Fem Bosses Meet Thuli Sibeko; South Africa’s Answer to The Growing Gender Disparity in the ICT Sector
In the recent years, South Africa has been aggressive in putting itself in the International Maps when it comes to Information Communication Technology (ICT), in terms of developing hardware, software and apps which address some socio-economic issues facing the country, Africa as a continent and the world in general.
Well this is considered as a definite “plus” by all standards, however it is emerging that in the tremendous success South Africa has been experiencing in ICT, the major participants and stakeholders in terms of using technology and making a career in ICT are mostly men. Bringing about a socio-economic imbalance, since the ICT industry is a lucrative industry that can go a long way in terms of promoting gender equality and empowering women.
Perhaps this could be attributed to the lack of interest on the part of the girls or the notion that girls are not expected to have interest in the “macho” things to do with technology, hardware and geek knowledge of jargons of science. According to a poll conducted by writin.org website dubbed STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) the few numbers of girls who participate in learning ICT and making a career out of it were mostly inspired by their Parents (30% of the time), Teachers (23% of the time), Peer (29% of the time and Media (18% of the time).
A local South African organization dubbed Girls Invent Tomorrow is seeking to change this trend. Its main agenda it to create awareness about the potential gains girls could have from the ICT sector and thus encourage as many South African girls as possible to venture into this male dominated field. This organization took their campaign a notch higher by hosting a Girls in ICT event on the 11 October 2013 at the ICC in Durban which is the same day as the United Nations General Assembly declared day for the International Day of the Girl Child.
The event had over 100 young South African girls in attendance, whereby they were given the opportunity to learn about other women who have established their careers in ICT and the various opportunities that ICT industry could provide. According to Thuli Sibeko, the organizer of the event and the founder of the Girls Event Tomorrow organization, it is important to empower women and girls to exploit their potential in contributing to the ICT industry as well as establishing careers in ICT. One of the core beliefs of the Girls Invent Tomorrow initiative is that the future is being mapped and reinvented by technology and ICT is a pivotal tool in this process and women should have just as much active participation as their male counterparts.
Intel which has had a considerable influence in the much anticipated South Africa’s first smartphone and tablet, and is also a key sponsor of the Girls Invent Tomorrow initiative, has launched a new program dubbed Girl Rising: which is a social campaign geared towards educating and empowering girls and young women from around the globe. Another Intel’s initiative dubbed She Will Connect: an initiative meant to lessen the gap between the male and female participants in technology around the globe. Has also joined the campaign to empowering South Africa girls
She Will Connect initiative is meant to increase digital literacy skills among girls and young women especially in developing nations. It has started with Africa, including South Africa as one of its target countries. According to Thabani Khupe, the Corporate Director, Intel South Africa, “The internet has transformed the lives of billions of people…It functions as a gateway to ideas, resources and opportunities that never could have been realized before, but our research shows that girls and women are being left behind. We believe that closing the internet gender gap has tremendous potential to empower women and enrich their lives as well as all the lives they touch”.
According to a recent Corporate Gender Gap Report 2012 done by World Economic Forum, lack of role model is the leading barriers to women engaging in ICT. According to Khupe there are several outstanding women role models who have made remarkable achievement in ICT, but they generally fly under the radar, hence this initiative intends to put a spotlight on them over the coming months and by this they hope to encourage as many girls as possible to engage in ICT and get rid of that notion that “tech-stuff” is an all-boys industry.
It’s a fact that ICT jobs get good rankings consistently in the top 20 careers with good pay accompanied with long term prospects and they want women in South Africa to reap the benefits too as their male counterparts have been doing over the years.