Johannesburg – The Women In Tech (WIT) awards seek to close the gap between women’s and men’s representation in the technology industry.
In a world where almost every business sector depends on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for its day-to-day functions, making ICT one of the world’s most demanded business sectors, it is unfortunate that women’s representation in the industry is low.
Research conducted by Women in Tech ZA, an organisation founded to showcase the diverse and talented women working in ICT in the country, showed that South Africa had the highest number of female graduates in the tech sector.
However, out of 236 000 available jobs, women only held 56 000 positions. This is only about 23% of all tech jobs in the country.
In attempting to close the gap and make ICT careers more fashionable and attractive to young girls, the Innovator Trust – an organisation that was created to support the growth of small black-owned ICT businesses in South Africa – developed an initiative called Women In Tech (WIT) Appreciation Experience, to celebrate women in the industry and depart career knowledge for high schools who desire to venture into this industry.
Tashline Jooste, Innovator Trust chief executive, said despite a lot of effort and initiatives aimed toward South African women in technology, women were still significantly under-represented in the field compared with their male counterparts.
“Representation is one of the biggest challenges we face, which goes all the way down to the grassroots level. According to the statistics, women currently hold 19% of tech-related jobs at the top 10 global tech companies, while men hold 81%. In leadership positions at these global tech companies, women make up only 28%, with men representing 72%.
“In South Africa, less than 25% of tech jobs are held by women. Let us look at the stats on the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Women are under-represented in maths and statistics with a ratio of 4:5, ICT and technology has a ratio of 2:5, and engineering, manufacturing and construction at 3:10,” she said.
With the statistics in mind, Jooste said introducing the WIT awards in 2016 was meant to put female tech entrepreneurs on the map of ICT professionals.
“Since the beginning, our objective in establishing WIT was to provide a platform for women tech small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to be recognised for their efforts, and it is our way of appreciating and saying thank you to them.
“The last two years have been particularly tough for small business owners, and we know there are not enough women in the tech entrepreneurship sector. Of those who are there, there is limited visibility regarding the incredible work being done on the ground, so representation and changing the status quo are key drivers behind hosting the WIT event,” Jooste said.
She said awarding women in the industry for their achievements and showcasing their stories of growth in their respective businesses by highlighting the work done through the Innovator Trust’s incubation programmes allow other women and other young girls to imagine a future where their dreams and ideas can be realised through technology.
“These awards empower young girls and women through technology by providing access to the skills, tools, resources and facilities required to interact in the digital world. By placing something as simple as a smartphone or laptop in the hands of more women and young girls, we empower and provide access and opportunity for participation in the digital economy and, thus, in turn, access to opportunities that previously would have been non-existent or hard to come by.
“It begins at the grassroots level, in our schools, in our communities and very much through education, but I think what the WIT awards event does to empower women tech entrepreneurs is to craft a message of the value and opportunity that entering the technology space can present for women and young girls,” Jooste said.
This year’s sixth annual WIT Awards is set to take place on Wednesday, November 16, 2022. This event edition is the first one post-Covid, where the organisation has opened the event up to a more public physical audience while maintaining its virtual audience.
At least 16 SMMEs have been nominated across the seven categories of WIT, and the top achiever of the awards will walk away with a whooping R50 000 for their business.
Temo Digital chief executive Wahseema Roberts, a software development company with a reputation for delivering simple, effective and scalable solutions to improve lives based in the Western Cape, is one of the nominated businesses.
She pointed out financial challenges as the main challenge women entrepreneurs faced in the sector, apart from competing with their male counterparts. Temo Digital employs a well-rounded team of 30 people.
“Our biggest bumps along the way were financial because there is a constant demand in the digital space that we cannot meet. We often come across work we know (we are) capable of doing, but we do not have enough capacity,” Roberts said.
The awards will be hosted by television and radio personality Pabi Moloi and Mandisa Mpeko alongside veteran journalist Iman Rappetti with former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela, general manager and CISCO Country Leader Smangele Nkosi, director of Gamiro Holdings Heather Sonn, as well as founder and chief executive of IT Networks and Vizin Group Ruby Moodley as the panellists.