International Women’s Day: WanaData tackles gender stereotypes
WanaData joined the #ChoosetoChallenge campaign to recognise gender inequality in Africa
What factors hold back women in the workplace? The answer isn’t simple. Years of inequality and deep systemic issues all contribute to the lack of representation in most professional sectors. To challenge this on International Women’s Day, WanaData, Code for Africa’s pan-African network of women data scientists, journalists and technologists, hosted a three-day forum to address the negative stereotypes women face in this industry.
Gender disparity starts in early childhood development. According to this report by The African Academy of Sciences (AAS), “Girls are oriented to be communal and are more likely to be engaged in activities that emphasize interpersonal relationships. On the contrary, masculine gender role stereotypes orient boys to acquire mastery, skills and competence and are likely to be involved in activities that emphasize problem-solving, status, and financial gain.”
For women in media, the data on the lack of representation is also bleak. This report by International Women’s Media Foundation reveals that gender discrimination runs deep in the industry with women underrepresented in leadership, gender equality stories going untold, and men remain the vast majority of quoted experts and sources.
As part of the report, AAS surveyed 415 women on the issues they faced working in STEM in Africa, and the factors they believed facilitated career excellence. A majority stated that sexism and stereotyping of women’s roles and skills were obstacles to success. More than 90% of respondents said access to networking with peers, availability of mentors and role models and opportunities for professional development were key.
“African women are still under-represented in data, technology and journalism fields, and therefore, they face various gender discriminations, these could come in the form of stereotypical judgment or assessment, unequal pay, sexism, sexual harassment/violence, diminished responsibilities and more. International Women’s Day served as a call to action to push for change to combat gender stereotypes and accelerate gender equality in the workplace,” said Tolulope Adeyemo, Senior Programme Manager at Code for Africa.
To create a space for women to connect with peers and meet mentors within their fields, WanaData invited women data and journalism field experts to speak about their experience.
“Given that women make up one-half of the world’s available talent, we chose to challenge gender stereotypes during the 2021 International Women’s Day to collectively amplify the inequality gap,” said Adaugo Isaac, WanaData’s Product Manager, who also led the organising of the forum.
On day one the conversation focused on how to challenge gender gaps in data and journalism. Athandiwe Saba, Head of News at Mail and Guardian, Lisa Macleod, Consultant, Trainer and Advisor at Women in News and Amy Carmichael, Senior Data Analyst shared their experiences of the industry, and how they had managed to advance in spite of the challenges stacked against them. The panel agreed that closing the gap in gender wouldn’t come about until big changes were made.
Changes in policies and including more women in stakeholder decisions were some of the solutions put forward. Carmichael stated the reason the gap exists is that the world as a whole has been operating with male as default. “When we design anything from cars to emojis it’s designed with male as default. It’s worrying that we have a world designed with that data bias inherent,” said Carmichael.
The three experts also offered advice for young, professional women, which included finding allies.
On day two of the panel discussions, the same topic as day one was addressed for a francophone community. The panel featured speakers Anne Nzouankeu, Fact-Checker at PesaCheck, Chetah Bile, Chief Editor at CRTV and Afy Malungu, Author at InfoCongo. Again, the experts agreed the lack of women in important institutions was a distressing issue.
“In the media sector, we must give more opportunities to women. This will help to encourage and galvanize other women. There is no consideration of gender in data collection and it should also be noted the lack of women in institutions in the DRC,” said Afy Malungu.
Day three saw experts in research and journalism, Sarah Macharia, General Secretary at Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG), Joyce Shebe, Chief Editor at Clouds Media Group, and moderator Adaugo Isaac, Product Manager at Code for Africa share insights into what type of discrimination women face in the media sector.
“Women experience various types of discrimination in their places of work, including sexual harassment as well as discrimination in hiring and promotion processes. These are unfortunately the lived experiences of women in media,” said Macharia.
“We need to see men and women get equal treatment and opportunity. When we get treated equally we get to witness strong media houses and through fair treatment and equal pay we add value to what journalists are producing,” said Shebe.
Along with the three-panel discussions, WanaData also put a call out to its community to share a selfie with a statement on how they choose to challenge gender inequality. The Code for Africa team participated, and team members shared how they’re challenging the gender pay gap, patriarchy and gender bias in the workplace.
There’s still a long way to go before we reach gender parity, but there are ways women can get a head start. Our WanaData network provides a space for women in media and tech to network with peers and get access to fellowships, mentorships and more. If you’d like to be a part of this growing community, apply to join here.
WanaData is a pan-African network of women data scientists, journalists and technologists aimed to produce and promote data-driven projects while applying digital technologies in storytelling. Founded in 2017 as an initiative by pan-African impact accelerator Code for Africa, the network is now in 6 African countries with over 370 active members.
Code for Africa (CfA) is the continent’s largest network of civic technology and data journalism labs, with teams in 21 countries. CfA builds digital democracy solutions that give citizens unfettered access to actionable information that empowers them to make informed decisions, and that strengthens civic engagement for improved public governance and accountability. This includes building infrastructure like the continent’s largest open data portals at openAFRICA and sourceAFRICA, as well as incubating initiatives as diverse as the africanDRONE network, the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative and the sensors.AFRICA air quality sensor network.
CfA also manages the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), which gives the continent’s best muckraking newsrooms the best possible forensic data tools, digital security and whistleblower encryption to help improve their ability to tackle crooked politicians, organised crime and predatory big business. CfA also runs one of Africa’s largest skills development initiatives for digital journalists, and seed funds cross-border collaboration.