Investing in women to close the technological gender gap

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It’s quite staggering that even in 2022, we still have a tech sector that is vastly underrepresented by women. While this is a global issue and quite concerning for an industry that prides itself on being one step ahead of everyone else, it’s probably no surprise that the gender gap in the South African technology sector is even larger than international statistics.

Women hold less than 25% of tech jobs, despite steady growth in the sector. The problem is not with tech companies that are in no way against women. In truth, they are desperate to close the gender gap and advance gender diversity in the industry.

Tech companies know they need women, and lots of them, if they ever want to change the image of their industry. Many corporations and tech companies have already engaged in aggressive campaigns to recruit, hire, retain and promote female talent and most major tech companies made countless diversity pledges years earlier to address systemic issues such as pay inequalities and workplace culture issues. However, the needle still moves too slowly.

One of the main reasons progress has been so slow is that tech companies continue to face an uphill battle to attract and retain the right women with the right skills. We have known for some time that South African women tend not to pursue Stem-related degrees (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at university level. While this is concerning as it severely limits the pool of qualified female talent available to fill critical jobs in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in South Africa, little has been done to address it.

A career in ICT never crossed my mind when I started my studies, and it wasn’t until I got a degree in marketing and advertising and then worked for Dynamic Technologies that I fully realized how useful an IT qualification could be in paving the way to more exciting and rewarding careers.

From working on the internet, designing software and apps, setting up cybersecurity systems, and coding trendy games, the career opportunities are endless (and so are the paychecks). interesting), but women must first have the right qualifications and experience.

I am determined to change the belief that a career in ICT leads to boring male jobs and to improve the skills of as many disadvantaged and unemployed South African women aged 15-34 as possible. That’s why I’m so passionate about Dynamic DNA’s goal – to drive investment in apprenticeships and provide rare IT and business skills to create a better future for women.

By partnering with the nation’s top IT providers, we offer a variety of fully accredited specialist courses for digitally gifted candidates who have the right cognitive abilities, behaviors and values, but not the corresponding qualification.

In addition, more targeted programs are needed, such as the non-profit organization 4IR4HER, in which we are involved, which intentionally directs women towards different technological opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and UX/IX (User Experience and Interaction Design).

With women making tremendous progress in fields that were previously dominated by men, the boundaries of careers have blurred. There are more career choices available to women than ever before, empowering them to take charge of their own destiny. It’s so important for women to start seeing their tech career as a major life-changing opportunity.

The right aptitude and attitude

I believe it all comes down to ability and attitude, which can be seen in one of the women in the 4IR4HER program, Boitumelo Tshepe. Good at math in school and with an older sister studying web development, she knew a career in IT was an option, but the only thing she lacked was qualification and experience.

Thanks to our program, Boitumelo is now in her final year of a National Level 5 Certificate course in Information Technology Systems Development, where she learned skills in object-oriented programming and the fourth generation language, in web development, multimedia and e-commerce, and she is also a software development student at Tshwane University of Technology.

She is also gaining hands-on mobile and database development experience through an internship at Cloudsmiths, one of the fastest growing companies in the sales force ecosystem in Southern Africa.

Investment in learning is essential

Boitumelo is an example of how women-focused programs can make a significant difference in the lives of everyday women. Yet, to develop life skills and create job opportunities for disadvantaged women in the local tech industry, we need the invaluable support of businesses and the private sector.

There is a huge skills gap in 4IR-related industries, which is booming. As companies put in place sustainable ways to digitize and become more competitive, developing a pipeline of people for now and the future is essential.

Aggressive campaigns to recruit, hire, retain and promote female talent are simply not enough.

More companies need to commit to and invest in apprenticeships, fellowships, skills development programs and internships for women to diversify their workplace. Not only is this good for businesses, by improving productivity and innovation, which has a positive ripple effect on their bottom line, but in doing so, businesses can also benefit from several incentives such as grants and Sector Education and Training Authority skills funding. , tax refunds, as well as advancing their overall Black Economic Empowerment Scorecard.

Prudence Mathebula is a 51% shareholder and managing director of the training and skills development company ITC Dynamic DNA

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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