Originally published on the MEST Africa Blog.
Culled From Our Mother Org: meltwater.com
At Meltwater, we hear so much about the developments at MEST that we may run the risk of being desensitized to the very real, very global impact the school, the incubator, and the Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EIT) are having.
This is especially true when it comes to looking at the role that African women, in big part thanks to MEST, are starting to have in the technology space. Did you know that MEST has grown from 10% female EITs in 2008 to 30% in 2016? The new goal is to boost the proportion to 50% by 2019.
Why This Matters: The Global State of Affairs
Today, gender inequality continues to hinder economic development across the world, and it is largely caused by an intricate web of circumstances that begin with an inequality in income.
In the US, while “women held 57% of all professional occupations” in 2015, “they held only 25% of all computing occupations … Furthermore, even fewer women are found in the software development, technology leadership, or the other kinds of key roles that have a significant influence on future innovation.” (Catherine Ashcroft, Brad McLain, and Elizabeth Eger – NCWIT.org)
This situation is no different in other developed nations. A study by the European Commission found that “encouraging more women into the information and communication [sector] could boost the EU’s GDP by €9 billion a year. Yet women currently only make up 30% of the 7 million people working in Europe’s digital sector, and they are under-represented at all levels, especially in decision-making positions.”
In Asia, the World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs” report, published in January 2016, which surveyed 371 leading global employers, found that “women made up only 5 percent of CEOs and 19 percent of board members in the ‘Information and Communication Sector.’”
And it is believed that, by 2019, there could be a deficit of 450,000 information technology professionals in Latin America, according to the firm International Data Corporation. In their study, they also noted that the majority of job applicants were men and that their education was very varied.
How can this landscape be actively changed?
The Importance of MEST
Going against all odds, MEST has not only encouraged the acceptance of female entrepreneurs, but this initiative has also supported the creation of companies that solve the gender gap in tech locally, and they’re not the only ones witnessing the success of this strategy. It is also being noticed in other regions that struggle with similar inequalities.
A prime example is an article published recently by the BBC in which Tress, an app created by three MEST female entrepreneurs for black women to share ideas and information about popular hairstyles, was highlighted as one of the “5 African Inventions to Look Out for in 2017.” The article was picked up by six popular news sources in LATAM with large audiences and was very well received.
As more people start noticing these developments and their interest grows, the number of successful female CEOs of MEST-incubated companies that are being acknowledged continues its upward trend:
Anne Amuzu, CEO of Nandimobile, was named one of the Forbes 10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa.
The Tress team, led by CEO Priscilla Hazel, already raised U$D 150,000 from the world famous Y-Combinator accelerator before even graduating from the MEST program.
Women-led Beavly has raised U$D 40,000 and has already created more than 200 job opportunities for people who signed up on their platform.
And these are just some examples of how bright the future looks for women everywhere. As Kelechi Udoagwu, Communications Manager at MEST and Cofounder of Skrife, says: “These are exciting times for women in tech — in Africa and all over the world. We are increasingly becoming visible and accepted in the tech industry, and this gives us room to innovate and be creative in creating solutions for problems that are peculiar to females alone. I feel blessed to be a part of this movement, which organizations like MEST are spearheading, and look forward to more collaborations between both genders in tech.”
Lady-Omega Hammond, CEO of Ampersand Technologies Ltd (a MEST portfolio company), agrees: “I believe the awareness created around the potential of a woman being maximized outside the home is growing more each day. It’s encouraging to see men around us becoming more supportive and women being role models and actively engaging with other women, young or old. This changes mindsets and gives us women the opportunity to grow to our fullest potential. We boldly embrace this one day at a time, one woman at a time, bringing out the needed change to the best of our abilities.”
So, next time you hear or read something about MEST, make sure to help us spread the word. The impact it’s making is real, and we, at Meltwater, are privileged to be a part of it!