IT Education and Workforce Participation: A New Era for Women in Kenya

“ICTs are important tools that provide the [Sub-Saharan Africa] women access to lifelong learning and training, to productive assets, and to credit. Neglecting to give women access to these tools not only deprives them and their families of income, but reduces the skill-level of a nation’s human resource, limits national productivity, and bars a country from being competitive in the global market” (International Telecommunications Union, 2003).

While Sub-Saharan Africa women have historically assumed the role as both housewives and subsistence farmers, the reality is that these women have few opportunities to become a strong and viable part of modern economies in that region. However, this trend is changing with the exponential growth of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) globally, giving many historically poor and/or un-educated women access to computers, the Internet and other related technologies. Based on the work of an investigative team of four researchers from Kenya and the US, this paper examines the integration of women college students in the formal ICT work sector in Kenya. We do so by examining major bottlenecks and enablers to such integration from historical and contemporary perspectives. Using an interpretive approach, we conducted thirty-two interviews with women in an ICT program offered by a university in Kenya. Our findings indicate that women were highly optimistic, embracing ICT as a practical mechanism for achieving entrée into the labor market. However, they perceive significant structural barriers, such public policies that failed to facilitate the development of the ICT sector, gender discrimination by employers, and training which provided them with insufficient technical skills to enable them to effectively perform in the workplace. These findings largely reiterate the gendered perspectives found in similar studies conducted in other countries. However, what appear as global perspectives are informed by the local causes.

Mbarika, V., Cobb-Payton, F., Kvasny, L., & Amadi, A. (2007). IT education and workforce participation: a new era for women in Kenya? The Information Society, 23(1), 1-18.


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