For a long time, the tech world has been considered a male-dominated field, so male-dominated in fact, that the word ‘tech bros’ is a thing. We decided to create Life After AWIT to encourage women in this field.
However, over the past few years, the world has been changing for the better. Women empowerment has been on the rise, and this has led to several women breaking into previously male-dominated spaces like those featured in Life After AWIT.
Indeed, a 2020 survey by AnitaB.org Institute found that women made up 28.8 percent of the workforce in the tech world. This is by no way a large number, and there is still a long way to go. But it is an important stride forward.
Among these women is Mercy Owiti, an ICT profession who has worked in the NGO sector. The mother of two considers herself a tech enthusiast.
“I am a user and support enthusiast who finds great pleasure in solving various ICT issues for my users,” says Owiti, who has a five-year experience in ICT.
So, how did Owiti start her journey in her current world?
“I started out as an intern in my current organization,” Owiti says, with the ICT enthusiast taking little time to impress in her new work environment.
“Six months into my internship, I was offered a position as an ICT Support Assistant,” she says and after impressing in that role as well, she was then promoted to the position of an ICT Officer, a post she holds to date.
Mercy Owiti reveals that the bug to get into tech bit her while she was in campus. At the start of her journey in tech, the ICT Officer struggled with confidence.
“It was not easy finding my confidence,” she said, “I struggled a lot in the beginning. After my first year, I learnt a few important things, which made me more confident. The more knowledge I attained, the more I grew in confidence.”
The confidence has allowed her to climb the corporate ladder fast, resulting in her trailblazing journey that has made her such an important piece in her company’s machinery. This is revealed in her typical day routine.
“A typical day involves an array of support requests,” Owiti says, “So, I will get requests such as ‘I cannot print; I cannot send an email. I cannot connect to the network…’ Basically, I am there to support users, often in order of priority as some cases are more urgent than others.”
Mercy Owiti’s diligence and knowledge has seen her become more than just a tech support officer though.
“From time to time, I also support the Logistics department by doubling up as the backup for procurement requests, something that I am slowly delving into.”
In addition to that, Owiti also does training, which allows her to meet a lot of women getting into the tech world. Her presence as a woman in tech training others no doubt inspires other women to make a mark in a space previously seen as a ‘men’s only’ club.
Speaking of men’s club, Owiti was no stranger to challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field. Indeed, the world has become so accustomed to seeing men as the ‘techies’ that women in ICT are regarded with some suspicion, and Owiti is no stranger to it.
“In the beginning it was challenging,” Owiti says of her entry into ICT, “Getting my feet wet in supporting users and earning their trust took time. However, people soon grew to trust me as I showed my expertise and knowledge in the field.”
But that doesn’t end the challenges, with Owiti stating that the persistent stereotypes against women in tech remain a downside of the tech field.
“I have had cases in the workplace where I felt people would have hinted to prefer male support assistant,” Owiti says, though she is quick to brush it off. “Maybe it was just my insecurities or maybe it was his confidence that made him shine better.”
But her rapid rise to the top signifies her undying spirit, a spirit that sees defy those stereotypes and juggle between raising her children, studying for her masters and having a side hustle even as she works! Quite a lot to take in, but Owiti takes it in stride, almost as casually as a superhero saving countless lives at once.
“Juggling all these has been very hard,” she confesses, “I had to let go of a lot of things. A lot of friends never understand why I never show up at times but it all came down to priorities. I would say the pressure of juggling everything is sometimes scary.”
So, how then does she unwind?
“My coping mechanism has always been Korean dramas and a glass of wine after a long week.” Owiti says. And indeed, it is a deserved rest for the ICT Support Officer.
Being at the top as a woman means many women are looking up to you. And Owiti has a word of advice for women seeking to enter male-dominated fields.
“If you set your priorities right, you can do it. situations will come up when you question your abilities. But with time and practice, you can make it.”
She urges women to look for internship opportunities during their free time to boost their confidence.
“Do not succumb to expectations that are driven by stereotypes.” Owiti encourages.
This desire not to succumb to stereotypes then, drives Mercy to keep fighting to change views on women in the tech field.
“I think in the current world, things seem to be going okay. However, we still need to fight the unconscious as well as the systematic bias that go on in the workplace in regards to gender.”
And thus, Owiti keeps pushing on. The desire to make a difference, not just for herself and her loved ones, but for women in general, keeps the fire in her belly burning. And it is safe to say, this is just the beginning for Owiti and many women like her working in male-dominated spaces.