By Michelle Wynne and Makhosazana Xaba
Women have started making much-needed strides in what has been typically male-dominated industries, like tech. This is largely because of the diversity they bring to the workplace, and their ability to multi-task and problem-solve to bring unique and creative solutions to business challenges.
Seeing – and being part of – this change is encouraging – but we generally remain under-represented, with women holding only 19% of tech-related jobs at the top ten global tech companies. ICT has also been identified as one of the biggest critical skills shortage in South Africa. The good news is that this represents an opportunity to drive change and bring more women into the sector.
One of the most effective ways to do this is through education, and raising awareness about ICT, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects more broadly as potential career options.
It is critical to show women doing well in these fields to make pursuing a career in these fields a viable and desirable option, and to bring greater numbers of young women into the field. Demonstrating successful women that girls can look up to and emulate will no doubt encourage ambitious young women to take advantage of as many opportunities as they can to empower and educate themselves to work their way up and succeed in their chosen field.
Letting passion be the driver
It is, however, also important to illustrate that studying these subjects at school and university is not the only way to enter the industry – both of us came from non-tech backgrounds, but have found our way into the sector and enjoyed successful careers. This shows that there is more than one way for women to get a foot on the ladder, and young women need to know that if they have a passion for the field, they can find a way in and up the ladder if they are determined and tenacious enough.
Passion is a vital driver in a fast-paced and ever-evolving industry like tech. Young women need to let their passion drive them – and harness their determination to ensure that they don’t give up when they face hurdles and challenges within their careers.
Young women who choose to pursue careers in tech will need to be tenacious to successfully navigate their way through what has been a typically male-dominated sphere. But the good news is that there is plenty of support available in the majority of modern tech companies.
We have ourselves been fortunate enough to receive mentorship from people of both sexes, which has allowed us the space to grow. Mentorship is an important tool for young people, especially women, to discover and develop their skills and the unique traits they are able to bring to the workplace.
It is widely regarded, for example, that women bring innate traits such as warmth and nurturing to the workplace – added to the value we are able to juggle multiple aspects of life simultaneously and our willingness to communicate and collaborate to solve complex challenges, and it illustrates just how women can help drive productivity and profitability in the tech workplace of both today and tomorrow. This makes it vital to continue fostering environments that are safe spaces for women to share their expertise and opinions, and enable them to work their way up to leadership positions.
Ultimately, there are a number of ingredients that go into the mix of creating more diverse workplaces. We need to show young women that the tech sector, in particular, is not as daunting as they might imagine and that there is the space for them to use their strengths to add value, as well as advance their own careers, if they take advantage of the opportunities given to them and use their passion to succeed.
– Michelle Wynne is Head of Marketing Sub Saharan Africa – HMD Global and Makhosazana Xaba, Marketing Manager – HMD Global