iHub Pledges for Gender Parity

By Nekesa Were
  Published 12 Mar 2016
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International Women’s Day is a celebration and a call to action.

It is a celebration for all the glass ceilings that have been broken, all positive strides made for gender parity, for all the successful campaigns against sex segregation and against violence against women.

While a lot has been achieved, there is much more left to do. Sex segregation, violence against women, and disparity in the workplace are all issues that we continue to deal with globally.

This year, the world celebrated International Women’s Day by pledging for parity. There is an urgent need to accelerate gender parity. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2014, the World Economic Forum (WEF) forecasted that without acceleration, it would take the world until 2095 to close the economic gender gap. The report provided a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities around the world. In 2015, WEF predicted that because of a slowdown in progress, the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133. The situation is dire. As US President Barack Obama said during his visit to Kenya last year:

Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy ... Imagine if you have a team and you don't let half of the team play. That's stupid.

Kenya is currently ranked 48th out of 145 on the Global Gender Gap Index. Kenya’s score is 0.719 (The highest possible score is 1 - equality, and the lowest possible score is 0 - inequality.) Iceland is ranked 1st with a score of 0.881.

The untapped potential of women and girls is gaining greater attention in Kenya. The country’s new Constitution, passed in 2010, provides a powerful framework for addressing gender equality. It marks a new beginning for women’s rights in Kenya; seeking to remedy the traditional exclusion of women and promote their full involvement in every aspect of growth and development.  www.usaid.gov.

Kenya has done a commendable job so far. With more individuals and corporates calling for gender balanced leadership and creating inclusive flexible cultures, we can climb up the rankings and contribute to the much need acceleration of gender parity.

As an equal opportunity employer, the iHub has interacted with and many times had the privilege of hiring exceptional women and men.

The iHub team is a diverse one and I feel that this diversity positively influences us as an organisation.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, I find myself reflecting on, and celebrating the women who make up part of  the iHub team and community.

The iHub is six years old this month. Over the years, one of the key positions in the organisation, the community manager, has been held mostly by women. Jessica Colaco was the iHub’s first community manager. Rachel Gichinga and Mugethi Gitau have also held this position. iHub Research, our oldest and most successful initiative has since inception been headed by women. After serving as community manager, Jessica took lead in starting our iHub Research arm. Angela Okune took over and after her came Leo Mutuku.

Over the last six years, two out of six members of our board of advisors have been women. Juliana Rotich and Rebecca Wanjiku (both successful tech entrepreneurs) have been critical in mentoring the iHub team and providing consultative expertise.

Five out of seven of the iHub leadership team are women. That’s about 71%.  Rosemary Njeri serves as our CFO, Nanjira Sambuli is our current Research Lead, Samantha Merritt serves as the User Experience Lab Lead, Sheilah Birgen serves as the m:lab lead and I serve as COO.

Of the current iHub team of 35, 16 are women. That’s about 46%.  

We have about 100 green members actively using the iHub space. 29% of these are women.

The iHub has been privileged to be a conduit for technology companies like mfarm and elimu, both of which were founded by and are run by women.

The iHub is proud to have hosted several high profile women in tech including Marissa Mayer, Njeri Rionge and Isis Nyong’o Madison.

If the last six years have taught me anything, it’s that when running an organisation, diverse views, opinions, experiences, are integral for success, and gender parity plays a big role in ensuring this diversity.

So what can the iHub do to accelerate gender parity? We pledge for gender parity.

We would like to be more intentional about supporting the women we have in our space. We want to make sure that we help them access the tools that they need to operate on a levelplaying field as their male counterparts. With 71% female representation in the leadership and 46% female representation in the iHub team, we have lots of in-house resources that we can leverage more to support the female members of the iHub community. We need to see female representation in the iHub community rise significantly in the next couple of years. The iHub pledges to help women and girls achieve their ambition. We will be more intentional about identifying women entrepreneurs in our community who are in need of mentorship and training to meet their professional objectives.

Here are four specific measure the iHub will take to operationalise this.

  1. The iHub organises and plays host to a lot of events - panel discussions, fireside chats, trainings etc. The iHub pledges to continue to value men and women’s contributions equally by pledging to ensure that every panel at the iHub has at least one woman on it.
  2. About one third of the speakers at our forums are women. We aim to raise this to 50% by International Women’s day 2017.
  3. Women currently make up 50% of our research interviewees or participants for any studies we undertake in our research work. We commit to maintaining that.
  4. During our annual Pivot East competition, run by our m:Lab we have ensured that one third of trainers, coaches and judges are female. We pledge to maintain and improve that.

I love the recent Ted Talk by Reshma Saujani. Reshma is the founder of Girls Who Code. http://girlswhocode.com/

Most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure. They are taught to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A’s. Boys on the other hand are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off - head first. And by the time they are adults,  whether they are asking for  a rise or even asking someone out on a date, they are habituated to take risk after risk.. - Reshma Saujani

Let’s teach girls to take risks and be comfortable with imperfection  and while we’re at it, let’s build networks around them so that they don’t walk this road alone. Akirachix http://akirachix.com/, started by four iHub green members, is a great example of building networks around women in tech. In their work to inspire and develop a successful force of women in technology, Akirachix opens up doors to opportunities for women in tech and surrounds them with other women in tech who offer training and mentorship.

We are excited to answer the International Women's Day call to action with this commitment to the process. In turn, we encourage tech organisations in Kenya to take the pledge for parity.

Image: www.internationalwomensday.com

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