We should all be STEMinists

Posted on April 24, 2019

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Ian Mangenga, founder of Digital Girl Africa, quit her job to empower young girls by launching a digital hub that accelerates women towards entrepreneurship in digital technology. The hub is purposed towards supporting aspiring and existing woman business owners with tech related tools to scale their impact. Addressing Africa’s digital gender divide and the flexibility of being a self-starter attracted Mangenga to entrepreneurship. “I didn’t and still don’t believe anyone has to be in the office half the day to make a living. Digital Girl Africa is a vehicle I use to help other women conquer the digital revolution and be self dependent.” Small events lead her to leave her job to focus on building Digital Girl  Africa. She says this audacious decision can be liberating for entrepreneurs who believe in their passion – if there’s a plan in place.

Any young entrepreneur considering leaving their job needs to have a clear and detailed plan and enough finances to survive until the next pay cheque.

The digital gender divide is a term used to define the low numbers of women who use the internet compared to men. “If we say ‘the future is digital’ and ‘the future is female’ then who’s preparing these women for the future?” Africa has the widest gap with women being 33% less likely to use the internet than their male counterparts. This means far less women in Africa use the internet to access information, opportunities and to develop themselves. Mangenga explains that there are several reasons why this fact signals danger for South Africa’s future:

The gap has the potential to reinforce preexisting challenges women face daily. If we don’t make it our mission to address this, we run the risk of not fully benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That’s why Digital Girl Africa is involved in equipping women with the skills they need to future proof their careers and changing society’s perception of women in tech.

The hub has hosted coding boot camps for teenage girls, tech tools and skills workshops for women who lead social movements, social media masterclasses for women in business, young African leaders and domestic workers. “In 2019 we’re expanding to Cape Town, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania and we are building relationships in strategic countries including the United Kingdom as well as Trinidad & Tobago.” Digital Girl Africa’s mission is to close the digital gender gap significantly by 2030 through creating a premium network of women tech talent in Africa and the diaspora that are using their skill to shape the continent.

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To build a social enterprise leading change in technology, Mangenga says entrepreneurs must adapt to playing multiple roles: from managing the vision, to execution and expansion. “I’m very lucky to have a team that helps me with technical and administrative work. Running a start-up means being in a constant state of figuring things out.” Speaking about thinking big and managing vision, Mangenga is building Digital Girl Africa into one of the leading women-led and women-focused software companies in Africa, creating digital products for businesses that are interested in affecting social change.