Microsoft and women’s mentorship organisation, Wentors, have announced a commitment to mentor and train 1,000 women working in the technology industry in the next few years as a way of promoting gender diversity in the technology industry.
Wentors is a global community of women in technology mentoring and nurturing each other through a platform in which experienced women in the tech industry can mentor upcoming young women joining the industry, and final year students looking to start a technology career.
The initiative was launched by Microsoft 4Afrika employee, EduAbasi Chukwunweike after discovering that as a solutions specialist in the enterprise team responsible for the cloud business in Nigeria, most of her conversations within the customer environment were with men. This got her thinking about how she could make an impact with gender diversity in the technology industry, and ultimately led to the launch of Wentors.
“We believe the people best situated to nurture these dreams are the women currently in technology and hence we are redeﬁning the mentorship roadmap by building a global community of women in technology who nurture each other,” says Chukwunweike.
According to the United Nations Institute of Statistics (UIS) less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Numerous studies have found that women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields publish less, are paid less for their research and do not progress as far as men in their careers. UNESCO notes that a strong gender imbalance exists globally, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, in regard to women’s representation in STEM fields. And in its report on Factors Which Contribute to or Inhibit Women in Science, the African Academy of Sciences noted that, “the choice to pursue STEM related careers was further influenced by other women working in STEM who acted as role models.”
The organisation runs Cohorts programmes, eight to 12-week periods during which each mentor commits to an hour-long weekly session with her mentee. The cohorts have weekly themes and provide the mentors with mentorship packages to guide them through the process. As part of the cohort, the programme provides soft skills training and webinars in areas such as personal branding, networking, communication and imposter syndrome. The goal of this training is to provide women entering the tech industry with the skills necessary to thrive and sustain a career within the tech ecosystem. The Wentors community grants its participants access to expertise crucial for career progression.
To date, the initiative has facilitated mentorship among 240 women across four continents, with a community of over 900 members through partnership with different communities and tech companies.
One of the participants from Kenya, Anne Wariara says: “An opportunity to interact with great women in the technology space and having them give me insight of the job market and ways to improve myself before getting into the job market is such a bonus for me, considering I am a student.”
She adds: Being exposed to workshops that enable me grow my soft skill is also the best considering most institutions dwell on equipping us with technical skills and overlooking on the soft skills which often play a huge role in our career.”
The programmes are all facilitated virtually, which enables a global audience to participate, and uses a platform that leverages AI algorithms to match mentors with mentees, and a mentoring framework with a set number of sessions, continuous feedback between mentors and mentees, and a progress measurement. The organisation uses Microsoft’s Office 365 and hosts all its training and webinars using Teams.
“Our ultimate goal is to have women in technology make up 50% across all positions in the IT industry which amounts to impacting the lives of eight million women globally. It is evident by the significant investments into skills development and educational programmes that Microsoft believes in upskilling our youth to have the right skills to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The 4Afrika Initiative is Microsoft’s business and market development engine in Africa. Launched in 2013, it aims to unlock and accelerate Africa’s potential to create technology not only for the continent, but for the world.
In seven years, the 4Afrika initiative has reached 1,7 million small and medium businesses, supported more than 300 startups with a focus on 65 next-gen unicorns, 12 accelerator partnerships including Seedstars & Demo Africa (Pan-Africa), upskilled 108,000 Africans in Microsoft Cloud Society, placed 1,500 interns with 310 partners at an 85% retention rate, and produced 2,073 graduates from 19 Skills Labs, with an 85% employment rate. More than 3,000 developers have been trained on Microsoft Cloud with 200 Andela trainers, and 1,000 organisations have been supported by 982 Microsoft volunteers across 36 countries in Africa through the MySkills4Afrika programme. The 4Afrika initiative has been recognised by the International Finance Corporation as a best practice example of developing skills in sub-Saharan Africa.
Wentors is an organization which provides a platform geared towards giving young women in the Technology fields access to wentors from all walks of industry with the aim of increasing interest and participation in the technology fields as well as career advancement for those already in the field. Our wentees have direct access to wentors who will provide them with practical advice on how to stand out and make an impact in their various disciplines.