From Consumers to Creators – Jamaican Women Tech Entrepreneurs Changing the Narrative of Tech Entrepreneurship

This blog post was inspired by the fact that I was on SmileJamaica Show on Television Jamaica this morning and I was talking to host Simone Clarke-Cooper about Women and Tech Entrepreneurship. In preparation for the interview I had written down a bunch of people and stats to share. Time didn’t allow all, so of course a follow up blog was the natural progression. So here goes.

Women and Girls must be freshly socialised to understand, own and leverage their power.

The Premise

Everyone now knows that we now live, work and do business in the Digital Age. We are connected to each other locally and globally via computers, mobile phones and the Internet that this Age of Global Connectivity has brought with it unprecedented opportunity.

With access to information, people, ideas and online resources people can now choose-how to live, work and do business. The global connectivity enable by technology has become a great leveler of the playing field and now afford us the ability to leverage existing skills and ideas, as well as develop new skills and ideas for careers and business opportunities that didn’t exist even five years ago.

So the possibilities of careers and entrepreneurship in technology are endless but since this Digital Age and the commercial side of Internet has really kicked in just over quarter century ago- there has been a glaring gender gap in terms of tech entrepreneurship.

The Problem

Yes, there is a gender problem globally in  the Tech Industry – both on the career and entrepreneurship levels. While Women are the lead consumers, they are lagging behind, in being the lead creators, managers and entrepreneurs. For example, more than 60% of Facebook’s 1.49 billion members are women, yet men make up 69 percent of Facebook’s employees globally and 77 percent of its “senior-level” level positions. It’s the largest social network and online advertising platform in the world driven by female users, yet the leadership doesn’t yet reflect its consumer base. They did say they are actively working to change that its highest placed woman Sheryl Sandberg is leading that initiative.

So why is there a gender problem in global tech, Caribbean and Jamaican Tech Industry. Here are my top 3 reasons.

1. Socialisation of Women – Women and Girls are socialised to being in the background, to be the supporter, the cheerleader, the administrator, not the driver, the leader and the change maker – until recently.

2. The Media has truly skewed the narrative of what it looks like to be successful in tech career or business. That narrative has typically been young, white male and lately also a little bit Indian. Their videos, articles have in the past been skewed towards men and their achievements.

3. Generally, mainstream media, governments, companies, parents and women themselves have not done a great job in showcasing the wide range and abundance of possibilities of career and business opportunities in the tech industry.

The Solution

We must continue to change the narrative and image of Women & Tech Entrepreneurship.

Women must begin to see themselves as creators not just consumers of technology.

Did you know that Women Rule the Web ?

– As more consumers reach for their smartphones and tablets to shop and communicate, there is a pressing need for commerce sites that cater to women, who control 70% of online purchases worldwide.
-Women will influence the purchase of US$15 trillion in goods in 2014, according to Boston Consulting Group.
-Female users are the unsung heroines behind the most engaging, fastest-growing and most valuable consumer Internet and e-commerce companies,” says venture capitalist Aileen Lee.
-60% of Facebook’s membership  of 1.49 billion people is female.

In my mind, it’s now about how do we leverage the power in the fact that Women Rule the Web so we can see more girls and women seeking technology careers and starting technology driven businesses. We do see that there is a global movement to diversify the face of technology and the Caribbean, Jamaica we ought to follow suit.

Fact is that being connected to the Internet has leveled the playing field, now more people need to be shown how to take full advantage of it all.

As I had offered my top 3 reasons for the gender gap in technology industry, I now offer 3 solution oriented approaches to solving it.

1. Women and Girls must be freshly socialised to understand, own and leverage their power.  For me everything begins with the right mindset. Women and Girls must be taught, shown – that there is power in how they think. They must be taught and shown how to play to their unique female centric strengths of being problem solvers, resourceful, collaborative, communicative and emotionally intelligent. They must be educated on how to see problems around them and ask how can they use technology in all its various forms – to solve those problems or create a major desire in people and do so profitably.

2. The Media is important in showcasing and spreading the messaging and image of what success in Technology careers and businesses by women look like. We need to see this in traditional media but with the advent of online media publishing platforms such blogs, as well as other platforms liked LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Youtube and Instagram – we all now as individuals can create our own media publishing empires to promote our own. So let’s do more of that.

3.  Generally, mainstream media, governments, companies, parents and even some of our own women tech entrepreneurs must become better at marketing to our children, college students, young professionals the limitless range of career and business opportunities in technology industry.

The past stereotypes relating to the sector included: long working hours, a largely male-dominated environment, and difficulties in balancing personal and professional life or worse, a job in a Call Centre.

We must now move beyond that to show two things.

1. That technology is an enabler of existing skills and businesses. From a website that enables potential customers to find you; to a Skype call that enables you to have team meetings or client calls or  a graphic designer, writer, developer, blogger, who leverages the Internet to find new projects and clients to make money.

2. That tech industry is a destination itself that requires new skills and spawns new careers and businesses. There are possibilities in Animaton-storytelling, illustrating, voice overs, graphic design, video editing.  In Digital Content is is huge demand globally – video content, Online TV- new short video shows and the plaforms and marketplaces that make its players find each otherand viewers. How about developing mobile, device or Online based games – concepts, writing, designing, marketing, distributing. Create your own media empire with online Media/Blogs- writing, videos on a special topics; Online magazines.  We still lack certified and professional Digital/Social Media Marketers and Content Creators. There is a shortage of IT Project Managers also and the list can go on and on and on.

Yes with this new Digital Age, you can use your current skills in this new digital economy, but it also calls for new skills which you can teach yourself through the many of online courses and skills training website.

A woman, in fact any individual is only limited by his/her own imagination and drive.

Now let me introduce you to five women who I am inspired by.

Jamaican Women Tech Entrepreneurs that Standout for me Right Now

lornagreen1. Lorna E. Greene is the founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Digital Transtec Limited (DTL), an information technology company specialising in the development of software applications for the regulatory sector of the aviation and mobile gaming industries. Plus She is now a co-founder and GSW Animation Studios. Lorna is one of these women that a documentary should be done about. I admittedly didn’t know her full pedigree until I worked with her when we were both on the board of the then government agency CITO.  Google here.

alisonlatchman

2. Alison Latchman, CEO and Writer of Award-winning Alcyone Animation Studios and responsible for the popular Animation Series – The Cabbie Chronicles Series.

 

 

 

janicemcleod3. Janice McCleod, Co-founder of Agrocentral.co an online platform that allows buyers and suppliers of agriculture products to communicate and manage their data

 

 

 

moniquepowell4.  Monique Powell- Ceo and Founder of NextComesLove.com a Caribbean online dating website.

 

 

 

 

 

stayseandaley5. Staysean Daley- Ceo and Cofounder of KraasImages.com which is the Caribbean’s answer to Getty Images.