Rose Muthoni @rosemuthoniN
Over the years, Science, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and technology subjects have alluded girls and women, with many preferring to take up the ‘lighter’ subjects. With time many initiatives that encourage girls to take up STEM and tech subjects are beginning to bear fruit.
Former TV personality Lizz Ntonjira is one of the women who are blazing the trail for girls in the tech industry. In May she bagged the International Women in Tech award in an event that took place in Kensington, London. The award identifies and celebrates female role models from Africa.
“The award showcases the achievements and innovation of women in the technology field, identifying new role models and promoting further dialogue around diversity among industry influencers. I was nominated alongside many inspirational women who have made their mark in empowering others. I dedicate this award to all the young women out there who have had doors shut on their faces.
My message to them is to never give up, never lose hope and that what does not break you only makes you stronger,” says Ntonjira. What made this award even more exceptional to this wife and mother was her anonymous nomination.
“I would love to know the person who nominated me. I am so grateful to them,” she says. As IBM’s Communication Manager for Central, East and West Africa, Ntonjira simplifies technological jargon for the layman, making access to critical development information easier for the masses in 25 sub-Saharan countries that are under her wing.
“My work is, among other critical roles, to make tech jargon palatable,” she says. Ntonjira has worn many hats. Prior to working at IBM, she worked in the NGO world as a communications, campaigns and outreach manager. She has also worked for a USAid-funded project.
The former prime time news anchor and show host on NTV, where she bagged the Best TV reporter on Gender and Development issues by the United Nations Population Awards in 2012, left the screen to pursue a masters degree.
“With a prime time anchor job, I could not get time to further my studies. I also felt that I had grown enough in the TV sphere and wanted to venture out to new territories,” she says.
The law degree holder is also a recipient of former US President Barack Obama’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African Leaders in 2015. She was also invited by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to make a presentation on communication strategies as a tool for agency effectiveness at the 14th session of the Intergovernmental group of experts on Competition Law and Policy in Geneva, Switzerland in 2014.
Ntonjira is a firm believer in women empowerment. “More and more girls should take up STEM subjects. This will not only shore up the number of women working in technical field, but will also ensure diversity,” she says. She is, however, excited by the ever increasing number of women in tech. “Tech is a hot sector and it is exciting to see more women getting involved.
Beyond the technical aspect of technology, there is an important place for non-technical skills: Expertise in new media, social media strategy, online business models, digital marketing, e-commerce, gadgets, and Information Technology infrastructure, which are all essential to the technology ecosystem. These are also important skills and it is important to assist the youth access training and educational opportunities in this field too,” says Ntonjira.