2022 Echidna Global Scholar - Brookings Institution
Co-Founder & Executive Director - Magharibi Innovation Hub
Senior Lecturer, Information Technology department, Defence Forces Technical College - National Defence University-Kenya
Kenya’s digital technology advancements—chief among them the mobile money transfer application referred to as Mpesa—has led to the country’s status as an emerging digital economy. However, the long strides in the move toward a fully-fledged digital economy are not reflected in the digital technology workforce with regard to gender balance. While digital technology careers are highly touted as the jobs of the future, women occupy less than 30 percent of digital technology positions in Kenya. The root cause of the problem can be traced to disadvantages that girls and young women accumulate throughout their years in education.
This study takes a qualitative approach in trying to identify the root causes for the exclusion of girls and young women from digital technology courses at all levels of education—namely lower primary, upper primary, junior high school, senior high school, and the tertiary level in both rural and urban communities. The study identifies various cumulative factors that contribute to fewer women taking up digital technology courses, such as: inadequate infrastructure; insufficient staffing and training of digital technology personnel at learning institutions; the negative impact of gendered social norms; poor advocacy of digital technology careers and the absence of vocational counseling; and the lack of women role models.
To increase the number of women in digital technology careers, we must improve institutional digital technology infrastructure at all levels of education, enhance the training of digital technology personnel within all levels of education, build girls’ interest in digital technology-related courses from the earliest years, increase digital technology advocacy and awareness among girls, and enhance vocational counseling on digital technology careers.