Editi Effiong: On creating spaces for women to thrive
One of the questions I got from my post yesterday was the validity of our “women first” hiring policy. How do we say we’re working for equality, then have an obviously skewed policy, designed to benefit women?
I’ll tell a story. It begins with our first intern hiring process. I met a couple of young guys and a girl who were graduating in a few weeks, most of them from Babcock University. The smartest candidate was this really young girl who owned her interview. I hired her immediately. No time.
I followed up till she was done with school. Time for resumption, she called that she couldn’t come. Her dad thought she was too young to come to Lagos. She was a girl and it was hard to get permission to come take up her job.
I was pissed but decided to do something more productive. I got the father’s number and called him. The conversation went well, the father was adamant that Lagos was too dangerous for his little girl, but I wasn’t letting him off easy, after all, I still be Calabar boy, and we no dey fear when we go to carry babe, go see the papa for house. Na to tell am your mission, anyhow wey e want be make e be.
So I asked this dad why he sent his daughter to school, and he told me. I asked him “if you just wanted her to graduate, come back home and wait for marriage, why didn’t you just send her to finishing school to learn baking and housekeeping?” He was quiet for a moment and told me he’d get back to me. He didn’t, but my intern resumed two weeks later.
That girl grew to become a rather notorious badass developer, and our first full-time head of technology. Moment of glory was when she overhauled one of Nigeria’s top banks’ old internet banking site, overseeing a team of older banking tech men. She dey Yankee now, sending pictures from IBM and Google them every summer.
Imagine if we didn’t fight to get her out of her father’s house?
That and a few more experiences led us to create a women-first hiring policy. If we have two candidates who score 50% in the recruitment test, we hire the woman.
This story is the small version of some of the barriers women face on the path to progress. You have women-in-tech events because every other tech meet is a men-in-tech event – 85% of tech event speakers are men FFS. (By the way, I have stopped speaking on panels if they are all male)
Every time I go to speak with students in Naija universities, I carry a photo of that my old intern. I show her photo and ask the students to guess what she does for a living. Top 3 answers are model, makeup artist, and fashion designer. I’m not going to explain what this means.
Considering how women tend to be overwhelmingly badass when they actually get through the door, I think it even makes sense to build more bridges to get them in.