Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC): Nurturing the next generation of female technology creators, entrepreneurs and leaders
Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC)
Camps, Clubs, Digital literacy, Disadvantaged socio-economic contexts, Early childhood care and education (ECCE), Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Persons with disabilities, Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Skills development
Career counselling and professional development, Formal education and school contexts, Non-formal education and extracurricular contexts, Role models and mentoring
During the previous decade, digital technology has changed the global economy. With innovations, online digital roles have transformed. Individuals across a range of genders and income levels have overcome physical and socio-economic barriers to earn an income through the internet; however, most of these new jobs require advanced technological skills.
In 2017, unemployment rates in Nigeria increased to reach almost 16 million people, with youth being the most impacted. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that only 45% women have access to internet and mobile technology for 62% of men in Nigeria. Increasing access to technology for women and girls has the potential to create opportunities in education. It can enable entrepreneurship, skills development and access to information and services that can empower women to take on technological roles, participate in the digital economy and help break the cycle of poverty.
The Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) is a Nigerian nonprofit organization committed to make technology more inclusive across Nigeria. It aims to support and train the next generation of women technology creators, entrepreneurs and leaders, W.TEC programmes encourage girls to pursue technology careers and support women to use technology to increase their economic and social power.
W.TEC’s goals are to:
Equip girls with the skills to create technology and digital content
Educate girls about and inspire them to pursue science and technology-related career opportunities
Support girls as they embark on a science and technology-related career path
Produce innovative and groundbreaking research that supports the development and implementation of technology programmes for women and girls
Promote and support the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in uplifting women’s rights
Establish a network of technology-fluent alumni and mentors.
Recently, W.TEC expanded its programmes to explore how technology can improve learning outcomes and better integrate groups who face underrepresentation in the technology sector, with a focus on girls with developmental disabilities and special needs such as Autism and Down Syndrome.
Core programmes target girls aged 5 to 25 and include technology trainings, mentoring and work placement including: Early Innovators Camp, She Creates Technology Camp, W.TEC Academy and MentorHER. Technology training for women entrepreneurs are also implemented in partnership with local and international NGOs, educational and research organizations.
Typically, programme beneficiaries aged between 10 to 25 are typically enrolled in a public school or tertiary institution. They come from lower-income socio-economic backgrounds and would otherwise not have access to this kind of opportunity. All participants must be interested in learning more about science and technology and demonstrate a curious mind.
Some of W.TEC’s current major partners and supporters include: the Sage Foundation, MainOne Cable and Laureates College – Lagos, Queen Elizabeth School – Kwara, Kwara State Ministry of Education, Lagos State Ministry of Education, FEMTECH and SoftTrade, Oracle Academy, Intel, Amadeus, Google, Microsoft and the World Bank.
In 2008, W.TEC launched the first female-only technology camp in Nigeria. Since then, W.TEC’s programmes have empowered more than 27,150 girls and women across Nigeria directly contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.
As a result, 86% of surveyed W.TEC alumnae report that participating in the programme inspired them to pursue a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related career paths. Almost 25% of W.TEC alumnae are either studying or have completed a STEM degree in a tertiary institution. More than 57% of W.TEC alumnae are using the technology skills and knowledge from the programme to generate their own income.
Through strategic partnerships with more than 45 organizations, W.TEC scaled-up and replicated its programmes in states across Nigeria. For instance, She Creates Camp has expanded from one annual camp for 15 girls to four annual camps for 150 girls. The W.TEC Academy has expanded from one afterschool club in Lagos to include Kwara State and two other States.
Instead of one standalone programme, W.TEC has a range of core programmes that complement and feed into each other.
The best results have been forged through regular workshops over a considerable period and support to technical knowledge and career guidance as participants start their advanced studies in technology such as in MentorHER.
The gender technology gap is largely due to embedded social constructs rather than a lack of capacity.
W.TEC teaches girls to challenge societal gender biases (a core module across the various programmes is Gender and Leadership) and by so doing, girls are better able to choose career and life paths with more self-awareness and knowledge. This confidence takes them farther in their respective technology career journey than mere technology capacity-building programmes would.
W.TEC’s internship and work experience help girls and women connect what is learned with their local environments.
Access to technology enables girls and women to solve problems within their communities, such as apps to report incidences of sexual and gender-based violence and websites for their businesses.
EQUALS Global Partnership. 2019. I’d blush if I could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education. Paris: UNESCO.
EQUALS Research Group. 2018. Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership. Preliminary findings of a review by the EQUALS research group. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Orgunfuwa, I. 54 female students benefit from W.TEC technology camp. Punch: 4 September 2018.