Africa, Interviews

Victoria Ngono – Founder and Executive Director of Girls in STEM Trust

Mentorship played a strong part in cementing my resolve to pursue a career in Tech, it came in various forms and had a lasting impact on my perspective about Technology and STEM in general.

Victoria Ngono is the Founder & Executive Director of Girls In STEM Trust, a non-profit organization in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It has female future leaders and pioneers in STEM Enterprises in mind. The organisation is on a mission to get one million girls and young women in STEM related studies, occupations and business enterprises in Africa by 2030 and at the same time preparing them for next gen work in the field of STEM. Victoria is an Associate Member of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe and serves on the Executive of the Bulawayo Chapter handling the Education and Software Development portfolios. Victoria is a Systems Analyst with a career in Technology spanning over 10 years and was selected to be a Country Ambassador for Africa Code Week, an initiative by SAP, UNESCO, Youth Mobile and Google and partners representing Zimbabwe for the past three years.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I am the Founder & Executive Director of Girls In STEM Trust, a non-profit organisation for girls and young women to expose and empower them to take up STEM related studies, occupations and business enterprises and innovations. We’re on a mission to get one million girls across Africa into STEM by 2030 using a plethora of exciting ways for them. Technology is at the core of my job because Girls In STEM Trust Programmes border around digital literacy with a bias towards Programming and Coding skills. This is particularly important in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to ensure that young women and girls are 21st Century digitally relevant and equipped with the necessary skills to compete in both the Technology job and business market

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

Surprisingly, my love for technology started in high school but was never really nurtured. I pursued studies with a view to start a career in Business Management before realizing what my passion was and eventually started off my Tech journey in 2011. Almost ten years later, I am a Systems Analyst, ICT Professional Trainer, Tech Mentor and Speaker, Country Ambassador for the Africa Code Week Programme in Zimbabwe, an Associate Member of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe and I’ve been privileged to start a non-profit organisation to help young women and girls achieve successful careers and business in Technology and STEM in general.

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

The adoption of internet based services. I’ve watched e-commerce, encompassing digital payment systems and mobile money transform the way we do business. I’ve watched how the integration of mobile and web applications into everyday life have managed to change the lives of so many globally by allowing them to access information and services in a way we never thought possible. This re-affirms the importance of Technology not just to me but to the world as we know it.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Diversity in inclusion equals diversity in solutions.

I think about the importance of gender diversity to include women taking a more active role and occupying a larger space in the field of Technology and being recognised for it. Diversity in inclusion equals diversity in solutions.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

Women need to be given equal opportunities to showcase their talents based on merit and not with the aim of a gender quota being filled. This will not only boost their confidence that they are able to perform their duties in the workplace just as well as their male counterparts can, but it will allow for more women to follow suit and envision themselves in highly rewarding Tech Careers and Businesses. A more deliberate focus on exposing young girls and women still in the Education System about the opportunities and career paths in Technology available to them and which avenues to pursue to get them there needs to be an area of primary focus in Career Mentorship discussions led by women in the Tech Industry  themselves. While we appreciate that this is happening in some countries, a co-ordinated global network that makes this its primary focus will undeniably shine the spotlight on the wonderful world of Tech from a female perspective and showcase to future employers the various skillsets possessed by Woman in Tech. Conversations surrounding the differences in remuneration between men and women performing the same job in the Tech Industry also needs to be addressed. Statistics show that women earn less than their male counterparts while possessing the same qualifications, this is due to gender stereotypes surrounding the capabilities of women in the Tech space, strategies need to be put in place to ensure that women are rewarded using fair and unbiased remuneration scales. This will also help to make the Tech Industry more appealing to women.

If you had 1 Million € to invest in women, what would you do?

Without a shadow of a doubt I would create a fund that focuses on making funding available for women to pursue STEM Education, STEM StartUps and Innovations as well as STEM Research with a bias towards advancing 4IR Technologies. I would invest in a Tech Mentorship Academy to tackle the professional, cultural, social and economic issues that women from various walks of life face in their Tech journeys. It is a conversation that needs to happen and deliberate Mentorship activities to encourage and empower women to be confident in their Tech Career choices needs to be addressed.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

It’s amazing how everyone plays a unique part in your life and you only get to realize in hindsight just how important their part in your journey was. I had a lot of mentors in different facets of education, business, life skills and most importantly technology. All of these played a great part in making me the well rounded individual that I am today. My greatest influence was Florence Phaswana a local woman in tech. She had been in Technology for close to 20 years when I first met her and I envied how she was a minority in terms of gender at her place of work when it came to Technology but was boldly leading a Tech Department! She had words of encouragement and gave me the roadmap that has made me the formidable woman that I am today. Mentorship played a strong part in cementing my resolve to pursue a career in Tech, it came in various forms and had a lasting impact on my perspective about Technology and STEM in general. The organisation that I  am privileged to serve, Girls In STEM Trust, has Mentorship as one of its core values.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

I would certainly remind myself that an open mind that allows for experimentation and education in fields that I’m clueless about or less knowledgeable in, has positive learning effects that will allow for a more informed decision making process. The world at the age of 14 is your oyster, you can dare to dream and work to achieve it too!

Victoria Ngono is the Founder & Executive Director of Girls In STEM Trust, a non-profit organization in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It has female future leaders and pioneers in STEM Enterprises in mind. The organisation is on a mission to get one million girls and young women in STEM related studies, occupations and business enterprises in Africa by 2030 and at the same time preparing them for next gen work in the field of STEM. Victoria is an Associate Member of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe and serves on the Executive of the Bulawayo Chapter handling the Education and Software Development portfolios. Victoria is a Systems Analyst with a career in Technology spanning over 10 years and was selected to be a Country Ambassador for Africa Code Week, an initiative by SAP, UNESCO, Youth Mobile and Google and partners representing Zimbabwe for the past three years.

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