These Nigerian women talk about balancing their tech careers and motherhood
Apart from driving innovation and advancing their careers in the Nigerian tech ecosystem, these women are defying the stereotypes that come with motherhood.
There are growing misconceptions surrounding the ability of mothers to commit to working in demanding roles and industries, including the tech ecosystem.
Being a mother does not take away a woman's ability to be efficient at her job, yet it is still assumed that women with children are not as committed or dedicated to their careers as their male counterparts. It is even worse when women are denied promotions or opportunities to take on more responsibilities, simply because they are pregnant or have children.
Balancing the responsibilities of working in the tech industry with the joys and challenges of raising a family is not an easy feat for either women or men. Yet, it is surprising that there are people who still believe that mothers cannot double as successful career women because they do not believe in people’s ability to flourish in both roles simultaneously, and they must choose one over the other.
Others maintain that stay-at-home mothers are perceived as more committed to their families, compared to career women. All these assumptions are far from the truth and often undermine the remarkable effort and achievements of mothers who work in dynamic roles.
As we celebrate Women's Month and embrace equity, it is essential to acknowledge the remarkable contributions of mothers working in the Nigerian tech industry. This story provides insight into working mothers who are defying stereotypes and are proving that they can succeed in their careers and with families, embodying resilience, and determination.
In this story, we interview and share stories of women who are trailblazers, founders, and business executives driving innovation and change in the Nigerian tech industry, as they talk about juggling a multitude of responsibilities; from caring for their children and managing a household to advancing their careers in the rapidly evolving technology landscape.
They also talk about their journeys, the obstacles they have faced and overcome, and the lessons they have learned along the way.
Olatokunbo Ogunlade, Systems Engineer at Factorial HR
Olatokunbo's story began with the simple task of boiling rice for lunch. Midway through cooking, she ran out of gas and had no money to refill it. This moment shook her to her core. "I could not believe I had become so dependent on my husband that I could not even afford to fill the gas. I thought about the baby growing in my womb and realised that I could not take care of her on my own. I had nothing of my own, and I was so hungry," Tokunbo shared.
Determined to change her situation, she turned to Google and searched for "ways to make money in Nigeria as a woman." That was when she stumbled upon software engineering. Despite not doing great in computer science at the University, Tokunbo was determined to succeed this time around. She searched for coding communities that could support her journey and saved up from the daily allowance her husband provided, to pay for her course and internet expenses.
After several months of hard work, Tokunbo landed an internship at Venture Garden, a technology company that builds and scales innovative companies. Juggling motherhood and her new career was tough, but Tokunbo did not let it weigh her down. "I found myself in a situation where I had nobody to turn to or who could relate to what I was going through. I had no one to ask for help or advice when I ran into difficulties because I did not know other software engineers. It was a constant battle, but I persevered because I was determined to carve a career path for myself.”
These struggles inspired Tokunbo to start ‘The Coding Mum’, a community that provides support for mothers interested in starting new careers in tech. Through her community, many mothers have been able to get trained and land great jobs as Engineers at companies like MTN.
Tokunbo is a strong advocate for the advancement of women, especially mothers, in the tech industry. She recognizes the unique challenges that they face and believes that employers often unfairly stereotype them as less committed to their work. Tokunbo, however, strongly disagrees with this notion and firmly believes that mothers are some of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals in any industry. "We are committed, empathetic, and always ready to tackle any challenge that comes our way," says Tokunbo.
She passionately argues that the tech industry needs to be more inclusive and provide mothers with the same opportunities to prove themselves and excel in their careers. "Mothers have so much to offer the industry, but they are often denied these opportunities because of unfair biases and stereotypes," she adds. She hopes that more companies will recognize the immense value that mothers can bring to their organisations and take steps to support and empower them.
Folasade Daini, Brand and Content Strategist.
Folasade is a woman of many talents; she has built an impressive online presence with over 150K followers on social media, by sharing bits and pieces of her life as a professional and mother. Her top priority has always been to build a family alongside a great career, which led her to pursue a flexible career path in tech that allowed her to work remotely and be present for her family.
Her professional journey started as a Veterinary doctor working in a Veterinary Hospital in Lagos. However, she soon recognised that her exceptional storytelling skills were her most significant assets, which led her to transition into content creation through writing for family members and creating content on Instagram.
Shortly after, she secured her first role as a Content Marketing Associate in a tech startup, where she continued to hone her skills and deepen her knowledge. She found that this career path offered her the flexibility she needed, allowing her to work remotely and be present for her family. She is also the founder of Medtotech; a nonprofit community democratizing access to no-code tech through skills to increase the earning power of African youths.
Despite common societal expectations that motherhood can hold back a woman's career, Folasade's experience has been quite the opposite. In fact, becoming a mother has been a catalyst for her hard work and success. Thanks to her husband’s active participation, she has been able to juggle multiple clients and create high-quality content, all while providing the necessary attention and care to her family.
Folasade however recognizes that not all parents have the same support system and flexibility that she has been fortunate to have, which is why she advocates for workplaces to adopt an inclusive culture that genuinely supports parents, offering them the flexibility and understanding needed to balance work and family. "It's not just about having policies in place," she noted, "It is about truly implementing a culture that respects and values the needs of working parents."
Folasade is particularly passionate about advancing this cause in the tech industry, which she feels is still in its early stages when it comes to supporting parents. "We need to start building a foundation now that can help parents feel comfortable to take time off or adjust their schedules without fear of discrimination," she urges.
Solape Akinpelu, co-Founder/CEO, Hervest.
Solape is passionate about motherhood and sees it as a "wonder," and not just a duty. According to her, "Motherhood has heightened my sense of purpose, it has catalysed my movement, and I do not see it as a burden or something I would rather pass on." She sees motherhood as a celebration of the superpowers of women and adores the roles and strengths of mothers.
Solape's professional career began in marketing, a field she had a lot of passion for. However, she noticed that a lot of women were not participating in money conversations, which she described as a result of "systemic designs or even self-absorbed biases." This led her to establish Hervest, a financial technology startup for women that aims to close the gender finance gap. In her book "Stripped: An African Woman's Guide to Building Generational Wealth," Solape aims to provide a guide that can be tailored to anyone's personal finance journey, regardless of their background or current financial situation.
Before working in tech, Solape worked at a marketing firm. She had just gotten married and was looking forward to starting a new chapter in her life when she got laid off. Her excitement was short-lived. "The moment my company found out I got married, they assumed I was pregnant and laid me off without bothering to even confirm their fears. This is one of the many reasons why I continue to advocate for companies to constantly review their policies," she said.
Solape believes that men should also be given a chance to be active in the lives of their kids. She asks, "Why are you giving a new father two to three days off? Of course, it’s not enough. Even women need more than three months maternity leave."
Solape's role as the founder and CEO of a tech company already comes with significant demands and responsibilities. As a mother of two, she faces even more challenges in balancing her personal and professional life. She admits it's not always balanced, saying, "There are days I miss PTA meetings and other days I am the first person to get there. It is not easy but it is what it is."
Solape believes in being transparent with her children about her work schedule and responsibilities. "My son for instance asks a lot of questions and helps out with work, especially when I’m travelling," she says. "We also talk about his personal life, like his latest crush. It's cheesy, but I love that we have that kind of relationship."
Through it all, Solape has learned valuable lessons from motherhood, including patience and kindness, which she tries to apply to the work culture at Hervest. According to her, "A mother needs all the time she can get to bond with her newborn so by all means, spend the entire six months with your child."
She believes that companies can do better to support mothers in the workplace by shutting the doors of assumptions and opening that of empathy.
Wamide Animashaun, Ecosystem & Partnerships Lead, Propel.
Wamide is grateful to experience the best of both worlds as a mother and tech worker. As she watches her son's personality unfold, she treasures being an integral part of his life. Wamide initially started her career in frontend development, then transitioned to business operations, before switching to strategy/business transformation, and now, partnerships.
However, after birthing her first child, the long commutes to and from work took a toll on her health, leading her to make the difficult decision to seek out flexible remote opportunities that would allow her to be there for her family. “Motherhood gave me the courage to leave a job that I no longer enjoyed and be there for what really mattered- my family. It did not even matter that I had not found a new job yet, I just quit,” she said.
As a working mum in tech, Wamide acknowledges the challenges but also recognizes that more and more mothers are proving that it is possible to have a fulfilling career while being present for their families. Patience is a valuable lesson she has learned as a mother, which has made her more empathetic and better equipped to handle challenging situations at her job.
Wamide believes that inclusive work policies, flexible arrangements, and representation in leadership are critical to support mothers in tech. “If more women were in leadership, they could advocate for other women and push for necessary changes, but most importantly, we need a leadership that listens.”
Despite the challenges, Wamide would not have it any other way. Being a working mom in tech has allowed her to have a fulfilling career while also being there for her family. "I love the possibilities. I love being a part of things that are changing," says Wamide. "But at the end of the day, what really matters is my family. And being able to have that balance is just amazing."
As we celebrate Mother's Day, it is important to recognise all the mothers who are making valuable contributions to the tech industry. From those who have built their own startups to those who are leading teams or just starting their careers, these women are proof that motherhood and a successful career are not mutually exclusive. They are breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations of parents in the tech industry.
It is our hope that their stories will inspire more people to pursue their dreams, despite the challenges that may come with parenting and a demanding career. We also encourage employers to continue supporting and empowering parents, by offering flexible work arrangements, inclusive policies, and a culture that values work-life balance. Only then can we truly create a world where all parents can thrive in their careers and in their roles as parents.
This is a guest contribution by Joyce Imiegha and Toyosi Adebusuyi; storytellers at Reneé PR, a Nigerian tech PR agency.