MEST Women in Tech with Guest Lucy Quist

Thea Sokolowski | Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

The women of the MEST community gathered on Thursday for an inspiring and compelling conversation around #womenintech in Africa.

Guest speaker Lucy Quist, CEO of Airtel Ghana, took us through what she calls a Bold New Normal – that we need to get to a place where women in tech is simply the norm.

Lucy began by identifying what she considers to be the real problem when it comes to discrimination against women, particularly in Africa: “I do not believe discrimination against women is an African concept. The concept that is new is discrimination through education. And the workplace takes in what education produces.”

How do we tackle this problem? According to Quist, we can’t do it alone. We need to work together to set examples for other women and begin by changing our own mindsets and priorities if we expect others to do the same.

We need to be willing to be visible leaders. The world thrives on what it sees. We need to share our achievements and let people know what we’ve done. As a woman in tech, every time you show up, you are an agent of change because you’re representing, for some people, the impossible.”

Quist then discussed the differences between men and women in Africa, noting that women spend much more of their time on things that she feels aren’t really bringing them value. “Let’s stop wasting our time,” she challenged. “Upgrade yourself. Focus on you. You have to stand out from the crowd, not because you’re a woman but because you know your stuff.”

Quist ended her inspiring talk with a call to action on the part of everyone in the tech world. “Let’s make women in tech normal. Let’s not marvel every time it happens. Let’s take ourselves as agents of change very seriously, and pull other women along with us.”

Lucy Quist speaks on The Bold New Normal

Women from across the MEST and greater Accra tech community joined the event, sharing their reasons for pursuing a life in tech – from the desire to be challenged, to the desire to solve real problems and do something with a purpose. For Quist, the draw is a view toward the future: “I am in tech because I believe we need to create a more prosperous Africa. I’m here for acceleration of development – not to eradicate poverty, but to create prosperity.”

Following Lucy’s presentation, MEST Director of Partnerships Katie Sarro moderated a panel filled with MEST alum, joined by Meltwater product fellow Katie Shields.

The women told their stories about how they became involved in tech, reaching into the challenges they’ve faced and their experiences with finding and leveraging mentors. Linda Ansong, class of ‘14, shared her own take on aspiration and finding inspiration in herself: “We should pull the rest of us up, but how will we do that? You need to go into a community and tell them about what you did, the barriers you face and how you overcame it. My personal role model is who I will be 10 years from now. I use this to push myself.”

Lady Omega-Hammond, class of ‘15, emphasized the importance of failure as part of growth – and why women need need people to support them and help them get right back up. “Women here are often not confident, and they’re afraid when they fail. They have no one who is there waving a flag saying ‘it’s ok that you failed!’”

The resounding message from the event was to challenge the thinking we’ve been socialized with. Challenge what is normal for a woman and show up to show others what is possible. Together we can achieve a bold new normal.

The MEST Women in Tech Panel

Check out Lucy’s Facebook page to learn more about The Bold New Normal, and join The Executive Women Network in Ghana at http://ewntree.com/.