“Women in Tech are Overmentored and Underfunded” – Clara Okoro, Founder, My Beautiful Africa

Clara Okoro-women in tech
Clara Okoro-women in tech

For a woman who likes travelling, having a foreigner compliment her Ankara dress and ask to buy it off of her after a conference was a watershed for Clara Okoro. That singular experience inspired her to build a traveltech startup called My Beautiful Africa where people get to experience Africa in a whole new light with help from tech.

I was wearing a Kaftan that I designed and made and a lot of people were engrossed with it because of the beautiful way it portrayed Africa’s heritage.

Clara Okoro

It is not a secret that gender bias still comes into play concerning the business-building efforts of women in the tech space. A number of initiatives have been put into place to help get more women into the tech space and to a large extent, they are providing positive results.

However, an imbalance still exists between getting women into tech and actually enabling them to build strong startups. In a nutshell, women are increasingly over-mentored and under-funded. Clara Okoro discussed this challenge and ways of getting around it in a virtual interview with TechNext.

Clara Okoro-woman in tech
Clara Okoro
Founder, My Beautiful Africa

Our patriarchal culture is still at play in the business sector

Women are being empowered like never before and as such, there is no reason for anyone to sit back and stay away from the action in the tech space. Despite the mentoring and the push being provided, getting timely access to funding in order to grow the business still remains a challenge.

While more grants and investment opportunities are available to women-led businesses, the chances of male-led businesses being supported are much higher

Suggested Read: Women in Tech: Lola Ekugo Talks About Building Industry Ties and Upskilling Outside the Workspace

For instance, out of 10 startups that have been funded by Microtraction, a VC firm in Nigeria, 5 have all-male founders while another 5 has 1 female each as a cofounder and the other co-founders are men. There is no solely female-led tech startup in the mix even though there are a number of startups founded and led by women that evidently funding support for their businesses to grow and be able to stand on its own.

In 2020, women-led businesses raised even less funding in the African-tech sector than in recent years. Only 3.2% of the total monies raised within that period were raised by female-led startups while the remaining 96.8% was raised by male-led startups. Less than 5% of total funding was raised by women-led startups globally.

Also Read: Microtraction Announces Investment in Evolve Credit, an Online Marketplace for Loans

One of the reasons for this is that women do not pursue funding as aggressively as their male counterparts.

“As women, sometimes we don’t pursue things because we don’t want to be seen as pushy or as aggressive but the world has shifted. It’s not about being bossy, it is about laying out your solution in a way that the world knows that it needs it. Stand up for yourself and speak convincingly to investors and anyone who has anything to contribute to your business,” she finished.

Clara Okoro

“From my experience, I know that bank officials can look at the portfolio of a woman running into millions of Naira and still question her ability to run the business even though she is presenting a solid plan for the loan being requested. That has been enough to stop a number of women from pursuing funding necessary to execute ideas that have potential,” she said.

Due to this disparity, women need to become more aggressive about applying for loans, grants, investments and other funding opportunities that are available. Women equally need to generate funding from doing business with other companies.

Also Read: #WomenInTech – How a $5,000 Funding Spurred Oreoluwa Lesi to Empower More Than 10,000 Girls with Digital Skills

Relationships also come into play a lot in the tech space and women entrepreneurs are not favoured by certain aspects. Male entrepreneurs that have been in business for a while for instance, have a way of meeting up with themselves and talking business in ways that the women counterparts do not.

“We come from a background of patriarchy and even in the business world, men form these cliques that are hard for women to break into,” Clara said.

Male entrepreneurs are the ones in the clubs at night hanging out, discussing businesses and clinching deals while women stay at home and out of the conversation.

These cliques feed the gender bias and make it harder for women techies or tech bros if you like, and women-led businesses to get jobs based on merit and skill alone. If established businesses and agencies have policies that advocate for women-led businesses to get projects and deals based on skill and merit, more of these startups will find it easier to get funding by rendering services on a larger scale.

There are opportunities for women in the tech space, as much as for men. Initiatives like She Hacks Africa, She Leads Africa, The Stem Belle and Oreoluwa Lesi’s WTec are doing a lot to encourage young girls and women to enter into the different fields in tech. Increasingly, more women are doing that. However, besides having mentors, women need access to more funding so that the hustle can be balanced on both sides.

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