is nonsense talk. The girl child should always be supported to go after her dreams, whatever they may be. So yes, more girls should study STEM courses and not fall for shallow-minded opinions and social prejudices that could limit their life achievements.

5. What has helped you to attain success?

I think having a positive attitude to life is key, and this has helped me a lot. When I have a goal in mind, I go all out for it. I am an optimist, so at the very least, I expect to learn from my experiences. I am also blessed with very supportive family and friends, and very recently, a spouse that is very encouraging. Let’s just say my inner circle is amazing. People who drive me to continue to be the best at what I do.

6. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in this chosen path? How did you approach them?

Luckily for me I have never been in a gender-biased working environment, but I will say that the STEM industry itself expects women to continuously prove themselves. I have always known this and I do not think it is fair, however I always try to put my best foot forward, be great at my job and challenge the status quo when necessary. I have also had to deal with social prejudices of what people think women should be doing and their place in the society. My approach has always been the same, ignore side talks, aim for massive success, touch lives along your journey, and ensure to balance work and family life. At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.

7. What one thing did you wish you could have done differently?

Well, I wish I had exploited more opportunities as a young lad. You know, not just rely on academic information but do more personal development as a teenager and an undergraduate. A lot of what drives my career now has almost nothing to do with what I learnt in school, but from experiences and personal development. There’s so much knowledge to be gained especially in STEM and you have to constantly put yourself out there so that you are not left behind.

8. What advice would you give your younger self?

Be yourself, take pride in being different, the world is big enough to accommodate you uniqueness and your dreams. Take chances and do that thing, make that move. Without mistakes and failures you would never learn and all you would have at the end of the day is a bucket full of “what ifs?’

9. How can you encourage young girls to study STEM courses?

I would just say, young girls should go for it. Surround yourself with people who understand your dreams and support it 100%. The STEM industry needs you, you have very high chances of being a huge success if you continue to develop yourself, and the opportunities are limitless. If I can do it, you can do it too.

It has been great time with Temitayo examining life, schooling in Nigeria, challenges as a woman in STEM, and so on. A key takeaway from this conversation is: there’s really nothing to lose. Girls and women can be anything and should go for STEM if they want to.

To connect with Temitayo, reach out to her on any of the following platforms:
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/tyayeni/
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/temitayo-ayeni/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/TyAyeni

Take The Lead: Women in Technology and Engineering! – Adeyinka Adebakin

Why so few? This has always been the question on everyone’s lips. We all know there is still a gender gap in Technology but things are changing rapidly. The lack of women in the industry is making it difficult to have role models at the top. Now the conversation around women
in Technology and engineering is shifting towards a positive direction. However, many women still feel excluded and unsafe in a male-dominated industry and this article is to remind you that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You are worthy of that new promotion. Don’t feel intimidated because of your gender.

| Most women think Technology is more like a boys’ club and they will not fit in. – Unknown |

The question is; How can we help to change the orientation of the female gender? We need to do a better job of letting girls know that tech is a viable career option where they can equally grow as much as men do.

Here are 5 ways to help women in technology take the lead;

Go for it

The options in Information technology are limitless.
It is not just about coding or programming. There are several options when you want to have a career in information technology. These options include; project management, UI/UX design, Requirement engineering, Business analysis, Software Quality Assurance, etc. You don’t have to limit yourself to a single path, there is a room for diversity. So, go for it. Information Technology does not only mean programming. It can involve creativity, big-picture thinking too, but you need to be willing to try new things. Flexibility and adaptability keep you in the game.

Confidence in yourself

Although, a confident man is perceived as more positive than a confident woman, therefore, women should often temper their confidence with modesty because failure to do that can saddle them with a reputation for being difficult or overbearing. You have already won half of the battle if you are confident in yourself. If you’re in a workplace with fewer women, lean on one another for support to build confidence.Lack of confidence is holding most women in technology back. One piece of advice I can give to women in technology is that; Never stop learning because human gets more confident as they become more experienced.

Know your worth

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by a room full of men. Embrace the uniqueness. You are only in that environment because you are worthy of that space. Don’t be afraid to give your own opinion on any topic. As a woman, we bring different perspectives and skillsets to the table. It is important for women to know their worth.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes

We always think that a mistake from us could have a negative impact on our career. Information technology is for everybody and women have always been a part of history. We have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi because of the work of women. It was created alongside men. So why do we still feel like we don’t belong? Why don’t we see ourselves as innovators? That’s because we don’t know our history. Mistakes are a part of life, we just have to learn from them.

Be Consistent & preserve:

Often, we don’t take the risks that we need to. The fear of failure is what makes us lose opportunities. This is a common problem to face no matter what stage you are at in your career. The change will always be scary but persevering through those hardships is what brings out the best in you. A common mistake many people make is to give up before trying because it seems impossible to succeed. The fear of failure often keeps both men and women from achieving their full potential in their careers. Also, perseverance is important for anyone, but especially a woman starting a career in the technology field. You may be in a job where you have to constantly fight to keep your position, so be willing to work extra hard to stand out from the crowd.

Finally, create your own personal definition of success. Success is defined by what makes you feel successful whether it is making more money or getting promoted at work. You need to define
success for yourself and it could change along the way. However, you might not necessarily have a detailed plan but you must have a vision for your career. Careers are usually very dynamic. It’s like traveling, you are open to many options along the way. We are women, we are leaders. We can take the lead!

Adeyinka Adebakin, is currently a Master’s student at Technical University Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she majors in Software Engineering. Alongside her studies, she works with SAP, a multinational software company in Germany. Adeyinka has a passion for Information technology management and supporting different startups in the software industry.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

For centuries, people have always seen science as too complicated and too logical for the female brain but women like Marie Curie the French-Polish physicist who won a Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry for her pioneering research in radioactivity and mathematician Ada Lovelace, who saw the potential in Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, wrote and developed software for it and became one of the first computer programmers have long since challenged and squashed these stereotypes. Today, although people still ask these questions and think of STEM as a male playing field, a good number of women have taken their place and begun making their mark there. One of such remarkable women is Chidera Nwoke, a software engineer. In this interview with her, we would be understanding her journey. What it has been like for her as a woman in STEM, what inspired her to go into STEM and how she has been able to cope with any challenges she has been faced with as a woman who has ventured into STEM – a male-dominated field of industry.

1. Can we meet you?
My name is Chidera Nwoke, and I’m a software engineer.

2. What was your university education like?
I had my undergraduate studies at the University of Ibadan where I studied Computer Science. Originally, my intention was to study Chemical engineering or Architecture but my mom casually said I should opt for computer science “Since companies are using computers”. Speaking for myself, I enjoyed about 90% transparency in my department. Basically, our scores were merited. There was no sorting or abuse of any form. I only wished the lectures were more pragmatic and used real-life problems in their lecture approach.

3. How has the journey in a STEM Career been like?
It has not been all rosy. There were times when I was frustrated to the point where I almost gave up. I believe there’s no favoritism in tech, at least with the people I have worked with. If you’re fighting for the same salary that males in tech receive, then you should be ready to make the same sacrifice that they do. I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to stay over at work because of a deployment. However, what makes my career interesting is the fact that I’m a part of something that works. It is a constantly evolving career, where you must be willing to unlearn and relearn every day.

4. Do you have any regrets
My only regret is the lack of exposure to tech at a much younger age.

5. Many people think STEM courses are a no-go area for girls, what do you have to say about this?
I’ve always seen myself as a “person” in tech, not a woman in tech. Being in a career populated by males is enough determination to do better, and that is why women in STEM fields often outshine their male counterparts. When you start seeing yourself as a “Person in tech”, it takes away all the barriers, it births boldness in you and an attitude to always do better.

6. What has helped you to attain success in this field?
When the chips are down, I don’t look back and blame it on being a woman. I don’t sit there looking for pity nor do I seek favoritism. I have always had one thing on my mind, to be better than I was the previous year. I am in constant competition with myself and that’s what keeps me going. I’m a very inquisitive person, I always ask intelligent questions from my seniors and juniors at work. I learn from those who have gone ahead from me, I invest heavily in myself via online courses, books, meetups and collaboration with people.

7. What are some of the challenges you have encountered in this chosen path? How did you approach them?
One notable challenge I encountered was having to complete a Client’s project in a week. I was just an associate software developer, my skills were still in its early stages and I had no idea how to go about it. I believe that if you’re clear about what the challenge is, what is required of you, and a plan with notable milestones to achieve the goal, every challenge can be overcome. I followed the rule above, I did my research, selected my algorithms, drew my workflows, and made sure I had a testable module by the end of each day. By the final day, the deadline was met and the project delivered.

8. What one thing did you wish you could have done differently?
If I would go back to do something differently, it would be to find a balance between classwork and real skill development outside the classroom. It’s good to get good graded. However, matching your grades with practical skills for the real world is better. It puts you ahead and sets you up for faster growth in your chosen career.

9. What advice would you give your younger self?
Let your curiosity run wild, let your dreams be bigger than what people perceive as normal. Contribute positively to community development.

10. How can you encourage young girls to study STEM courses?
If you have a passion for STEM, the only encouragement I can give you is to go for it. Be determined and learn to motivate yourself. Also, find people with like minds whose conversations build you up rather than tear you down. We all have brains, irrespective of your gender, so use yours. Keep Learning, keep researching and don’t limit yourself.

11. What do you think are the roles of parents and science teachers in encouraging girls in STEM?
Parents should always engage in intellectual discussions with their kids. They shouldn’t just impose careers on their kids just cause they failed at theirs or for the sake of societal accolades. Parents should ask the right questions, find out what their kids would love to do and give them their full support. Teachers have their own parts to play as well. Encourage females in STEM to be bold and take part or lead project teams in the classroom and in the community.

I am sure you must have been inspired by this interview. There are a few points she made that I would love to emphasize. The best way to do what you are passionate about is to go for it. Start early so that you don’t have regrets later in life. But if you haven’t already started and you still want to venture into it, go for it. As you explore the world of STEM, always see yourself as a person in STEM not just as a woman in STEM. This way, you don’t accept the limitations or the stereotypes that people have placed on your gender. Then, most importantly motivate yourself and find people of like mind to have stimulating discussions with. Keep learning and keep pushing yourself beyond the stereotypes and watch yourself achieve great things!

 

STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS) IS NOT MEANT FOR GIRLS.

“Please sir, I would like to create a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) awareness program for girls. It is an initiative to introduce girls from the junior secondary school to the wonders and possibilities of science, math, technology and engineering …,” the principal read aloud, his eyes widening. Then he glanced up from his letter, pulled off his thin glasses, placed it on the table as he stared at the younger man standing in front of him. 

 

“That is my problem with you corpers. You come here thinking you can turn everyone’s head with white people’s nonsense then you go home disappointed when nothing really changed. This is Africa. This is Nigeria. This is our village. Here, girls don’t like technology. Name three Nigerian female inventors you know. You probably can’t but I’m sure you know the girls on music videos or you know how much girls love cooking competitions. Okay, I’m even going far. In our school here, haven’t you see how many girls are in our science class? Just twelve. Twelve out of hundred people. One of them thinking of going back to Arts!” 

 

The young man made to speak but the principal waved him off. 

 

“I don’t approve it!” he said.

 

“Sir please at least finish the letter or hear me out. I want this start from the junior secondary school and introduce them to it. From there, they would get interested and join.”

 

The principal shook his head vigorously and rubbed his eyes.

“These girls don’t like science. You should have seen it yourself. In fact, they’d rather pull their skirts up and try to get your attention. I’m sure they have started trying to see who visits you first! It gives me shame to admit it but it’s true.” He winced as he spoke as though it hurt him to think about how the girls in his school were always up to no good. It was not as though the boys were any better morally but at least they put in more effort in their studies than many of the girls did. 

 

“Yes, but that’s exactly why they need this sir!” the young man cried, desperately pleading the case for betterment of the girls. “They need to know that they can think too just like boys do. They need to know that they can and should do things because they’re interested in them not because they think they can’t do anything else! At least let me try sir, please, if no one joins or appreciates it by the end of next week, I would stop. Please approve this sir. You said I should make a difference. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my service year, please”

 

“I know I said make a difference. I didn’t say try to scatter any one’s head! Girls are more inclined to doing things that won’t stress them. That’s why lots of them study mass communication or English language and end up baking cakes and selling to friends/family. You can’t find a girl from here studying a course that would need her to climb a building to check it it’s strong enough. This is the same reason why girls don’t become carpenters or mechanics.” 

The principal looked down at the letter shaking his head. 

 

The young man thought a little bit and said:

“Sir, you’ve raised very valid points. I believe, just like you do, that sometimes our capabilities help us decide what we would go for and what we would not. Those capabilities like muscular strength are sometimes gender related and so you’ll see females running away from a particular profession while men run towards it.”

 

The principal’s darted quickly upwards and his lips parted in surprise. 

 

“But sir, I don’t think we should keep them from opportunities just because we think they wouldn’t be interested. I think we should present it to them first, show them the relevance and importance. Plus you know girls are more than boys in this school and in the country. Wouldn’t you want them to start making us proud? They’re future mothers. They would inspire the next generation to do things that will change our world.” 

 

The principal smiled. This young man reminded him of his younger self – so full of dreams and hope. He just hoped the boy would not disappointed as he had been years before now. Reluctantly, he approved the proposal and granted him permission to carry out the awareness. 

 

“It’s better to try than to say it would fail,” the principal had said, “I would not be an enemy to something that could turn out to be very good for our girls. Go for it Daniel! Thank you for trying to make a difference in these children’s lives.” 

 

******

 

There are ongoing debates about whether it is important to carry out awareness or sensitization programs or organize free workshops and seminars in order to inspire girls to love or be interested in STEM. Some people think that girls would be girls and would always prefer doing jobs or studying things that would not be too tasking for them. But if this is the reason for not trying to acquaint them with the whole idea then it’s not good enough. Let them be made aware of that and then they can choose to follow it or not. Some people also bring up this argument when a girl wants to study something they think a girl shouldn’t be interested in. They tell her to go for more girly or easier and less stressful alternatives. It shouldn’t be so. If she’s interested in it and able to handle it, let her do it. This is what true equality is all about – not restricting or boxing people because of their gender or because you think they should be a certain way.