• Women don’t have to code to get into tech, and when they do, they don’t have to be front end developers or back end developers or website and app developers.
  • It’s time to open up the discourse on getting more women in tech beyond just developing websites and apps.
  • It is essential to take the interests that they have and teach them how to apply these interests to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities in tech.

The conversation surrounding opportunities in tech usually focuses on developers, and even then, it is limited to web or mobile app developers. While this is not a bad thing by itself, it is worrisome because it excludes other equally valid job opportunities.

Women don’t have to code to get into tech, and when they do, they don’t have to be front end developers or back end developers or website and app developers. Other emerging opportunities in tech that might require coding skills and/or knowledge include Data Analytics and Data Science, Machine Learning, Digital Security.

For those that don’t have an interest in coding but would still like to work in tech, there are roles in Product Design, User Experience, SEO and Content Specialists, Business Operations & Analytics, 3D modelling in VR and AR, Quality Assurance Analysts, Project Management, and so much more.

A young girl wearing a VR headset

It’s time to open up the discourse on getting more women in tech beyond just developing websites and apps. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it, did it really fall? If these opportunities exist and people do not know that they do, are they really there?

It is important to encourage young people, especially women, to move a step beyond what we have been showing so far and expose them to the opportunities that they might otherwise have no knowledge of. And should they decide that they aren’t interested in any of these things, that’s fine. People should have the option to decide whether they want to pursue a career in tech that is not limited to become a programmer and not be pigeonholed into a career option because we feel that that’s the best thing for them.

It is essential to, instead, take the interests that they have and teach how to apply these interests to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities and potential that exist in tech.

Young people already start forming opinions about career options long before they enter the workforce or before they even get into secondary school. Research shows that children as young as four are already gender biased in how they think of jobs: boys tend to choose jobs that they deem more masculine, and girls, jobs they deem more feminine.

Linda S. Gottfredson, a psychologist and professor, proposed a theory that people choose their occupation via a process of circumscription and compromise, and this process starts in childhood. They begin to narrow down their career options, first based on what genders they associate with certain jobs, then the perceived social status of the job, and lastly, they consider their interests, abilities, and values.

Linda S. Gottfredson, professor and psychologist

All of this show that it is important to start exposing young girls to as many different careers as possible as early as possible. Before they form rigid ideas of what is possible and achievable and what is not. We should feed into the natural curiosity that children have and open their minds. Exposure can come from career fairs and talks with children as young as primary school, the chance for older kids in secondary schools to visit and shadow people who work in these diverse fields, and avenues for girls of all ages to get their hands dirty and be directly involved in age-appropriate levels of what the work will look like.

Rather than limit and sort young girls into specific career options, early career education increases their awareness of a range of life opportunities and how to access them.

This article as part of Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa's 2019 International Women’s Day series. Read more here:

Lade Tawak is a Design Researcher & Strategist, conducting strategic and evaluative user research for B2C & B2B products in various industries in East Africa and West Africa. She is also a speaker and nonfiction writer with a focus on gender, feminism, tech and reviews and personal essays. Her writing has appeared in Arts and Africa, Africa in Dialogue, Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, NATIVE Mag, and elsewhere. She lives in Lagos and tweets from @deaduramilade