SEATTLE, Washington — According to the GSMA Intelligence’s 2017 report, Senegal is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s technology hotspots with 10 active technology hubs. Senegal’s relative political stability has attracted investments from large technology companies, such as Microsoft, Orange and Google. Despite the growing importance of technology services in the Senegalese economy, the majority of women remain excluded from jobs in the sector. Jiggen Tech Hub, West Africa’s first tech hub run for women, by women, aims to change this.
Origins of Jiggen Tech Hub
In 2011, Binta Coudy Dé flew to New York with a team of Senegalese women to participate in a tech competition organized by Microsoft. Since the competition had participants from around the globe, Dé and her team expected to see a lot of female participation. However, when they arrived, they were the only all-female team at the competition. For these Senegalese women, the lack of women at the competition highlighted a global need for supporting women in technology. This experience inspired Dé and her teammates to form Jiggen Tech Hub in 2012.
The organization prepares women to break into the technology industry despite prevalent gender stereotypes. It trains women and girls in technology and leadership to prepare them for the burgeoning industry. The McKinsey Global Institute reported that 3.3 percent of the total GDP in Senegal came from internet businesses in 2013. Since Senegal is one of Africa’s fastest-growing tech sectors, preparing women for the tech industry helps to undermine gender stereotypes in the workplace and society at large.
Gender Barriers to Employment in West Africa
The female employment rate of 59.3 percent in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than the global average of 45.8 percent. Gender barriers that still exist for women in the West African workforce. Despite high employment rates, West African women tend to have low-paying jobs in the informal sector. Furthermore, some countries still have laws that prevent women from entering certain professions.
Women also face social stigma when they seek “non-traditional” jobs. According to West Africa Brief, 22 percent of Senegalese men believe that women should not work outside of the home. According to traditional philosophy, women should remain in the home, taking care of their families as opposed to working for a salary. These gendered stereotypes make it difficult for women to attain high-paying, technology-related jobs in West Africa.
Jiggen Tech Hub Today
Since its inception, Jiggen Tech Hub has made a large impact, teaching hundreds of Senegalese women and girls technology skills. A team of more than 40 volunteers, both women and men, run the organization. The organization dedicates all of its programs to STEM topics as well as Information and Communications Technology. The organization gives women practical skills that they can leverage in the ever-growing tech industry in West Africa.
Along with teaching in-demand tech skills, Jiggen Tech Hub empowers women through leadership training. Since gender stereotypes are still persistent in Senegal, leadership training helps women learn how to be confident and strive for higher professional goals. The organization believes that this unique combination of leadership and technology training will help women reduce the gender gap in the Senegalese tech workforce as well as fight traditional gender stereotypes.
– Morgan Harden