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Women Who Won with Wit, Wisdom and Work in Technology


By Psalmson Olaegbe

Women are influential. Do not argue. You have a woman who fuels your passion. If she is not your mother, she is your wife. If she is not your wife, she is your sister. If she is not your sister, she is your seer. If she is not your seer, she is your mistress. Every man has a woman who influences him. In politics, medicine, homemaking and technology, women are in the forefront. They are making things happen. They are offering solutions.

For instance, computer science and information technology would not be what it is today without the influence of some women. Research has shown that women developed some of the most essential components of modern information technology. Purdue University Global, a public, non-profit institution that offers a world-class education online, said a few of the achievements in information technology were done by women.

These are the hall of famers: Ada Lovelace created the first computer programme. Lovelace drafted “plans for how a machine called the Analytical Engine could perform computations.” For her genius, Lovelace is celebrated annually on Ada Lovelace Day. The second Tuesday of October is an international day of recognition for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

An admiral in the United States Navy and a computer scientist, Grace Hopper invented computing methods and devices like the compiler. In 1944, she created a 500-page manual of operations for the automatic sequence-controlled calculator for the computer. This detailed the fundamental operating principles of computing machines. She is fêted at the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.

Credited with coining the term software engineering, Margaret Hamilton developed programmes that influenced how your computer behaves. As a computer scientist, she worked on software development for Apollo 2, the first spacecraft to complete a successful mission that placed humans on the moon in 1969. She got the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award for technical and scientific contributions in 2003 and the presidential Medal of Freedom award in 2016.

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As the first female chief technology officer of the United States, Megan Smith served under Barak Obama in the White House until January 2017. She dedicated her life to promoting diversity throughout information technology workplaces. She believes that “greater diversity will make engineering teams stronger and that data can solve some of our toughest problems”.

Aside from these “far-away women”, there are “home girls” and you may know some of them. These are women who have won accolades by using their wit, infectious work ethic and wisdom just like the women above. Take, for instance, the former country manager, Android at Google Nigeria and former Head of Content Partnerships, Sub Saharan Africa at YouTube, Teju Ajani. She recently joined Apple as Managing Director for Nigeria to oversee sales and business development.

Having intentionally sought a role in Africa and worked specifically on the continent for the past decade, she said in a tweet post, the pace of growth and possibilities are still exciting and make it a dynamic place to figure out how to bring another global brand to bear.

There are other home girls. They may not be pioneers. But they are not stragglers. They are solutions providers. They are working women who are winning with wit and wisdom at MainOne, Uber, Jumia, Facebook, Google and Twitter et al. Among these “girls” are Lola Kassim. She is the Uber’s General Manager for West Africa. Lola is the chief driver at Uber, driving Uber’s overall strategy and reliability. Lola is saddled with the goal of improving the service levels for UberX and creating additional value-add for drivers and partners.

This is six months after the former General Manager, Ebi Atawodi was promoted as Product Manager, Global Payments Growth for Uber worldwide. Lola has worked as a Management Consultant with McKinsey and Company. Lola has over 10 years of global experience at senior private sector and government levels in Africa and Canada.

Lola joined Uber at a pivotal point in the company’s growth and expansion curve. Lola’s vision for West Africa, in particular, is to ensure that the region is aligned with Uber’s overall objective of creating sustainable, alternative modes of mobility. “I will focus on ensuring that we continue to engage with our key stakeholders and relevant partners with a view to continued positive impact across West Africa”.

Funke Opeke is an engineer. She is also the founder of Mainstsreet Technologies.  The company develops MainOne cable, a leading provider of telecom services and network solutions in West Africa. At different periods Funke was a staff of Verizon Communications in the United States for about 20 years, MTN Nigeria and Transcorp. Funke started MainOne in 2008 to solve the challenge of the “low internet connectivity” she noticed in Nigeria. MainOne is West Africa’s leading communications services and network solutions provider.

Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor is the face and voice of Google in Nigeria. Juliet is passionate about giving Nigeria “affordable internet access and increasing the participation of women in technology”. Previously, Juliet was a staff member of Microsoft in the UK and Shell Petroleum Development Corporation. Juliet founded Beyond Limits Africa, an initiative geared at “mentoring young women to achieve success”.

Nkem Okocha is a former banker. Nkem is empowering women with microloans and free financial and vocational skills training through Mamamoni, a social enterprise and Fintech startup. Nkem has impacted more than five thousand low-income women in rural communities in Lagos. Nkem is an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme and the Young African Leaders Initiative, as well as a LEAP Africa 2016 Social Innovator.

Carolyn Seaman’s Girls’ Voices initiative, a non-profit, provides a platform that enables girls to share their stories and inspire other girls with the use of technology and digital media. Carolyn won the US-based World Pulse Prize in 2016 as the only African among 30 other women. Carolyn is an advocate of promoting female involvement in technology.

Damilola Anwo-Ade is the managing partner of Sprout Consulting and founder of CodeIT. Damilola uses CodeIT to mentor the next generation of coders, especially young women. Damilola believes in “encouraging and empowering young girls to study in science and technology areas”. Damilola was honoured by the American embassy in Nigeria in 2017 for her contribution to technological education in Nigeria.