In many public forums, especially in developing countries, we keep talking about innovating and empowering women but tend to ignore the elephant in the room; how to combine a woman’s professional life and family responsibilities without sacrificing one over the other.
The career woman remains an irritating puzzle for many conservative societies around the world, but it is at the heart of attaining gender equality.
Growing up as a girl, you nevertheless go to school but knowing that the time will come when you will have to get married and have your own family. Usually, your mother prepares you for this responsibility as soon as you start to understand the basics of what is expected of you.
But as you grow up and with the benefits of a good education, you begin to realise there is more out there for you. A husband and children are not your only option in life.
You start to dream; inspired by the many examples of successful women and begin to ask yourself why you cannot have both a family and a career? That’s where the idea of multitasking as a woman comes in.
In Africa, many women fall far behind in career development because after getting married and having their first child, suddenly their options are reduced. For the private sector, maternity leave is usually three months while some allow only 21 days. More aggressive companies will even dismiss a female employee as soon as she announces her pregnancy.
Considering all the stress that comes with pregnancy and child birth, most mothers would prefer not to go back to work after only three weeks. At one and even two months, the baby still needs the mother’s total attention.
Out of sheer desperation which precludes the whole issue of gender equality, most mothers opt for breast pumps and formula milk, both of which are very exhausting and financially draining. These are the circumstances that force most women to take care of the family and put their careers on hold.
It then becomes a huge challenge to shift from the routine of family care, which is a sort of predictable comfort zone, and getting back on the career path involving trying new skills and experiences.
Fortunately, advancing technology is making a positive difference by helping to increase a mother’s career options.
Allowing and making it easier for young women to acquire basic digital skills is as important as helping them have access to the internet.
The gender digital gap is still wide. Compared to men, there are around 250 million fewer women online and unfortunately, this divide keeps growing.
Being empowered with the appropriate skills allows young women to exploit new opportunities and prepare them to compete in the expanding digital economy.
The advantage is that digital related jobs and opportunities are not confined to sitting behind a desk in an office. Women can handle these jobs in a home setting. Once trained for job, the list can include digital marketing manager, web content developer, digital marketing strategist, email marketing specialist, social media manager, data analysts, social media Influencer and so on.
There are also opportunities in case you are in the private sector and have your own small business. You can move and market your business online to reach your customers. This also helps you to connect and engage with your target audience more easily.
The more time you spend online and with continuous practice, you gain more confidence in embracing new experiences. This helps to grow your CV and attract other opportunities.
You can get digital skills online at no cost as long as you have reliable internet connection and data. A program launched by Google called digital skills for Africa offers free digital skills courses online that come with a professional certificate that you can even add on your CV.
The writer is the Founder and CEO of Digital Hope Burundi