We had the opportunity to get to talk with three exceptional women. We spoke to Adora Nwodo (Software Engineer), Boluwa Olojo (Co-founder Go Ads Africa), and Ada Nduka Oyom (Developer Relations, Google. Founder: SheCodeAfrica) on the different gender issues faced by women at the workplace. Also, they talk about ways we can mitigate these issues as a community.
Give a brief background of your work experience and what you currently do for work.
I’m currently part of a team-building Mixed Reality Services on the Cloud. This means I work with people to create tools that allow other developers worldwide to create exceptional Mixed Reality services. On my team, I do either of 3 things: Core Backend Engineering, Infrastructure Engineering, or Security Compliance work.
Marketing sales - 5+ years experience working in Technology Media and Telecommunications.
Ada Nduka Oyom:
I graduated from school with a B.Sc in microbiology but started my career as a Software Developer before pivoting to developer relations, from Findworka to Interswitch and now Google; my roles have been primarily focused on leading developer relations. I am currently engaged with Google to help manage their developer communities across Subsaharan Africa (SSA), specifically the Google Developer Groups (GDG) and the Women Techmakers community (WTM). I'm mostly an advocate for developer communities and developers as individuals, so, outside these, I run She Code Africa - a non-profit organization specifically focused on empowering more African women in tech, and Open Source Community Africa - an organization focused on improving and creating more credible contributions from Africans in the open-source ecosystem.
What are the gender-specific issues women at the workplace that particularly upset you?
Sexual Harassment! 54% of women are likely to face sexual harassment in the workplace.
I’ve not seen any weird gender-specific energy where I currently work, so I can’t directly answer this question. However, I know a lot of things on Twitter that irks me. From the gaslighting to the mansplaining to doubting someone's knowledge or experience in a particular domain because they are a woman. It’s weird, and we need to fix that.
Biased hiring, poor visibility to facilitate more growth or promotion in the workspace, sexual harassment & bullying, poor workplace policies to encourage motherhood choices.
Have you experienced any of these issues at the workplace? Kindly share your experience(s) in as much detail.
No, I haven't. I've been opportune to work in places and with teams that encourage and throw in more confidence to one’s contributions within the company, as well as shun any of these, but my line of work and through my organization - She Code Africa - I regularly interact with several women and young girls who get to face these or even more and have no one to speak to or on their behalf (another reason why we do all that we do at SCA). I've had young girls just starting in tech and being emotionally manipulated by people trying to help them. There are so many stories like this and even way worse that I can't share.
As I said, I haven’t experienced anything at work. However, I have other tech-related things I do in the community. Most of these experiences are online for me, and I always talk back because it’s never okay to be spoken to anyhow. I don’t subscribe to that behavior. However, other women aren’t as vocal as I can be, and it’s annoying that they get treated this way.
Yes, I have, in the earlier days of my career and even at my last job. People have also tried to start inappropriately work relationships with me, and I’m just over it. My friend got harassed by her boss in 2020 and had to quit her job; this left her unemployed for six months.
How hopeful are you for the eradication of these issues? What practical solutions do you suggest?
I’m hopeful, mostly because a lot of people are speaking up nowadays. A lot of women and women allies are beginning to speak up, and I love it. To eradicate these issues that come up will be to change people’s mindset and force people to take training on equity, empathy, and unconscious bias. Sometimes, people do these things unconsciously, not realizing how it makes the people on the receiving end feel. So we need to create something that changes the general mindset. I know women engineers that are very good at what they do; they don’t deserve to be bullied. It’s disgusting!
- More robust company policies to protect women
- Measures to punish offenders
- Creating a workspace that enables women to succeed and allows men to learn more about boundaries and harassment in the workplace
I'm quite hopeful about these issues becoming a thing of the past, as few companies are beginning to act right, even if it means receiving public backlash before they change. Some practical solutions I would suggest include:
- Identifying the bias in your workspace and challenging the status quo (it starts with one person)
- Show support to making your workspace more comfortable for these women.
- Working with reputable women in tech-focused organizations or communities, like She Code Africa in creating real-time diverse talent pipelines
- Creating more opportunities for visibility and promotion for women in your work environment
- Allow them to lead effectively, spotlight their achievements, encourage and facilitate more promotions to leadership levels.
What advice would you give your younger self as preparation for thriving in the workplace as a woman?
Avoid people-pleasing and take challenges as much as you can. Learn new skills in your field or outside. The most significant investment you can make is in yourself, so start doing so early.
If you don't get a seat at the table, pull up with yours.
No one markets your skills and abilities as you do.
Once you become fearless, life becomes limitless.