Globally several researches have shown that the number of women in leadership positions in technology-based organisations and female owned startups in technology industry are almost negligible. The research has revealed that in last 21 years, the number of women software engineers has increased only by 2%.
Worldwide studies have also suggested that excluding women from technology can limit innovations. Diversity in workforce generally aids in bringing new perspectives and solutions. It is indeed democratic issue if only one gender is catering the need of all other genders. It has been established that including women and other gender identities in technology can help us to find solutions to create better world with limited resources.
The studies have implied that the biggest challenges that women faced in technology industry were lack of opportunities to advance, lack of female role models and lack of mentorship. The studies also indicate that 50% of women leave the tech job by the time they are 35.
In order to tackle some of these issues and to provide a platform for Nepali women to excel in technology, Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN) has been organising and implementing various projects for women via their program called Miss-Tech since 2016.
The program coordinator of Miss Tech explains, “Robotics Association of Nepal has been organising various competitions and trainings for robotics and technology enthusiasts, but we observed that participation of women in these programs were always very low. We realised that we needed to create a separate program targeting women to ensure women participated and benefited from these programs. Hence, we came up with the idea of Miss-Tech.”
Taking the initiatives of Miss-Tech forward, Robotics Association of Nepal this year is implementing the project called DIGITALSHE with the idea of supporting women with skills on the emerging technologies.
The project coordinator informs that there are going to be various phases of the project which shall later include ideas pitching and incubation, mentorship and implementing those ideas in real projects. Meanwhile, the first phase of the project includes the five days training on Robotics, IOT, 3D printing and Drones.
RAN is implementing the project DIGITALSHE with the mission of “Strengthening Her Digital Equality” with the support of the Ministry of Social Development of Bagmati Province. The President of RAN informs, “At this time we are organising the program in five districts of Bagmati Province, but the plan is to take the project across all seven provinces of the country while working with respective provincial governments.”
230 women of the five districts – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Hetauda and Dolakha are going to participate in the five days training in this first phase of the project. The team of RAN hopes that the training would provide opportunities and platform for the women to pursue their interests in technology and also help them in their respective careers.
Three participants from different districts on different days of the training were interviewed to find out their reasons to participate and to learn if there expectations were met. Nisha, Sarina and Alisha share their experiences.
NISHA THAPA MAGAR
Nisha’s home town is in Jajarkot in far western Nepal. She completed her high school in Banke and now is in Kathmandu to study engineering. She is in her first year of Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication in Khowpa Engineering College in Bhaktapur. There was pressure on her to take Lok Sewa exams and join a government job, but she was always fascinated by programming and software. She still plans to take a government job, even apply for Nepal police or army as technical personnel, but only after completing her studies.
When we met, it was the first morning of the training. She was excited and hopeful for the next five days. When she learnt of the contents of the training which included programming, coding and robotics, she knew she had to get herself registered for the training.
She says, “I wanted to enhance my knowledge and am hopeful the training will support me to do so.” She was confident that the training will help her in her future projects. She also plans to take part in robotic competitions in future.
Nisha has had to hear her relatives question her choice of studies and wanting to become an engineer. She chooses to ignore the remarks and stay determined to reach her goals. If someone really persists in getting an answer from her, she simply retorts, “Because I want to.”
Nisha loves painting in her free time.
Sarina is hopeful that by the time she finishes her Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication, it will be her skills and academic qualifications that will qualify her just like her male classmates to be considered a potential human resource in the technology industry. She is optimistic that her gender will not hinder her in her career. A major reason for her to join the training is to improve her skills in areas like hardware, 3D printing and programming.
She is one of the three participants in Kathmandu’s training from her college, Kathford International College. There are 27 students in her class. Among 27, three are women and all three are in the training. Even though the teachers in her college are motivating, the practical aspects of learning often don’t get much attention in the college. This training opportunity offered by Robotics Association of Nepal attracted her as she hopes to understand the practical aspects of her future career.
We met on the fourth day of the training. Since the first day of the training, she and her friends have been attending the morning class in the college and then attending the training in the day time. They have not been deterred by the fact that they were going to miss five days of afternoon classes in the college. In fact, Sarina feels that five days were not enough to cover all the topics.
A lot of friends and relatives recommended that she opt for Civil Engineering instead of Electronics and Communication as it has fewer opportunities in the job market. However, Sarina asserts, “Technology is our future. Even though we might not see it now, but I believe what I am learning today will be useful for me in future.” She has also formed a group with her classmates to start working on their own innovations.
Sarina enjoys travelling, and someday wants to see the world.
Alisha’s brother forwarded her the Miss-Tech facebook page regarding the DIGITALSHE training opportunity. It was just the thing she was looking to engage in. She is in her first year of Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering at Advanced College. A go getter, she was looking for opportunities to expand her network and get linked with relevant organisations that could support her in her academics and later in her career. DIGITALSHE happens to answer her needs.
Alisha currently lives in a hostel in Kathmandu. Her ancestral home is in Janakpur but she grew up in Biratnagar. Shifting to Kathmandu to study has been a refreshing change for her. She says, “Back at home, the society I grew up in is still very conservative, while in Kathmandu I find it easier to venture around and people are liberal.”
Alisha and I met on the last day of the training in Lalitpur and she had all good things to share about the training. She was also happy to see and meet other women who shared similar interests and passion. She says, “In my college, I meet different kinds of people but in the training we were all like minded people and technology enthusiasts which made the five days very interesting and productive.”
She informs that there is a Research and Innovation Unit in her college. Prior to this training, she would hesitate to take part in the Unit’s activities, however after the training she feels she has gained the confidence and some basic skills to be able to participate. Alisha emphasises, “The training definitely has given me the push and assurance that I was lacking.”
Alisha also wants to work in the event management business in the future.