Why we should be celebrating women in tech
While we’ve taken certain positive steps to close the gender gap in industries across the board, women remain vastly underrepresented in the technology space. The imbalance between men and women in the technology sector is unlikely to be remedied unless organisations, schools and universities work together to change entrenched perceptions about the tech industry and educate young people about the dynamics and range of careers in the technology world, this, according to a report issued by PwC’s Economics team. The report analyses the behavioural measures that bring gender equality to emerging tech.
Women currently hold 19% of tech-related jobs at the top 10 global tech companies, relative to men who hold 81%. In leadership positions at these global tech giants, women make up 28%, with men representing 72%.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Bridget Meyer, SKYWORTH senior marketing manager can relate. “It’s such an exciting time for tech, whether that be television technology, gaming, AI, programming, the list goes on. Over the last two years tech has been the one thing that has brought us together. It’s this that is hopefully not only going to propel more interest, but education and opportunities, for women to succeed in this industry.”
In South Africa, the proportion of females to males who graduate with STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees is imbalanced. Women are underrepresented in maths and statistics (4:5), ICT and technology (2:5), as well as engineering, manufacturing and construction (3:10). As a result, there is a significantly smaller pool of female STEM talent, restricting the potential of South Africa’s technology sector.
In honour of Women’s Month, Meyer highlights local women in tech who have made, and continue to make, enormous waves in this crucial industry:
Baratang started a coding academy for women and girls in disadvantaged communities in South Africa to attract, promote and develop them in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Adriana is a theoretical physicist and technologist who is developing new frontiers in research and technology for a resilient future on Earth, Mars and beyond. She is also a Director at the Foundation for Space Development. One of their initiatives is Africa2Moon, Africa’s first mission to the Moon. Adriana is also an astronaut candidate with the Mars One Project.
GirlCode is an a NPO designed to become the hub for young girls and women who want to get into tech. They offer all-female hackathons, monthly workshops, and direct access to women working in top ICT (Information and Communication Tech) companies.
Code4CT is a programme for high school girls that introduces them to coding, design-focused thinking and the IT industry. The aim is to prepare our youth for the workplace.
Dr Jantjies was one of the first black South African female PhD computer science graduates in the country at the age of 28. She heads the University of Western Cape’s academic department of information systems. She believes that technology is no longer a luxury in the education space but rather a necessity and it is her aim in life through technology research to level the playing field in education.
Karen joined PayU in June 2012 as a product manager; she then advanced to head of product and delivery manager for MEA, before being appointed as CEO in June 2016. PayU has a 40% market share in the South African online payments.
Tumi is the head of the OfferZen Foundation, working to improve diversity and inclusion in tech. The foundation’s mission is to help people from disadvantaged communities thrive in their tech careers. Her goal is to lead and implement programmes at scale that have made a positive impact in people’s lives: to share her knowledge with those who have previously been excluded.
Indoni Developers is an organisation that provides career support for female software developers. The organisation focuses on mentorship, skills development, and opportunity as the three pillars of developing sustainable tech careers for women. She is also the founder of Buza Answers, a Q&A platform for high school learners in South Africa. Sewagodimo uses her YouTube channel, Sunshine in my Code, to encourage and teach more people how to code.
Africa Teen Geeks is an NGO that offers coding lessons to South African school children and unemployed youth. The organisation also hosts workshops, hackathons, and community outreach programmes. The mission of Africa Teen Geeks is that no child be left behind in the tech revolution. It has grown to be one of Africa’s largest computer science NGOs, with a reach of over 48,000 children and more than 1,300 volunteers. Lindiwe was recently appointed to serve as Commissioner for the 4th Industrial Revolution responsible for the development of the 4IR strategy for South Africa by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
EmptyTrips is a fast-growing South African start-up. The business matches cargo space demand to supply for the transportation of goods. In addition to providing an amazing service, EmptyTrips reduces carbon emissions by optimising the use of trucks and trains. It has been described as the ‘Uber for cargo’.
iMED Tech Group was established in 2015 while Nneile Nkholise was studying for her MEng in Mechanical Engineering at Central University of Technology. The company provides innovative medical solutions to impact healthcare delivery across the continent. Nkholise has experience in 3D printing applications in the medical sector and used this technology in the development of her custom-made products. Nkholise is a Harambean, a member of an elite group of entrepreneurs leading ventures that are unlocking the full potential of South African people.