I like to say that I accidentally bumped on to my tech journey. I was on long holiday from my then college, Kenya Polytechnic, now Technical University of Kenya where I was pursuing a Medical Laboratory Technology course to follow in the footsteps of my late father. However, during that long holiday, a friend introduced me to a cyber café where I could access Internet and a few other software programs on a pay by the minute platform.
As a young girl from the village then, I was very astonished by the whole concept and that is where my love for computers took root. I could not believe what the computers were capable of doing. The billion mathematical calculations and processes mesmerized me. When I tried the video games, I could not believe that I was able to control and command the computer to do what I wanted. And it was never wrong! The word processor was a genius by itself. I could now write letters with fancy fonts and graphics such as word art. Anything else I tried left me more mesmerized than before. Slowly but surely, I knew that I was no longer going back for my medical laboratory certificate. I belonged here in the cyber, in these interesting walls of technology. I remember saying to myself, one day I will be among the few women technology leaders in my country.
Ten years later since laying my eyes on the first computer, there is no going back. It saddens me to see that nothing much has changed in terms of technology gender diversity. Women participation is still under 1%. Many times, I have been the only female in either my class or in any of the conferences that I attend. I was joking to a friend of mine that each time we go on tea break, I die silently as I observe the queues for the men’s toilets, but never for the women. That is how badly represented women are in the real world of technology.
It is in line with this year’s African Women in Technology theme of Being Bold that I want to continue advocating for more women in tech in terms of publications, speaking engagements, mentorship and panel discussions. It is only by being bold and getting out there that we can change this narrative. As Mahatma Gandhi said, we need to be the change that we wish to see in the world. I want to inspire people. I want young girls to look at me and say because of you, I did not give up.
This year, I am breaking out of my comfort zone and I will be speaking at my first international conference. I hope you will join me as we delve deeper and discuss on ways we can provide women and minorities with exposure to emerging technologies, promote diversity as well as equality in tech. This will be happening at the Women & Minorities In Technology Conference (WAMIT) on April 3rd –4th, 2018 Jacksonville, Florida. The time is ripe for diversity and inclusion in technology. Visit WAMITConference.com for more information.
“Gladys Maina is an IT professional based in Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management of Information Systems and certifications in ITIL Intermediate, PRINCE2, PMD Pro, CCNA and A+.
She is a registered member of African Women in Technology (AWIT) and Google Women TechMakers. Her passion is in seeing more women breaking barriers in the IT industry. Visit her LinkedIn page for more information at this link.