By Selam Emiru
Last December, the Department’s acting CIO Karen Mummaw along with members of Embassy Nairobi’s Information Resource Management (IRM) team visited iHub, an entrepreneurship and innovation center. The team participated in a roundtable discussion on the challenges women face in the Information Technology (IT) field.
A first of its kind in East Africa, iHub has had several high-profile visitors, including former President Obama and Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Visitors are presented with information about how Kenyans innovate to solve everyday problems. Managing Director of iHub Nekesa Were facilitated the roundtable discussion, encouraging participants to share their journeys. Rebecca Wanjiku, former tech journalist and current CEO of an engineering company that is a fiber rollout contractor and supplier to telecom giant Safaricom, recounted her experience forging her way onto the big project contractor list for Safaricom.
“There is a general perception that women cannot handle big-money projects, that women are only supposed to do ‘softer’ jobs like events management and catering. My company has been given a chance to participate in big projects and we have shown that women-owned businesses are equally capable and competent.”
Acting CIO Mummaw reassured attendees that the issues they shared are universal. She and her team stressed the importance of advocating for more women in IT leadership roles and reiterated the U.S. government’s commitment to empowering women pursuing science, technology, engineering and math fields through Department programs such as TechWomen, WiSci Girls STEAM Camps and Global Innovation through Science and Technology. Nairobi’s IRM team continues to engage with the larger Kenyan IT community by seeking to learn from Kenyan experiences, promoting the development of local expertise and exploring ways to encourage women in IT.
Selam Emiru is an IRM Expanded Professional Associates Program associate at Embassy Nairobi.