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STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTSThe gender disparity in tech has been discussed at length. Eloine Barry has taken it upon herself to balance the equation at AMA.MOLLY WASONGA CIO, TECH WRITERBorn and bred in Lyon, France, is of Senegalese and Guinea Bissau descent, studied in the UK, and would later head to France for her Masters. Meet Eloine Barry, Founder African Media Agency (AMA). From a young age, she knew her life would be defined by exploring different cultures and travels. She has worked and lived in London, Germany, Dubai and New York City, where she currently resides with her husband and two small boys. An avid reader, Eloine has made it a point to read African authors in 2021. She is currently on top of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and says “it is a delight.”She reviews the book some more stating that “Her style is second to none and the story is captivating, I wish I had more time as it is a book that is hard to put down!” A runner and a yogi, she is preparing for her first half marathon soon. She practices meditation religiously. “All these slow my mind a little, help me be in the moment and reflect on the little things that make this life wonderful,” she adds.Grit or Grind?Every founder has their why. For some, it could be solving a knot of a problem, for others it is the drive to be independent and for some it is about financial freedom. There are as many reasons as there are entreprenuers. For Eloine, it was the need to create jobs that drove her. “I was driven by two things; creating job opportunities and making a difference and helping better the narrative of the continent through collaboration with big brands and my passion for media.” AMA would be birthed in 2014. It is enhanced by Eloine’s desire to work closely with journalists from across the continent, and to advise companies and organisations doing business in Africa that there is a way to communicate on the continent.“I was keen to hiring local staff. I feel grateful that I could combine all my drives and turn AMA into a reality,” she notes. But like a rose, this bliss also presented its thorns. “Life of an entrepreneur is never easy. Starting from scratch, finding capital, dealing with daily technological issues, fighting to get paid on time, having sufficient cashflow to grow and to pay our staff…” she lists. She points out that they are the daily challenges entrepreneurs face, but which if added to the time difference, that is between New York and Africa, throw in a pair of little ones, and she is squarely locked between a rock and a hard place.“I have to dig into my resilience, grit and courage on a regular basis to keep pushing and growing,” she says. “It requires a lot of discipline and hard work and a very clear vision in order to not get derailed or demoralised! Thank God for my amazing team, who work so hard, show loyalty, step up and make me laugh.”Eloine superintends operations at AMA. She is the captain. She traces the route and makes sure that her team gets to the desired destination. She builds the vision with the team who execute, sticking to the vision and getting to the destination safely.Having to work both at the business firm and at family level, she assures me that there is very little difference between her at work and the home. Her private life very much impacts the way she thinks business should be done. “I very much breathe AMA on a daily basis, and I am happy with that. I strongly believe that it is a privilege to be in a position where your passion becomes your work and where you know that you make a difference in the lives of many people at the end of every month.”Mother at workEloine has set in place a female-friendly work environment. Her employees could work from home long before the pandemic. This is what helped her when she got her kids. She worked from home taking care of her sons for over a year while. She is satisfied that she delivered excellently at both. “I wanted to breastfeed. I was able to do so for 15 months without having to worry about having to be in an office.” AMA offers long maternity leaves with flexitime working hours.“I know that if we create an environment that is flexible for women and men equally, employees thrive. I am not strict on office presence as long as the work is done,” she says. “I lead a diverse team, 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women. There is no micromanagement. Sometimes, kids show up at work. I treat my colleagues as my family and am proud that we have a work culture that allows everybody to thrive.”Mastering the art of“We are one of the few agencies in Africa that understand the uniqueness of each African country. We have worked in over 40 African countries. We understand the local culture, what journalists want and need, the complexity of their work whether they are in Benin or in Kenya. This is the added value we bring to our client” Ama has, over the years, offered a portfolio of products whether it is helping a PR agency or the communications team of a large corporation, to craft and distribute content, handle social media and engage influencers. It is a 360 smorgasbord.Sexist work cultureWe know there is gender disparity in tech. Eloine is passionate about this subject, but she adds that, sadly, disparity exists in all sectors. That women are the fewer gender in all workplaces regardless of the industry. Particularly for tech and leadership. “Work culture and gender discrimination are to blame for the gender gap. There exists a sexist work culture in tech companies making these environments simply not safe for women,” she echoes.She observes that “There is still a huge pay gap between men and women for the same tech job, this really isn’t conducive to attracting women. We need a cultural shift and I believe Africa is leading the way and could become an example in the world where more and more women go into STEM and engineering.”To conclude, she says “I would suggest every woman to follow the path to their dreams; to not be afraid of dreaming big. Have mentors along the way to guide, help, advise and support you.”