Five insights on bridging the gender gap

  • 16 Oct 2023
  • 4 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Lydia Njoroge

As the global community strives to accomplish equal pay for work of equal value, Sama reflects on the progress we have made toward gender equity and what still needs to be done. We recognize and celebrate the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. 

Sama believes that innovation and technology are essential to bridging this gap. We have seen firsthand the economic and social inequalities that women face in the workplace, and, as part of our founding premise that talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not, we are committed to creating conditions that foster gender parity. We are proud to say that more than half of our workforce is women, including our CEO and half of the leadership team. Since its inception, Sama has positively impacted more than 32,500 women.

Over the past 15 years, Sama has made great strides in empowering women, but there is still much to be done. In order to close the gap, we need to continue to focus on innovation and technology. Here is what we’ve learned through our work to date.

  1.       Equal opportunity begins with intentional hiring. Gender parity needs to be a priority from the beginning, and this means paying attention to who is being hired and why. Hiring should not be based solely on who you know or who is already in the network but should be done with a focus on diversity and inclusion. At Sama, providing equal hiring opportunities to men and women is embedded into our associate hiring process. We continuously review our hiring practices to ensure that we are providing women, who in East Africa often experience outsized barriers to formal sector employment, with work opportunities. Through our carefully thought-out impact sourcing model of hiring, we aim to provide work opportunities equally to men and women, and, as a result, our overall workforce is consistently at least 50% women. 
  2.     Companies must create conditions that make work fair and accessible. Attention to gender equality needs to be part of company practices every day. For us, this means creating policies and practices that ensure that implicit biases are minimised, like reviewing salaries to promote gender pay equity and providing benefits and resources, like maternity and nursing rooms, to ensure our team members have the resources they need to keep themselves and their families healthy. It also means building a culture that supports team members to balance their home and work priorities. This was the case for Shanice, an associate in our Nairobi office who joined Sama in 2020 just a few months after having her first child. When asked about her experience at Sama as a new mom, she shared, “My supervisors were human- I was so fresh and my baby was young – and through it, all my supervisors helped me with the baby and encouraged me to not give up when things got hard.”
  3.     Prioritising learning and upskilling results in more equal career growth. Across the globe, women’s labour force participation is approximately 30% lower than men’s. While many factors influence women’s participation in the workplace, our research with MIT found that women who wanted to work faced greater barriers to employment than men. To encourage women’s participation in tech jobs, and the workplace more generally, companies should provide opportunities both for continued learning and build clear growth pathways. At Sama, we are doing this in two ways. First, we allot team members dedicated time to continue their professional development through our internal learning system, SamaU, as well as platforms like LinkedIn Learning, ALX and Thunderbird/Arizona State University. In 2022 alone, our team members completed more than 25,000 hours of training. Second, we’ve made pathways for internal promotion as transparent and unbiased as possible by implementing certification courses. Entry-level and advancing team members who want to move on to the next level have the opportunity to take the certification course to test their competencies and preparedness for their next step, whether it be to a quality analyst or team leader.

“I have a supportive supervisor who is invested in my professional development. They take every chance necessary to upskill me. Through SamaU, I have undertaken a lot of courses, including the certification to move up to the next level of team leader – that went a long way in boosting my professional development.” -Winnie, Associate, Nairobi.

  1.     Tech connects women to international networks. Technology allows women from around the world to create networks for sharing knowledge, providing support, and connecting to resources. This can have a transformative impact on the lives of women, especially for those with otherwise limited access opportunities to these sorts of connections.

It feels so powerful to have a network of women that help each other. When I see all of us in global meetings, coming from across the globe, I feel proud and supported. Technology enables the tiny day-to-day interactions between women that are so meaningful; a kind word, a joke, and an emoji sent out in support. It makes visible how we support and care for one another.” -Claudel Rheault, UX Research Lead.

  1.     Engaging women in tech benefits children and communities. When we invest in women, countries, economies, and families thrive. Studies have shown that reducing gender gaps, generally and in tech specifically, can boost economic growth and productivity and increase economic resilience. Research from international organisations, as well as our internal studies, have found that when women have great control over household resources they change spending patterns in ways that benefit children. Through formal research and informal conversations with our team members, we’ve found that women in our workforce not only support their own families but also want to give women and girls in their community an opportunity to work in tech. One example comes from Peris, an associate who joined Sama’s team in Nairobi last September. When asked about her future aspirations she shared, “I love technology simply because it makes work easier and enhances an open mind. [In the future] I’m inspired to team up with an organisation that empowers people across the country with computer skills.”

There is still much to be done to achieve gender equity, but by focusing on innovation and technology, we can move the needle. From intentional hiring practices to creating international networks, we have the tools we need to make a difference together to build a world where all women have the opportunity to thrive. 

By Lydia Njoroge – Impact Communications Manager at Sama