Digital technologies are an important tool to support women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment across Africa. A recent study by the International Finance Corporation, for example, shows that e-commerce can help women grow their businesses, reach new customers, and benefit from flexibility.
Janet Boakye is a young Ghanaian woman who has experienced first-hand the advantages of running an online business. At age 23, she started selling beads and jewellery on the Internet to become financially independent. Different trainings in web development, digital marketing, and graphic design allowed her to better promote her products and find buyers. Ultimately, online sales and marketing helped her run a successful microenterprise.
In 2018, Janet started working as an assistant programme coordinator in a project funded by GIZ to train other female entrepreneurs — mostly in the informal sector —with digital tools and skills to boost their businesses. “Simple tools like using mapping applications to help customers find their shops can make a big difference for small-scale women entrepreneurs,” says Janet.
These days, she is the Partnerships Manager for Developers in Vogue, a Ghanaian not-for-profit organisation that provides IT training to women. Developers in Vogue’s coding bootcamp has become a well-established programme for women wishing to enter the tech sector.
In her role, Janet oversees and manages the organisation’s key relationships with other institutions. But what she likes the most about her job is that it gives her the opportunity to help other women to also benefit from the opportunities created by the digital transformation. “My own experience has encouraged me to become an advocate for the empowerment of women through digital platforms,” she says.
Developers in Vogue’s trainings provide women with the skills they need to find employment, but according to Janet, this is not always enough. Through her job, she has supported many of them to enter the workforce, witnessing the many difficulties that women still face in the tech sector.
“The opportunities are there, yet many times they are not given to women. It is particularly hard for entry-level jobs. Companies do not seem willing to hire entry-level female professionals even though they are eager to learn and acquire experience,” she explains.
According to Janet, an important obstacle is discrimination against unmarried women: “Employers think that it is not worth investing in young women because they will get married, become mothers, and drop their careers. During interviews, women are often asked straight away what their relationship status is — which is not the case for men. This is a very difficult barrier that we must break. For this, we need organisations and industries to change their mindsets and take the lead.”
Faced with such adversities, young women need to go the extra mile and push even harder for a job. In this sense, she advices other women to make use of digital tools to increase their professional visibility and to connect with potential employers. “It is not always easy, but we are slowly making progress and paving the way for more women,” she concludes.