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IT empowerment: Providing a continuum of success for women and girls in the developing world

In the United States, the percentage of women in IT roles is less than 17%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

November 7, 2011

By Lynann Bradbury

In the United States, the percentage of women in IT roles is less than 17%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Apply that to the developing world, and the numbers become staggering – in the wrong direction.

Several factors contribute to this imbalance. Access to practical technical training is limited for young women and girls; when a family can only spend so much on education, culture may push parents to support sons first.  Cultural dynamics that influence family decisions may also be present in the workplace, favoring men over women for technical jobs. If local IT departments have never hired a woman before, they may be reticent to do so now. So with a lack of in-country female IT professionals, there are limited recruits and few role models to inspire young women to pursue a career in technology. The small percentage of women who’ve managed to enter the field find themselves isolated, struggling to balance work with life and seeking a sense of community among like-minded professionals.

At NetHope, we cannot change cultural norms hindering women from entering and succeeding in IT in the developing world.  Nor would we want to.  But we can change the level of gender-based training, access to opportunity and professional support these women have – locally and globally.

Over the next several months, NetHope will kick-off a series of programs to provide a continuum of success for college-age females and professional IT women in the developing world to enter, grow and succeed in local in-country IT industries.

Through targeted training, access to internships/jobs and ongoing programs delivered through a global community of practice, NetHope aims to boost recruitment, job satisfaction and career success for women in IT, especially those in developing regions.   Initial efforts involve convening this community of existing female IT professionals – locally and globally -- to support one-another in professional growth, expertise and advancement.

As their confidence and leadership capacity increases, these women will be encouraged to serve as in-country ambassadors, role models and change agents for their respective communities, supporting young women to enter the field.  As they do, the cycle continues, providing long-term sustainability for generations to come.  Ultimately, our goal is to provide a continuum of success for women in IT: entry-level to leadership, personally and professionally, locally and globally.

But we need your help.

If you are a women in IT, who gave you your first chance, or was particularly helpful in boosting your career?  What helps you connect with others in the industry to continue your personal/professional growth?  What programs have you participated in that you believe could make a difference in this effort?

If you are an IT executive looking to engage more women in the industry, especially in emerging markets, we would love to hear from you.  Would your company be interested in partnering on the Women’s TechConnect program, potentially as a program integrator, corporate funder or co-champion of the community of practice?

The whole NetHope philosophy was built on one central concept:  the more we collaborate, the more we succeed.  But it is not about our success.  Rather, it is about building a continuum of success – with the IT industry, in international development and for women and girls in the developing world.

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