FITC, the world-class, innovation-led, and technology-driven knowledge institution which provides learning, advisory services, and policy advocacy to the Nigerian financial service sector and other sectors of the economy, has released a list of Top 50 Women in Tech, in honour of women who are leading the way and spearheading technology drive and innovative impact in their industries.
The inaugural FITC Top Women in Tech list, which recognised women in diverse sectors, was unveiled at the FITC International Women’s Day event themed; DigitALL: Innovation and Technology as Enablers for Gender Equality, which was held recently in Lagos, Nigeria.
The top 50 female tech leaders featured are drawn from diverse sectors, representing fintech, banking, logistics, retail, travel, healthcare, media, and other key sectors.
According to the MD/CEO of FITC, Chizor Malize, these women were painstakingly selected focusing on critical factors such as innovation, leadership, and societal impact, with a notable focus on technology for good.
Speaking on the list, Malize extolled the contributions of the female tech leaders "they are distinguished for leading transformational change in their various organizations and sectors. They have leveraged technology to drive innovation, solution design, and customer experience, putting technology at the center of their operations. They have demonstrated tremendous capacity through their contributions to corporate growth and societal development leveraging technology and innovation" said Malize.
"The FITC 50 Women in Tech list features three generations of women who are leading positions in business and corporations and entrepreneurs who have set up impactful businesses bringing solutions to societal problems through their vision. In recognizing their giant stride, we are confident that their stories would inspire and birth a pipeline of new entrants and a next generation of female technology leaders," Malize enthused.
The intentionally unranked list includes movers and shakers such as Funke Opeke, Founder/CEO, Main One Cable; Nkemdilim Begho, MD/CEO, Future Software Resources Ltd.; Juliet Ehimuan, Country Director, Google; Amy Jaiyesimi, CEO, LADPOL; Yemi Keri, Chief Executive Officer, Heckerbella Limited; Kofo Akinkugbe, Founder CEO, Secure ID; Foluso Gbadamosi, Executive Director, Junior Achievement Nigeria; Wunmi Faiga, Chief Information Security Officer, NIBSS; Olatomiwa Williams, Country Manager, Microsoft; Favour Femi Oyewole, Chief Information Security Officer, Access Bank; Dr. Yinka David West, Director, (SIDFS), Associate Dean & Professor of Information Systems, Lagos Business School; Temie Giwa Tubosun, Founder/CEO, LifeBank; Vanessa C. Malize, Technical Program Manager, Expedia Group; Confidence Staveley, Founder & Executive Director, Cybersafe Foundation among others.
Malize noted that these women are rewriting history, closing inequalities, pioneering new avenues of wealth creation, and, in turn, lifting others with them.
The hybrid event was a gathering of thought leaders, technology experts, female leaders, and representatives from several organizations within the financial services sector and beyond, in a highly engaging panel session. The session had a line-up of speakers and panellists that include; Mrs. Aishah Ahmad, Chairman, FITC Board & Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ably represented by Mrs. Monsurat Vincent, Deputy Director, Other Financial Institutions Department, CBN; Ms. Chizor Malize, MD/CEO, Financial Institution Training Centre (FITC); Ms. Ashley Immanuel, Co-Founder/COO Semicolon; Tobi Olanihun, Founder, TEPS; Mr. Ebuka Emebinah, Team Lead, Strategy & Governance Advisory, FITC; Ms. Rabi Isma, Non-Executive Director, Stanbic IBTC Bank, and Mr. Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, Managing Director/CEO, InfoGraphics ably represented by Mr. Ade Atobatele, CEO, Remarkable Ideas Ltd.
In her address, the Managing Director/CEO, FITC, Ms. Chizor Malize, noted that the focus of International Women’s Day for the year 2023, which is #EmbracingEquity, and the theme of the FITC IWD 2023 event: “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology as Enablers for Gender Equality”, is a call to action for the need to have inclusive and transformative technology and digital education for women and girls, which is crucial for a sustainable future, as advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges, and to close the inequality gap. “Bringing women and other marginalized groups into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality,” she said.
According to Malize, “The tech industry has come a long way in terms of gender equality, with several women making outstanding innovative and technological contributions that have impacted several industries, but there is still a lot of work to be done because women make up only 25% of the tech industry and only 5% of leadership positions in this industry are held by women.”
Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the Chairman of, the FITC Board, and Deputy Governor, of Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mrs. Aishah Ahmad, the Deputy Director, Other Financial Institutions Department, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Monsurat Vincent noted that the financial system is critical in addressing the gender divide, being the centre point for promoting economic integration and digital financial services. She further noted that education can make it easier to promote equity. “Technology through the internet has made it easier than ever before for women to access educational resources and learn new skills. Women can now gain knowledge and expertise that may have once been out of their reach,” she said.
Furthermore, she highlighted some of the significant efforts that are being made to close the gender gap, such as the national gender policy, which recommends a 35% affirmative action for women, to ensure a more inclusive representation of women both in elective and appointive positions, thus leading to recent significant strides in this regard, such as in the financial services sector, where at least eight (8) women have emerged as CEOs of top financial institutions. One of the goals of this initiative is to increase the number of women in management positions.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria, as part of its women empowerment efforts, has also allocated 60% of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) funds to women-owned enterprises and continues to develop guidelines to promote gender diversity and women’s access to economic opportunities,” Vincent added.
Rabi Isma, Non-Executive Director, Stanbic IBTC Bank, reiterated that technology helps to ensure that the woman who wants to stay home to cater to the kids can still launch a business in the comfort of her home, thus making it possible for women to access the world from wherever they are, run their businesses, and spread their products and services to different parts of the world. She also touched on challenges that women face in rural areas, such as the lack of access to a mobile device, which is rudimentary for tapping into the technology benefits inherent in personal and enterprise development.
Ashley Immanuel, Co-Founder/COO of Semicolon highlighted the importance of data, and the need to collect and use data to yield insights for the achievement of gender equity. “Data is critical. It is easy for decision-makers to assume that everyone has access to basic resources such as mobile devices, but data shows that this is not the case. Recent data has revealed that more access to technology is still required in several areas of the country, and there are still wide gender gaps in access to technology,” she noted. She further stated that data shows that there is a wide gap in the education, financial, and technology sectors, amongst others. She revealed that research shows a significant representation of women at lower levels, but as you go up the corporate ladder, the representation of women becomes less evident in senior leadership roles. She further advised that data is required to reveal these gaps and provide insights for policy formulation targeted at gender parity.
Building on Immanuel’s remarks, Ebuka Emebinah, Team Lead, Strategy and Governance Advisory, FITC, noted that there has to be a change of mindset from the classroom to the boardroom where decisions are made. He stated that females make up only 22% of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduates from universities in Nigeria, a wide gap from 50% in the United States, thus leading to a much lower level of female representation in the Nigerian tech workforce. There, therefore, has to be a deliberate effort to catch them young, provide a conducive environment to see the growth trajectory, and take deliberate and concerted efforts to bring about change.
Speaking about leveraging technology and innovation to upscale entrepreneurship, Tobi Olanihun, Founder, of The Experience Plug Systems (TEPS), remarked that leveraging technology does not have to be about the big tools; she encouraged entrepreneurs to start small and leverage even the everyday social media platforms to scale their businesses. “There are so many free project management and digital tools online that entrepreneurs can leverage to amplify themselves, their businesses, and any cause they are trying to amplify, start small and scale from there,” she said.
In closing, Malize reiterated that the role of men in achieving gender equity is critical, be it in encouraging their female counterparts, sending opportunities their way, or assisting with career development. She also charged everyone to continue to do their part in ensuring equity is achieved and to keep deliberately and innovatively driving change within their sphere of influence.