Barely 2% of Silicon Valley tech workers are women, and the numbers in the developing world are even more worrying. This is why the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is doing its part to close the gender gap of women in technology in Africa. This year, MEST celebrates its largest number of women Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EIT) admitted since its inception in 2008. There are currently a total of 10 women in the MEST program, which is comprised of EITs from both Ghana and Nigeria.
“Recruiting women at MEST is much easier now. The public has become more aware of our program and its benefits. There were years where we had no women applicants or EITs admitted. We now actively recruit women for the program and conduct recruitment activities specifically geared towards women at women-centered conferences and girls’ hostels on university campuses,” says Ekua Odoom, Managing Director of MEST who spearheads daily operations, strategic planning, and staff management for the two-year training program.
This year also marks the first time MEST has seen an increase in the qualified pool of women applicants. “We actually had to turn some of the women applicants away, whereas in the past the numbers were so shockingly low. We are also beginning to see more women with significant technology experience,” adds Ekua.
This boost in the number of women Enterpreneurs-in-Training is a consequence of aggressive recruitment efforts as well as MEST’s close partnership with leading African payments company, Interswitch. This partnership empowers MEST to provide a world-class software development education to aspiring Nigerian women tech entrepreneurs, and is yet another example of Interswitch’s commitment to strengthening the West African tech ecosystem.
Having women CEOs and Founders in the MEST Incubator has also impacted the recruitment of women at MEST. Both Ann Amuzu, the CEO of Nandi Mobile and Linda Ansong, a co-founder of Vestracker often participate in recruitment and outreach efforts.“The women CEOs and Founders in our Incubator are very inspiring and are helping to shift public perception of what a tech entrepreneur is supposed to look like. They show other women (and men too!) that, ‘Yes it can happen. You too can achieve this!’”
Some wonder why gender diversity within the tech industry is so important. At MEST, we’ve seen that the social dynamics, critical thinking skills, and even the quality of ideas have been enhanced with the increased number of women in the program. “There’s much more balance in the program now and more team cohesion that I feel is directly attributed to the number of women in the program.”
“I came to MEST with a vision to empower more women, create more opportunities for women, and ultimately increase development in Ghana,” says Ekua. And it is that visionary outlook that has the MEST program even more determined to succeed in breaking down barriers for women in technology in Africa and beyond.
If you know a young Ghanaian or Nigerian woman who has what it takes to excel as a tech entrepreneur, kindly direct them to the MEST Admissions page for more information! They can also directly contact our Head of Recruitment, Amma Baffoe (firstname.lastname@example.org), for more information.