Telecom Review conducted an exclusive interview with Reine Mbang Essobmadje, co-founder of Digital Coalition, CEO of Evolving Consulting and vice president of GICAM, to delve into the issue of the lack of women in engineering globally. During the interview, Reine discussed the key factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women in engineering professions and the challenges they face. She highlighted the importance of addressing these barriers to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering and promote diversity and inclusion in the industry.

As a prominent figure in the technology industry, what are your observations and insights on the lack of women in engineering globally?

The underrepresentation of women in engineering, scientific professions and the sciences is a critical issue involving attractiveness, retention and support throughout their careers. The lack of women in these fields can be attributed to insufficient marketing and communication efforts encouraging young girls to pursue such paths. Ineffective academic guidance and a shortage of female role models also contribute to this disparity, as young girls often lack relatable figures in the scientific community to inspire them.

Conversely, women in scientific fields may be less communicative and self-promoting. Promoting science-based careers to young girls is essential to addressing this issue, and it has been our mission since 2010.

The second aspect is academic and career guidance, [which is] key to retaining women in these fields. Technological advancement often leaves academic advisors under-informed about opportunities, necessitating education for both advisors and students. Some professions demand physical fitness, and women may hesitate to pursue them due to perceived male domination. We aim to present role models and provide genuine pedagogical guidance to young girls, showcasing opportunities and debunking misconceptions about various professions, starting at an early age.

What are the key factors contributing to the absence of strong native consulting companies in many regions?

Having local consulting firms in the field of new technologies is crucial for digital sovereignty and economic independence. The appointment of foreign individuals to key European positions has sparked debates about the implications of digital sovereignty. To achieve a real digital dividend in Africa, native consulting firms are essential, as they understand the local context and can tailor strategies accordingly.

The lack of local consulting firms often leads to the importation of strategies that may not fit the local environment. This issue requires attention from both states and the African Union to enhance the capabilities of local firms. Incentive-based policies should promote collaboration between local and international companies for inclusive and sustainable solutions.

Distrust in local resources can lead to the disappearance of digital technology consulting firms at the local level. The African Union should address this issue to achieve its 2063 agenda. Despite the existence of consulting firms like Evolving Consulting, many projects remain untapped due to the limited involvement of African skills.

In the era of cyberwar, economic conquest is closely tied to digital conquest and leadership. Dematerialized services and the mismanagement of digital infrastructure can weaken an economy. Several states are developing internal resources to reduce dependency on tech giants and ensure digital independence. Africa's rise is linked to its ability to assert digital sovereignty.

Trust between the government and local tech companies is vital for fostering a conducive environment for technological growth. What are the main challenges in building this trust in your region?

Trust is intimately linked to the business climate. This is clearly a battleground for the economic development of several countries in Africa. To build this trust between the public and private sectors, we need to foster business relationships in an environment free of corruption, where good governance prevails, thus ultimately reaping the benefits of this relationship. It's about companies getting paid after performing their services in a serene and suitable environment, and it means the state should have quality services at a competitive rate. On both sides, there is work to do — on the one hand, to produce quality work and, on the other hand, to create suitable working conditions — a business climate that is conducive to the development of the company and the growth of businesses. By improving the business climate and the quality of public-private dialogue, we create a powerful coalition for socio-economic development.

As the saying goes, "It takes two to dance tango."

How do you promote diversity and inclusivity in the technology sector, particularly in terms of gender representation?

Evolving Consulting has been committed to various programs through the Coalition Digitale association since 2010, focusing on women, youth and entrepreneurship in line with sustainable development goals. Our initiatives include WoMenTor, Hack4Girl and She Said, empowering over 2,500 young girls in Europe and Africa. Our primary aim is to instill confidence in women's digital skills through training, competitions, mentoring and coaching, creating an inclusive and innovative environment. We actively seek partnerships with like-minded organizations to expand our impact and break down gender barriers in the tech industry. Evolving Consulting is also a member of international networks, such as INWES and WFEO, promoting women's representation in scientific fields and striving for a diverse and inclusive tech industry.

How important are mentorship and support networks for empowering women in engineering and technology?

Mentorship and support networks play a crucial role in empowering women in engineering and technology. Mentoring provides invaluable support and guidance, helping women overcome personal, professional and academic challenges. Experienced mentors offer insights and practical advice, equipping mentees with the skills to navigate various situations effectively. This mentor-mentee relationship fosters resilience, preparing women to face adversity, especially in male-dominated industries. Mentors assist with important aspects such as career choices, education, work-life balance and leadership development. By creating a supportive network, mentoring empowers women to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and embrace failure as part of the learning process.

As a woman leader in the ICT industry, I would encourage other women aspiring to follow in my footsteps by saying, "The sky's the limit" when it comes to realizing our potential. And always remember, “a girl with passion becomes a woman with vision”. As we grow, our perspective changes, revealing new possibilities. It's crucial to avoid self-imposed constraints and focus on creating our own future. Each of us possesses the inner resources to find fulfillment and achieve balance. Passion serves as a sustainable engine that drives us to make a positive impact on our surroundings. Even influencing a few people can create a significant ripple effect. The wave of Women in Tech is on its way, ready to make a difference in the world.

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