Africa, Interviews

Ruth Kaveke – Executive Director at Pwani Teknowgalz

In my own opinion, to bridge the gender gap of women in technology should start down from parenting, girls are always given dolls as compared to boys who get electronics this psychologically knowing or unknowing moulds them to their future career.

Ruth Kaveke is the co-founder and executive director at Pwani Teknowgalz, a non profit organisation in Mombasa Kenya working to bridge the gender gap of Women in Technology. She loves inspiring more girls to venture into a STEM career where women are underrepresented through the Technovation Challenge – a global challenge that encourages girls from all over the world to solve community problems by creating dedicated mobile applications.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

I am the executive director at Pwani Teknowgalz, a non profit organisation in Mombasa Kenya bridges the gender gap of women in STEM careers by providing training, mentorship and workshops empowering them to use their creativity to develop innovative solutions to community problems using technology. I am a freelance website developer and a trainer for website development classes at Pwani Teknowgalz. Technology plays a big role in my job, as a website developer and a trainer I use technology daily in my life in creating websites for clients, training students to code.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I was born in a small town in Kenya called Sirare, while in primary school, I was fascinated by computers which I could only access in nearby cybercafe. When I joined  high school at Asumbi Girls High School I was excited to learn that computer was taught  as a subject. I joined the class, I loved the subject a lot and I was always the best student in my class until finished my high school. It was very obvious that I was to pursue technology in the university. At the university I pursued bachelors in Information Communication Technology and specialized in Software development. While at the University I was shocked by the low representation of women in technology, in my class in class of 60 only six were girls and out of the six only two ventured to coding that is I and one lady. Seeing the pressing need to sensitize girls on the essentials of actively involving in technology and technological advancements. I was inspired to mentor and inspire young girls to pursue careers in technology. I buckled down on a mission to initiate and register Pwani Technowgalz; a non profit organisation whose aim is to bridge the gender gap in Technology in Mombasa County. To date Pwani Teknowgalz has impacted approximately 7000 students both high school and primary schools through various programs we run such STEM CAFE KENYA, Africa Code Week, Technovation, Django girls, Website development classes and projects we have implemented with our partners such as Mombasa girls in STEM.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

The transformation of mobile technology that has positively impacted on mobile money transfer and banking. In Kenya mobile banking has improved the way common citizens are able to send and receive plus play for services using their mobile phones through M-Pesa . Mpesa has allowed instant money transfer without the need of a bank account. This has allowed many low income households access credit and loans. 

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women focused groups in the tech community?

In my own opinion, to bridge the gender gap of women in technology should start down from parenting,  girls are always given dolls as compared to boys who get electronics this psychologically knowing or unknowing moulds them to their future career. Girls will less likely consider careers in technology as a result of this. Additionally, women already in technology should come out to mentor and be role models for girls to pursue technology. It is very hard to be who you don’t know or see. When girls are mentored and have female role models they will definitely consider a career in technology.

There is need for women  focused groups in technology  where girls and young women are able to learn from each other and  a strong network of women in technology and finally reducing the widening gap of women in technology. For example Pwani Teknowgalz which is located in a religious city Mombasa where men and women do not mix, parents feel secure with their girls  at Pwani Teknowgalz where they are taught and interact with female in technology.

Who are your tech influencers and why?

Anar Simpson

Anar is a key influencer for Women, Girls and Technology. She led this initiative at Mozilla and was appointed as a Deputy to the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. She is the Global Ambassador for Technovation – which equips young girls with technology and entrepreneurship skills which readies them for tech careers.  I am always inspired by her passion to equip girls globally  with technology skills through Technovation program.

Susan Wojcicki

I admire Susan’s vast experience in the technology field from the beginnings of Google to being the CEO of YouTube. YouTube is the largest video streaming platform. I can imagine how complex running such a business is. Susan has been an advocate for several causes, including  countering gender discrimination at technology companies and getting girls interested in computer science and prioritizing coding in schools.

Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty runs one of the oldest and most successful technology companies. IBM’s success is a clear testament to the innovative nature of the company. This success requires a leader who has strong leadership and is innovative. I am amazed at how she moved from systems engineer to President and CEO of IBM.

What has been the greatest piece of advice you have received in your career so far?

Always ask for help, the worst answer will be a no and it won’t kill you. People are willing to offer a helping hand when asked for.

You are supposed to host a dinner and need to invite three people in Tech. Who would you invite and why?

Anar Simpson, Ginni Rometty and Susan Wojcicki

Ruth Kaveke is the co-founder and executive director at Pwani Teknowgalz, a non profit organisation in Mombasa Kenya working to bridge the gender gap of Women in Technology. She loves inspiring more girls to venture into a STEM career where women are underrepresented through the Technovation Challenge – a global challenge that encourages girls from all over the world to solve community problems by creating dedicated mobile applications.

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