As Crossword’s CEO and champion for diversity and inclusion, Tom Ilube, is named as a finalist for the 2023 FDM everywoman in Technology ‘Male Agent of Change’ award, Payal Nongbet reflects on what it takes to drive change and the great things that can be achieved by one person – anyone - when they when choose to take action.
Tom often talks about the butterfly effect. In chaos theory, this is the idea that slight changes in initial conditions can drive massive changes in outcomes. When you apply this theory to the way you live your life, to the choices you make, and the causes you believe in, great
The popular saying ‘be the change you want to see’ reminds us to lead by example because change only happens when we take action. For a behaviour to stick it needs to become a way of life. This applies when it comes to diversity and inclusion: “these aren’t issues to tackle and forget, they’re tools to hone continuously so that you can win,” says Tom in an interview for Board Intelligence.
In the same interview he adds, minority groups ‘shouldn’t be put in a situation where they have to keep raising the same diversity-related issues. If you are from a minority group, the last thing you need is to be pigeonholed as going on about [it] all the time’.
This what makes diversity ‘allies’ (supporters from outside a minority group) and awards like the everywoman in Technology Male Agent of Change so important. It is essential to recognise male leaders for their ‘active commitment to encouraging, advancing, sponsoring or championing the progress of women working in technology’.
Our values reflect the things we care about most. Tom is passionate about encouraging and empowering young black women in technology, advocating for their inclusion, advancement and celebration. Living by these values drove him to become the founder and chair of education charity, African Gifted Foundation, and launch the African Science Academy (ASA), the first girls’ science and technology school on the continent.
If there’s ever question about the impact of the ASA – of Tom’s impact - you only need to look at the glowing testimonials we received as we pulled together his award entry. Here is just a few of them.
Executive Director of ASA, Yasameen Al-jboury, explains how Tom uses his experience and his platform, and dedicates countless hours of his own time and resources to give support and advice to young women at ASA and beyond.
ASA has seen over 150 graduates so far, many of whom are now studying at universities with full scholarships.Without ASA, these young women wouldn’t have had the access to the resources and teaching necessary to develop their skills and talents and attend university. ASA has transformed their lives, she says.
In a video about the school, Yvette, an ASA student asks: “Have you ever dreamed of achieving something great but you don’t know how or [don’t] have an idea of any way of doing it?” The answer is a resounding yes. “ASA is the first step to achieving your great dreams,” she continues.
In a poem called Dr Tom, 2022 ASA graduate, Mary, offers a moving tribute:
“What seed was I?
I was the timid girl who’d hide from her own shadow.
But ASA put me in the spotlight where I embrace every part of me; especially my shadow.
My shadow was my fear of computers. I thought technology was a zombie apocalypse, so I’d run and hide anytime it draws nigh.
Today, I roll with my shadow; because IT’S ME in grand style.”
ASA is the place to go, says Manuella, “if you want to challenge yourself, if you want to become an African future leader, and if you want to become a confident young lady.”
And it doesn’t stop there. These students then go on to become agents of change themselves.
Edinburgh University graduate, Aisha Akinola, for example, was named as one of the 140 outstanding Black students in Powerful Media's future leaders list. And Claris Nadini was awarded the Isuzu East Africa Women Council Award for Impacting Society in recognition of her work creating decent, accessible and well-equipped STEM libraries in the Mukuru Kwa Reuben slums in Nairobi where she grew up.
Another ASA alumnus was recently awarded a full scholarship to study Data Engineering at Columbia University and one has joined a leading Korean company as a Software Engineer.
I’ve already won, said Tom, when he read through all the testimonials and comments. And in truth we all have. The vibrations of change caused by the actions of one person will continue to reverberate for generations.
Now, imagine if we all did something great. What outcomes would we change?