Tech communities are an important part of the sector and the ones in student environments have proven to be both foundational and pivotal for many young people. These communities usually organize free training and forums where anyone curious enough to attend can get some more insight into what tech is all about.
This was the case about 5 years ago when a tech community organized a training on frontend web development in the Mechanical Engineering department of the University of Ibadan. Temilade Adelakun was one of the attendees at the training and it was to be the start of something new and exciting for her.
“The trainer was a lady and I was wowed that a lady could teach frontend web development and know her onions so well. I was inspired and felt that if she could do it then I could and would do it as well.”Temilade Adelakun
Temilade is currently the Co-organizer of the Google Developers Club in Ibadan as well as the Women Techmakers Ambassador also in Ibadan. Google Developers Club is one of the numerous tech communities that enthusiasts can join in tertiary institutions. Others include the Developers Student Club, Google Developers Club, Institute of Electrical Engineers, DevCareers and so on.
Although some of these communities sound techy, they are open to everyone from all walks of life provided they have an interest in tech. They provide a space for people to learn, collaborate, grow and network with other techies and Temilade took advantage of it.
Despite the efforts being put in by these communities, however, the gap between men and women inclusion in the tech space is still wide. As a woman in tech who has been an active part of tech student communities, Temilade agrees that one of the major challenges is that women join communities and do nothing to change their mindset of “tech is not for women”.
Most women cave in to stereotypes within tech communities
Where stereotypes are concerned, there are enough to keep women out of tech. Mindsets like “Tech is too hard for women”, “Coding is for men”, “Women are better off as nurses”, “Women can’t do tech because they are weaker”, “Women are emotional and tech is analytical so they will not mix well” and other limiting expressions, are a dime a dozen.
“I heard the story of a lady at an internship program who was given a task to do alongside another lady and a man and she was finding the task difficult. She said ‘I don’t think this is for me, I have tried my best. Afterall, they have told me that tech is not for women and it’s hard to code,'” Temilade said.
Looking back on her own beginning, she noted that when she attended tech events and meetups while in school, she got a lot of silly questions like, ‘Are you sure it is people like you that they are looking for?’ ‘Are you going there to look for a man?’ etc.
She concluded that some of these mindsets easily catch up with women and subconsciously influence or dictate their performances in tech communities. Since these mindsets are learnt at some point or the other, they should be unlearned and new things relearned.
As such, tech communities can do better by bringing in more women in tech to see, talk to and inspire younger ladies to embrace tech careers. There is nothing bad about men teaching people how to code but if we are encouraging more women to go into tech then we should see more women teaching tech.
Why I joined tech was because my first tech training was by a lady. I felt that if she could do it, then so can I. The fact that she knew her onions thoroughly gingered me.Temilade
“If all we see are men, then we start to feel that maybe we don’t have women who are proficient in the field. Tech communities should bring out more of women role models,” she added.
Scribbling her Codes
One of the challenges that women face in tech communities is lack of resources. Having access to a good laptop as well as internet is essential when developing a tech skill. Students do not usually have that.
“When I started learning how to code, in my first and second year, I did not have a personal laptop. I was always borrowing people’s laptop to use when they were not using them,” Temilade said.
She would write her codes on paper, take them to her room in the university and run them on her roommate’s laptop when it was not in use. “I took pictures of the errors I got or wrote them down and worked on them till the codes ran properly. The absence of these resources can reduce how much people learn from tech communities.”
She also noted that sponsoring is as important as mentoring, otherwise, the women who are mentored and who venture into tech may not leave the starting point quickly. Women-led tech startups also need more funding and sponsorship from investors to ensure that more women are growing to become mentors and supports for the upcoming ones.
Tech communities will always focus on coding tools instead of no-coding tools
No-coding tech is an aspect of tech that is generating more appeal gradually. Zoom recently awarded a grant to Kabakoo, an edtech startup that teaches no-code tech skills to students in Africa. These no-code tools include Zapier, Bubble, Adalo, Wix and WordPress among others.
However, in most tech communities, it is not gaining grounds fast and Temilade says one of the reasons is because coding skills are more important for anyone who wants to go far in the space.
“No-code tools make your work easier and faster but if you want to go far in the tech world, it is best that you have an understanding of coding and how it works. You don’t really need tech communities to teach you how to use no-code tools. Video tutorials can help you create a tech product in a shorter time with no-code tools but you can do a lot more when you are proficient in coding,” she said.
Getting better in coding goes hand in hand with practical applications of the coding snippets that are learnt each day. For a young lady learning how to code, cloning popular apps like YouTube and Twitter, Piggyvest and Cowrywise etc will sharpen the student’s coding skills, build a portfolio along the side and increase her confidence level when collaborating with others.
Things are getting better in the tech space, however, and there are more women now than there were some years back. The gap between men and women in the industry is reducing and we need to keep creating awareness about tech in a way that lets everyone see that both men and women should be duly involved.
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