Participants at a one-of-a-kind International Women’s Day (IWD) gathering of distinguished women and men leaders have called for bolder interventions to increase women’s business ownership in the technology space.
The evening was co-hosted by the French Ambassador to Ghana, Jules Armand Aniambossou, Penelope Mawulolo Jones-Mensah, lawyer and Executive Director of 40 Roses Foundation, and Mawuli Dake of Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa.
The celebrated Nigerian icon, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, graced the occasion as the special guest of honour.
The event, which was dubbed “Cocktails and Conversations”, in addition to celebrating the achievements of women, also reflected on the 2023 theme for IWD- the power of innovation and technology in driving change for gender equality. It brought together women from academia, governance, business, the diplomatic community as well as students.
A diverse line-up of speakers for the inter-generational dialogue highlighted the fact that, even though young women graduate each year from various universities with laurels in tech-related programmes, they still lack visibility in the primarily male-dominated technology space. They described the gender disparity in the sector as glaring.
The eminent speakers at the memorable event, which included Ghana’s first female Electoral Commission Chairperson, Madam Charlotte Osei, Dr Sangu Delle, the CEO of CarePoint (formerly) Africa Health Holdings), and a student leader, Miss Adrienne Xolasie Mawuenyega, were of the view that there were limited women role models in the technology space to encourage young women to take up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEMS) courses.
Similarly, the persistent patriarchal culture which tends to exclude women and convey stereotypes about women’s abilities, they emphasised, had widened the gender gap in the digital innovation and technology sector.
The impact of technology, they stressed, could help enhance economic opportunities for women and informed decision-making at all levels.
Madam Charlotte Osei pointed out that while the inclusion of women in the technological evolution could translate into further benefits for society in general, cyberbullying and sexism against women and girls, unfortunately, have become a complex issue for society to deal with. Victims of cyberbullying, she pointed out, are often humiliated, harassed, and threatened, causing immense distress in people’s lives and leaving many with suicidal tendencies.
Mrs Yvette Atekpe, Board Chair of Petra Trust and CEO of Dimension Data moderated the conversations about the advancement of women and girls in ICT.
The French Ambassador to Ghana, Jules Armand Aniambossou, in his remarks observed that Ghana has made tremendous progress in pushing the gender equality agenda, but the near absence of women in technology, as role models, continues to derail the efforts being made.
Ghana, he said, has a proud history of influential and phenomenal women leaders who have shaped the nation and made a global impact with many outstanding women leaders who have distinguished themselves in politics, academia, business, and law, among others- including serving in some of the highest offices like Chief Justice and Speaker of Parliament.
France, he noted, has adopted feminist foreign diplomacy making gender equality a key priority. “For this reason, we continue to support Ghana for the implementation of the “Gender Advocacy Project” that seeks to strengthen advocacy towards female members of parliament, to encourage the adoption of laws and policies that guarantee gender equality”, the Ambassador emphasized.
Celebrated Nigerian Actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, who was the special guest at the event, on her part regretted that women had been deprived of equal rights in education and other opportunities for years. To achieve equity, she said, we should recognise that each person has different circumstances and the allocation of resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
“This year, we celebrate women who are in science and technology as well as those using the same to further women’s causes all around the world. And I enjoin you all to also use technology as it is available to us all now, to call out unacceptable behaviours such as body shaming, bullying and any form of toxicity or repression against women anywhere and everywhere,” Mrs Jalade-Ekeinde said.
In her welcome address, the Executive Director of 40 Roses Foundation, Ms Penelope Jones-Mensah, said that realising the ambition of empowerment, equality, and inclusion requires an intergenerational approach to driving the power of innovation and technology for the change being sought.
She noted that men, like women, have a responsibility to ensure that the potentials of girls and women, just like those of men and boys, are nurtured and their contributions fully recognised and celebrated.
“Today, as we deliberate on how best we can individually and collectively mobilise ideas and technology to advance the gender equality agenda, let us commit to growing together such that we do not leave our underprivileged sisters and daughters behind,” Ms Jones-Mensah said.
Present at the event were the Deputy Minister for Gender and Social Protection, Francisca Oteng-Mensah; United States Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia Palmer, the Moroccan Ambassador to Ghana, Imane Quaadil, the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Berenice Owen-Jones, the second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Elsie Addo-Awadzi, the Administrator of the District Assemblies Common Fund, Naa Torshie Lartey, former Gender Ministers, Otiko Afisa Djaba, Nana Oye Bampoe Addo, a former Deputy Minister for Transport and spokesperson for former President John Mahama, Joyce Bawa Mogtari, amongst others.