Founders EduAbasi Chukwunweike, a Software Engineering graduate and Unoma Adeyemi, whose career began in Investment Banking, met at Microsoft where the former still works. Chukwunweike was one of two females in her graduating class of 30. When Adeyemi left Microsoft for Checkpoint, she joined as the only female on her team. Their experiences both as students and while climbing the career ladder as the onlies or alongside only a handful of women began stirring a desire to do something to encourage more women to build sustainable careers in technology.
Intended to run as cohorts beginning in October for eight weeks, both founders are building out a network of wentors who will dedicate an hour weekly to coaching their wentees (a gender play on the word mentees) in their respective fields.
“A wentor is a female in tech who has risen in her career and the role they are playing with the mentees is, what advice would you give to your younger self?” says Chukwunwike.
“It is helping wentees connect the dots between where they are currently and where they aspire to be.”
What this means is that the core of Wentors mentorship programme will be targeted at early-stage career women in tech already on a defined path or at women who are four, five years or more into the space and unsure of what next steps to take or looking to quit completely. These stages are very critical to the conversations around the lack of female representation in technology particularly in the continent.
From our Nigerian Women in Tech 2020 report, we know that more young women and girls are in fact opting to study STEM courses at undergraduate level.
While 66% of respondents are studying STEM courses out of their own volition and passions, only less than 50% see themselves in STEM careers in 5-10 years. STEM clubs and education programmes specifically targeted at girls are increasingly prevalent.
But the picture at C-Suite level does not reflect the same eagerness and this is because, along the line, more women drop off the career chain as family and other similar responsibilities begin to mount. There’s also wage gaps, sluggish or stagnant career trajectories to contend with so that twice as many women than men drop off mid-career level.
“This is exactly why we exist,” says Adeyemi.
“Yes, there are many organisations trying to get more women into tech, but how many are ensuring that they can stay and grow and thrive in tech?”
“That is our value proposition.”
The duo believes that women who have established themselves in the field can offer more concrete and practical navigation skills to women who are just starting out. It’s simply a looking back and righting their missteps in the journeys of the wentees, simply saying, ‘look out for this or that, handle this better than I did’.
Wentors and wentees in similar fields will be paired and the sessions will include a lot of imbibing of soft skills that will encourage early-stage career women to make their way through the corporate world confidently. They’ll be taught how to strategically move from being, say, a software developer to managing developer teams and heading the technology division of a company.
According to Adeyemi, for young women still unsure about what aspects of technology or career fields they want to explore, the platform has structured beginner webinars and resources that will lay a foundation and help crystallise their ambitions before they can request to be matched with wentors.
“The technology industry is very vast. At the end of the day, the wentors are not being paid so what will resonate with them is that they can clearly see the impact they can make in the careers of the wentees.
“We believe that if you are a wentee in that category, as you begin to join the webinars and begin to see what’s happening in various fields, your interests solidify in something,” she says.
The platform is open to wentors and wentees across the globe and accomplished women in technology looking to do something about the persistent disparity of women in technology are invited to join its network of wentors.
Technology companies across the globe are intentionally seeking out ways to bridge the gender disparity gaps in their workplaces. However, female representation and advocacy from women who are already accomplished in the field has proven to be a powerful contribution towards ensuring gender balance in tech. This is where Wentors’ drive and mission stems from.