MEET THE YOUNG AND INSPIRING COMPUTER INSTRUCTOR JERRY AT THE PEHI
„The thing I want to talk about is the importance of having a good educational background in IT. I believe that it is really important, especially for girls – It does not hurt having more girls in IT as it is not at all meant exclusively for guys.”
We met Jerry as a striving and engaged young woman with a compelling vision of seeing more girls in the field of Information Technology (IT) in the future. Her motivation working for several months on a voluntary basis at the PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute in Addis Ababa as an IT teacher stems mostly from her own experience of gender inequalities in the IT sector and educational system: “A very small number of girls are interested in pursuing a career in IT,” Jerry explains. During her four years of IT studies at the university, she saw many obstacles when it comes to the representation and promotion of girls. In her class there were only six female students, from 30 students in total. Furthermore, she criticises that there is not a good educational background in place and a framework is missing in order to motivate girls and young women to pursue a career in IT. “We did not even have a female teacher who was able to teach IT”, she tells us. In the Ethiopian society, according to Jerry, joining IT work as a young woman is often perceived as an outlandish idea: “It exists the conception in the society that IT-related work is something more dedicated for guys and not that suitable for girls as it is rated too complicated and technical”.
For Jerry these structures and believes are a significant loss for females as IT entails many benefits and auspicious job chances. In particular, education in IT provides a solid base which opens many doors for work in different sectors: “With a background in IT you can go anywhere – any organisation or company will welcome you with open arms”. Thus, she wants to motivate the students at PEHI to dedicate more of their time to IT education and wishes to support them in discovering a passion for IT.
At the PEHI her educational work is mostly focused on giving basic instructions and training: “When it comes to IT you have to start with the beginnings”. In her classes, she starts with teaching the proper utilisation of a computer, for instance, how to use a keyboard, mouse, hardware and software. After the basics, she focuses on the programmes that will be most helpful for the girls while working in the hospitality industry: Microsoft office pack, how the internet works, how to send and receive emails, usage of different types of browsers and how to protect the PC of viruses. But even beyond that, it lays at Jerry’s centre of attention to motivate the girls and to keep them interested in gaining a more in-depth knowledge of IT, like coding, developing a website or creating a mobile application. Although a belief is often en-trenched in the students that they will never be able to do such things like coding, Jerry is telling them regularly during her classes: “Yes, you can start coding today, and you will be awesome at it.”
Personally, Jerry is particularly interested in developing phone applications that have a social contribution to society and can make lives easier for certain kind of groups. For example, one of her senior projects was the development of an app that is supporting Ethiopian law firms to work in a more socially and sustainable way. “That’s the fun part with IT: You can find a project that faces a real-life problem which you can identify and then find innovative solutions for these issues to subsequently improve people’s lives.”, Jerry explains.
In terms of the spread of educational opportunities for girls and young women in Ethiopia, Jerry advocates seeing more female idols in the future who will take on leading positions within the IT sector. Thus, she strongly stresses the point that young women should not miss big oppor-tunities and career chances relating to IT. In the same way, she emphasises the importance to work towards equal job chances for women in the IT sector: “While fighting for a job position, male over female IT experts are often preferred, even though they possess the same or even better set of IT skills.” Hence, stating her outlook for future developments she points out: ”I am sure if you have more educated females in IT appearing and presenting themselves actively at the job market, it would be possible for us women to bring about change in the future. We can do it!”
We are very grateful for the valuable contribution Jerry has made so far for PROJECT-E in educating the students at PEHI, struggling against gender imbalances, raising awareness as well as promoting a very inspiring and innovative perspective of an often undermined but rather relevant and highly promising discipline of IT for women.
Written by Mera Dellin