Category Archives: Advocacy

Women Innovators honoured at the MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards

MTN WIICT Winners From Left to Right Tebatso Moape (Graduate Recognition Award) Lauren Kate Rawlins (Execellence in journalism) Mariana Kruger (CEO awards and Innovator Award) Pamela Mkhize (Leadership Recognition Awards) Lindiwe Matlali (Community Recognition Awards) Iman Malaka (SME Recognition Award).

The top performing women in information and communication technology (ICT) were recognised at this year’s MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards. The premier ICT women’s event saw several accolades awarded to candidates at a gala event held in Johannesburg on 30 August 2018.

In addition to awarding phenomenal women in the sector, the annual initiative is also aimed at attracting and enabling girls and young aspirant women professionals to consider a profession in the industry.

In its third year, this initiative is one way MTN is bridging the gender gap by bringing the world of ICT closer to all women.

This year’s judging panel comprised a variety of respected and highly accomplished broadcasters, seasoned journalists and editors, business executives, academics and ICT professionals. The panel shortlisted three nominees in various categories, and the winners were:

Pamela Mkhize who took top honours in the Leadership Recognition category. Pamela is currently Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Satellite at the multinational energy utility, Enel Green Power (EGP), a subsidiary of the Enel Group. She is responsible for the organisation’s Digital Solutions department within Africa, and has led the ICT processes for renewable energy plant development projects in India and Australia.

In the Innovator Recognition category, Mariana Kruger, who heads up the Product and Solutions Division within MTN Business South Africa, took the top spot. Mariana’s team provides services and solutions to an array of enterprise customers in South Africa, ranging from the top 1000 blue chip companies to SMEs. They all have their own unique requirements cutting across mobility, core connectivity, managed services, data centre services, internet of things, security services and cloud services.

Mariana also received the CEO’s Award that recognises an MTN employee who has made a difference within the organisation with the use of ICT and technology.

Winning in the SME Recognition category was Iman Malaka. She is the CEO, co-founder and majority shareholder of TIC-IT Telecoms. Prior to this she held various roles in the telecommunications industry.  Iman is passionate about developing people around her.

The Community Builder Recognition Award was handed over to Lindiwe Matlali, the Founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks. This is an NGO that teaches kids how to code.  Lindiwe has received numerous accolades in Social Entrepreneurship, and continues to study at some of the world’s leading academic institutions, such as Columbia University in New York.

The Graduate Award (Tertiary) was awarded to Tebatso Moape, recognised for her role as a Computer Science Lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology. In addition, she recently founded a non-profit organisation, Rebao ICT foundation and Youth Development. Its mission is to be a leading NPO that promotes, drives and instills technological skills through the use of ICT in marginalised communities.

This year’s Lifetime Achiever (Women Pioneer) is Santie Botha. Santie has extensive knowledge and experience in various executive positions, in industries ranging from fast moving consumer goods to banking and telecommunications. She is currently the Chairperson of both Famous Brands Limited and Curro Holdings. She was also the Chancellor of Nelson Mandela University from 2011 to 2017.

Lauren Kate Rawlins received the Excellence in ICT Journalism Award. Lauren is the Digital and Innovation Editor at ITWeb and writes about the different ways businesses are embracing digital transformation, how small start-ups are disrupting big industry, and how the machines are slowing taking over.

Modjadji Maphepha was the recipient of the Ministerial Recognition Award.  Modjadji is the General Manager of Moletsi FM in Limpopo Province, and was chosen for this award by the Minister of Communications, the Honourable Nomvula Mokonyane.

Says Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN SA: “We congratulate the winners for their outstanding performance throughout their careers. The support from industry and government has been overwhelming. This shows how our stakeholders value women’s contributions to ICT, and are happy to get behind the initiatives that MTN has put in place to shine a light on important challenges being faced by society – in this case women. Women must continue to play a meaningful role in the industry, advancing all sectors and inspiring the next generation of ICT innovators.”

MTN announces shortlisted candidates in MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards

After days of reviewing hundreds of nominations for this year’s MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards. The adjudication panel has shortlisted the top three entries that will be competing in their respective categories for the top accolades.

The MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards is a platform that recognises, honours and celebrates the contribution made by women professionals to the growth and development of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in South Africa.

The top three nominees in each category are as follows:

Leadership Recognition Award: recognises senior female executives in the ICT sector whose proven depth of experience in leading change, influencing business outcomes and leading teams has impacted positively on the organisations they lead. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Christi Maherry
  2. Pamela Mkhize
  3. Mariana Kruger

Innovator Recognition Award: recognises women who have introduced new methods, ideas, or products that are contributing in one way or the other to the delivery of a bold, new, digital world. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Marlize Holtz
  2. Mariana Kruger
  3. Hlengiwe Mazibuko

SME Recognition Award: recognises wholly-owned, women-run enterprises that are viable businesses making inroads in the ICT sector. This is also extended to MTN employees who run their own enterprises on the side, using ICT to enable their businesses. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Seshni Doorsamy
  2. Nisha Maharaj
  3. Iman Malaka

Community Builder Recognition Award: recognises a woman who has made a considerable difference in her community through ICT, or use of an ICT tool to make a difference in the community. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Zandile Keebine
  2. Lee-Anne Wyman
  3. Lindiwe Matlali

Lifetime Achiever Recognition Award (Women Pioneer): recognises a woman who has longstanding success in the ICT industry, has demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, and has continually stayed ahead of the curve. The shortlisted candidates in this category are:

  1. Santie Botha
  2. Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha
  3. Joan Joffe

Excellence in ICT Journalism Award: this category seeks to recognise a journalist who has contributed immensely to creating a better understanding of the ICT industry through her reporting. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Yolandi Booyens
  2. Lauren Kate Rawlins
  3. Michelle Constant

Graduate Award (Tertiary): this category recognises a top ICT graduate from a tertiary institution who finished top of her class.  The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Elizabeth Bekker
  2. Tebatso Moape
  3. Retselisitsoe Lejaha

CEO’s Award: this award recognises an MTN employee who has made a difference within the organisation with the use of ICT and Technology. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Mapula Bodibe
  2. Mariana Kruger
  3. Nomaciko Ngoasheng

In addition to the categories listed above, a significant woman, whose contribution has helped to facilitate access to telecommunication services, will be announced by the Minister of Communications, Nomvula Mokonyane.

Says Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive Corporate Affairs at MTN SA: “We are pleased with quality of entries received and grateful for the sterling work done by our adjudicators”.

The adjudication process was audited by BDO auditors, winners will be announced at a gala event that will be hosted in Johannesburg on 30 August.  Remember to follow the conversation on Twitter: #MTNWIICT2018.

The Art of Female Gaming


eSports is one of the fastest growing sporting sectors and could be worth over US$5 billion globally by 2020. But this is not the most interesting aspect of this fast-rising and highly competitive world. Instead, eSports – the competitive play of certain video games for prizes – is proving to be a great magnet for women.

According to a PWC study, even though the gender split among gamers is 50/50, more women identify as professional gamers than men. There are two reasons for this: more women are starting to play games at a young age, thus improving their skills faster, and gaming is an egalitarian sport where strength and other physical advantages do not apply.

This is certainly the experience of Jana “SaltyMonkey” du Toit, captain of Bravado Gaming’s all-female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team, Bravado Finesse: “Anyone who has played games – maybe played Call of Duty with your dad on a console – has a chance at professional gaming. If you’ve played anything, there might be something out there for you. I think many women are just unaware that it’s something that you can do.”

This was certainly her story. Even though Du Toit played games all her life, they were mainly single player and often on consoles. In her twenties, she discovered competitive gaming, which aligned nicely with her competitive nature. An eager sports participant during her school years, Du Toit was one of many whose itch for competition needed a lot of scratching – and esports delivered.

Changing the face of a male scene

But this idea is still foreign to a world that generally regards gamers as loner boys hiding in basements. Such perceptions are changing fast, not the least because new generations have normalised gaming to the same level of movies and music – it’s just something everyone does. But despite being around for more than two decades, female gamers have had a much tougher fight to be recognised.

Du Toit says that at one stage you could expect disparaging behaviour from guys: they either hit on you or make chauvinistic remarks. But  this has been changing in the past few years: “It was very difficult in the beginning. Most people didn’t want to play you because they either didn’t want to lose to girls or they didn’t feel like the skill level was similar or beneficial to them. To a great extent that was true. The skill level wasn’t quite there. But we did find people who were willing to assist us and play us and help us.”

Yet attitudes in South Africa have been changing, she adds, particularly over the last eighteen months. The shift is happening due to a combination of factors: female gamers have shown they can compete and win, games that appeal to women such as Hearthstone have become popular competitive titles, and gaming groups are much more focused on attracting female gamers and treating them as equals.

“It’s become a lot more normal to find girls in gaming and who don’t have the same issues we had before, where guys looked down on you. It is a way friendlier environment. All of a sudden, if I join a game, now I’m hardly ever the only female in the game.”

Serious competitors for a serious sport

This is not an idle pastime. Du Toit and her fellow teammates put in four hours of practice a day, six days a week, while balancing full-time jobs or studies. Their preferred game is CS:GO, which she initially avoided due to its violent gunplay. But the wider appeal of the game – chess-like strategy, viper reflexes and serious team cooperation – drew her and her teammates in.

Today Du Toit and the rest of Bravado Finesse – Kayhla “KayC” Calder, Rachel “rayChillza” van Dyk, Christin “2SSB” Meistre and Carmen Joe “Cjay” Mcleod – have set their sights on the big leagues of eSports.

Says Meistre: “Stereotyping in female gaming, in particular, is: “‘Oh, if a girl spends time sitting at a computer, she’s fat and lazy and typical stereotypes that everyone knows about’. We strive to eradicate this. We are much more than just a female team. We’re a team coming into the scene and wanting to create huge waves.”

A humble dream has evolved into something much bigger for them, Du Toit says. “We started off last year when we formed this team and we wanted to change female gaming for our scene. We wanted to make it acceptable and normalise it. Having achieved something so small and then realise it worked, we realised that we work together as a team and we can dream. For the first time we are dreaming about things like going international, be some of the best players in SA – that is something worth doing. That’s where I realised it’s what I want to do.”

But the fight for recognising female gamers is not over. Attitudes persist. The way to end that debate once and for all is for more women to join the ranks, play well and make their name as the best. This is why Bravado Gaming, sponsored by Dell EMC, Intel and Alienware, has an open invitation to any aspirant players, especially women.

“Put yourself out there. Don’t stop – keep doing it,” are Du Toit’s words of encouragement. “Keep practising every single day. Eventually, it will all get together. Don’t give up and it will work. We love to help female gamers. If there are female gamers who don’t know what to do or have got specific questions or issues, they can reach out to any one of us. We are on social media and we are happy to help.”

Not only is eSports set to become one of the greatest sporting movements in history, but women gamers are poised to be its dominant force. So next time you get beaten by a girl, remember: you’re paving the way for a future champion.

Watch Bravado Finesse at Rush Esports Expo 2018 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=298UcnhZ9CQ

GirlCode to launch Digital Academy and incubator programme

The social enterprise aims to impact 10 million females across Africa by 2030, through strategic partnerships, training initiatives, and mentorship and networking programmes

GirlCode, a social enterprise that aims to empower young girls and women through technology, launched its 2018 programme and Vision 2030 statement, at a breakfast event in Melrose Arch last week.

Among the initiatives planned for 2018 are the expansion of the annual hackathon and training workshops, as well as the launch of the Digital Academy, the GirlCoder Club, the GirlCode Accelerator Programme and the GirlCode Incubator initiative.

From humble beginnings

GirlCode was founded in 2014 as a female-only hackathon in a male-dominated industry. The first hackathon attracted 20 participants and one sponsor and has since become an annual event, with this year’s hackathon attracting 117 participants and seven sponsors, including Standard Bank, Boxfusion, Entelect and MTN.

The compounding success of each hackathon lead to the growth of GirlCode into a platform that engages women in tech, facilitates their skills development and encourages them to join the tech revolution.

Addressing the gender gap

According to the Intel Women and the Web report, nearly 25% fewer women are online than men. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap rises to 43%. And McKinsey reports that women comprise just 16% of all executive-level positions at technology companies in Africa.

Speaking at the event, which was attended by corporate executives and public sector representatives, Zandile Keebine, GirlCode Founder, said: “We have to be intentional in our efforts and committed to bringing opportunities to girls in rural areas and disadvantaged communities. Technology is increasingly becoming part of our lives, making digital literacy fundamental for everyone. With half the population being female, if we don’t start upskilling girls today, it means we’re leaving half of our potential IP out of the solutions we should be creating. It’s not enough for girls to simply play with technology; we have to encourage them and give them the chance to understand, create and work with it.”

GirlCode’s plans for 2018 include:

  • Expansion of the annual hackathon to Cape Town and Durban – in addition to the long-standing Johannesburg event. Next year’s hackathon will be hosted between 3 and 5 August 2018, and girls will be encouraged to solve challenges for SMEs and orphanages. The winning team will be sent to the Women in Tech Conference, in Amsterdam. Corporates will also be able to white-label hackathon events and tap into female tech talent and knowledge to solve business problems.
  • Expansion of the GirlCode workshops, which provides girls with valuable skills training in everything from HTML and Java to presentation skills, design thinking and WordPress, in the run-up to the hackathon.
  • The launch of the Digital Academy, which will provide unemployed women who have had no or little exposure to technology with basic computer skills training, as well as CV and interview guidance, over two weeks. The goal is to broaden their skills so that they can broaden their job opportunities.
  • The launch of the GirlCoder Club, which will teach high schoolgirls how to code in weekend classes facilitated by unemployed Computer Science graduates.
  • The launch of a 10-month GirlCode Accelerator programme, which will give girls the opportunity to gain real-world experience, be bridging the gap between academic learning and work-ready skills. The initial intake will be 30 girls.
  • The launch of the GirlCode Incubator, a 24-month mentorship programme focusing on marketing, operations, innovation, finance and self-mastery, to help girls grow their businesses.
  • Quarterly speed dating sessions between girls and mentors in the industry, in an effort to expand their networks.

Also speaking at the event, GirlCode team mentor and public policy director for Africa at Cisco Systems, Charmaine Houvet, said: “In Africa, just 5% of CEOs in the tech industry are women, which I think is a tragedy. We need to push harder for more female leaders to progress within any environment – it’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also a social and economic imperative. The National Development Plan 2030 states that we need to create 11 million jobs by 2030. These jobs won’t come from corporates but from advocacy groups like GirlCode that are actively doing something about youth unemployment and are driving the entrepreneurial agenda.”

Vision 2030

GirlCode’s vision is to impact 10 million women across Africa in 10 years, starting with getting young girls interested in STEM, and to become the largest female digital academy. It aims to do this through strategic partnerships with the public sector; strengthening collaboration with similar organisations; and leveraging corporate assets in the development of ICT facilities, infrastructure and networks within schools in disadvantaged communities.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future and how we see GirlCode playing a critical role in making it happen. Our vision is to reach as many girls as possible – regardless of age or location – to create a network of women who can help create a more inclusive industry that solves real-world problems. They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and that the next best time is now. At GirlCode, we believe the best time to start getting girls interested in tech is now,” says Keebine.

MTN announces Women in ICT – partnership for Change Wards finalists

Following an intense review process, involving hundreds of nominations, members of the adjudication panel have selected the top three entries in each category that will be vying for this year’s MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards.

This is the second year that MTN, in partnership with Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio as well as ITWeb’s Brainstorm, is hosting the Awards.

This initiative seeks to accelerate women’s participation in the ICT sector by celebrating and rewarding women professionals who have made a significant contribution towards the growth and development of the sector. In doing so, this initiative also aims to enhance the industry’s employer value proposition by attracting and encouraging girl children and young aspirant female professionals to consider a profession in the industry.

The adjudication panel worked until the weekend to whittle down the entries to the top three nominees in each category. The three shortlisted candidates in each category are as follows.

Leadership Recognition Award: recognises senior female executives in the ICT sector whose proven depth of experience in leading change, influencing business outcomes and leading teams has impacted positively on the organisations they lead. The shortlisted candidates in this category are:

  1. Carol Thomas

  2. Dr Madelise Grobler

  3. Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane

Innovator Recognition Award: recognises women who have introduced new methods, ideas, or products that are contributing in one way or the other to the delivery of a bold, new, digital world. The candidates are:

  1. Caroline Macharia
  2. Lindiwe Matlali
  3. Rene Pearson

SME Recognition Award: recognises wholly-owned, women-run enterprises that are viable businesses making inroads in the ICT sector. This is also extended to MTN employees who run their own enterprises on the side, using ICT to enable their businesses. The candidates are:

  1. Matau Ramapuputla
  2. Nomsa Makhanda
  3. Sivashni Moodley

Community Builder Recognition Award: recognises a woman who has made a considerable difference in her community through ICT, or use of an ICT tool to make a difference in the community. The candidates in this category are:

  1. Baratang Miya
  2. Gomolemo Motlhwai
  3. Martine Schaffer

Lifetime Achiever Recognition Award (Women Pioneer): recognises a woman who has longstanding success in the ICT industry, has demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, and has continually stayed ahead of the curve. The shortlisted candidates in this category are:

  1. Baratang Miya

  2. Dr HF Swanepoel
  3. Felleng Sekha

Excellence in ICT Journalism Award: this category seeks to recognise a journalist who has contributed immensely to creating a better understanding of the ICT industry through her reporting. The candidates are:

  1. Loni Prinsloo

  2. Paula Gilbert
  3. Simnikiwe Mzekandaba

CEO’s Award: this award recognises an MTN employee who has made a difference within the organisation with the use of ICT and Technology. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Fatima Mayet
  2. Lerato Sebata
  3. Prudence Mokone

In addition to the categories listed above, a significant female ICT professional, whose contribution has helped to bridge the digital divide and facilitate access to telecommunication services, will be announced at the gala awards event later this month.

Says Graham de Vries, Executive Corporate Services at MTN SA: “We are delighted with the progress we have made in once again celebrating the excellence and distinction of women in the information and communications sector. The selection process was very challenging due to the high caliber of nominations received. As we continue to celebrate Women’s Month, and the strides that women have made in all spheres of life, it is humbling and gratifying that MTN, in partnership with Kagiso Media, also celebrates remarkable women who are making a mark in this technical and competitive industry.”

The winners will be announced at a gala event that will be hosted in Johannesburg on 31 August 2017.  Remember to follow the conversation on twitter: #MTNWIICT2017.

Johannesburg 28 out of top 50 cities for women entrepreneurs

Dell has announced the findings of its 2017 Dell Women Entrepreneur Cities Index (WE Cities) – a global, gender-specific index that looks at a city’s ability to attract and foster growth of women-owned companies.

Johannesburg ranked 28th out of the 50, ahead of Seoul, Barcelona, Tokyo and Dublin, to name a few notable locations. The top five cities for women entrepreneurs are New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, London, Boston and Stockholm. Cities are ranked on five categories of characteristics – capital, technology, talent, culture and markets. The study ranks cities to show the impact of local policies, programs and characteristics in addition to national laws and customs on high-performing women entrepreneurs.

“Globally, women’s entrepreneurship rates are growing more than 10 percent each year. In fact, women are as likely or more likely than men to start businesses in many markets. However, financial, cultural and political barriers can limit the success of these businesses,” says Karen Quintos, EVP and chief customer officer at Dell. “By arming city leaders and policymakers with data-driven research and clear calls to action, we can collectively improve the landscape for high-potential women entrepreneurs, which in turn dramatically lifts a city’s economic prospects – as what is good for women is good for the economy.”

Johannesburg’s rating

Johannesburg Overall Score 38.6/100 | Overall Rank 28/50
4.7 million population
$102 billion Gross Metro Product (2016)
Top industries by employment are: (1) Finance, (2)Trade, (3) Community services & (4) Manufacturing

Notable Strengths
Powerful women in South Africa, at least in politics, are not uncommon: the percentage of women in the Parliament of South Africa, 44%, is among the highest in the world.
Additionally, women represent 42% of the Cabinet and 38.4% of local government.
The country also has several policies designed to decrease gender bias.

For example, Section Nine of the Constitution of South Africa guarantees “equality before the law and freedom from discrimination” and the Employment Equity Act defines “unfair discrimination” as a difference in terms and conditions of employment between employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially the same work or work of equal value based on gender, among other characteristics (ranking it 7th on Policy in the Culture pillar).

Moreover, female talent in South Africa extends beyond politics: in Johannesburg, 76% of adult women participate in the labour force and there are four local business schools with an average female enrolment of nearly 43%.

Ranking 11th on Markets overall (driven by its 7th place rank in Policy), the City of Johannesburg also has a website that helps people start a business and the national statistics agency, StatsSA, collects gender data on income and employment at the regional level in the Quarterly Labor Force Survey (QLFS), which helps keep track of women’s economic progress over time.
Areas for Improvement
Johannesburg has many opportunities to better nurture and support women entrepreneurs.
Education is a key area for improvement, both for entrepreneurial women and the workforce at large: less than 19% of the female working age population has a tertiary education or above (although this is still higher than the 17% of the male population with a tertiary education or above). Another area of improvement is paid maternity benefits, which currently stand at just four months of unpaid or partially paid maternity leave. This would help women maintain and build their capital base where the city ranks 39th.

Johannesburg could host networking opportunities and build city level organisations and/or incubator and accelerator programs specifically for entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs.

Johannesburg also ranks 50th on safety. That said, it could address its high crime rate (and its percent of people worried about being attacked) so the overall working environment is safer for women.

Johannesburg could also increase women’s use of technology by developing programs to decrease the high average monthly cost of internet (ranking 41st) and by creating technology training programs specifically designed for women (where it ranks 48th out of 50).

MTN launches second Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards

 

Mapula Bodibe, Executive for the Consumer Business Unit at MTN SA, and Mark Harris, Group CEO of Kagiso Media

MTN yesterday opened nominations for the second edition of the Women in ICT Awards in partnership with Kagiso Media and ITWeb Brainstorm.

This initiative seeks to accelerate women’s participation in the ICT sector by celebrating and rewarding women professionals who have made a significant contribution to the growth and development of the ICT sector. In doing so, this initiative hopes to attract girl children and young aspirant female professionals to consider a profession in the industry and enhance the industry’s employer value proposition.

MTN is inviting the industry to nominate women working in the sector for the Awards in several categories. Nominations can be made at https://www.mtn.co.za/womeninict – nominations close on 4 August.

Nominees will be evaluated in the following categories:

Leadership Recognition Award: recognises senior female executives in the ICT sector whose proven depth of experience in leading change, influencing business outcomes and leading teams has impacted positively on the organisations they lead.

Innovator Recognition Award: recognises women who have introduced new methods, ideas, or products that are contributing in one way or the other to the delivery of a bold, new, digital world.

SME Recognition Award: recognises wholly-owned, women-run enterprises that are viable businesses which are making inroads in the ICT sector, and will be extended to internal employees who also run businesses on the side, using ICT to enable their businesses.

Graduate Award (High Schools): recognises a top ICT graduate from a high school who finished top of their class. The award is open to females who graduated in the immediate year preceding the awards ceremony.  

Graduate Award (Tertiary): recognises a top ICT graduate from a tertiary institution who finished top of their class. The award is open to females who graduated in the immediate year preceding the awards ceremony.  

Community Builder Recognition Award: recognises a woman who has made a considerable difference in her community through ICT, or use of an ICT tool to make a difference in the community.

Lifetime Achiever Recognition Award (Women Pioneer): recognises a woman who has longstanding success in the ICT industry, has demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, and has continually stayed ahead of the curve.

Excellence in ICT Journalism Award: this category seeks to recognise a journalist who has contributed immensely to creating a better understanding of the ICT industry through her reporting.

CEO’s Award: this award recognises an MTN employee that has made a difference within the organisation with the use of ICT and Technology.

Ministerial Recognition Award: this category gives the minister the opportunity to use their discretion to nominate a female ICT professional whose contribution has helped to bridge the digital divide and facilitate access to telecommunication services.

A new category has been introduced this year – The Public Choice Award. This category gives members of the public the opportunity to nominate an outstanding female professional in the ICT sector using an SMS platform. The dedicated SMS number will be unveiled in due course.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, Mapula Bodibe, Executive for the Consumer Business Unit at MTN SA, said that despite the strides being made by women professionals in ICT, a lot still needs to be done to increase the levels of women participation in the sector.

“The representation of and by women in the ICT is still negligible,” she commented. “Regardless of how bleak the statistics are, there are still pockets of remarkable women leaders in the ICT sector. I wish to appeal to these professionals to use their influence and positions to pave the way for other female professionals to thrive and prosper.”

 

Technology is not a boy’s club

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Women in technology garner a lot of attention, perhaps because they work in a sector known for its overwhelming male presence. This despite the fact that some of technology’s earliest pioneers were female, such as the inventor of programming, Ada Lovelace, or Hedy Lamarr, the film star and sex icon who also pioneered frequency hopping, used in mobile phones today.

 Technology is behind the curve. Though over half of professional occupations in the United States are held by women, a mere quarter of professional technology jobs can make the same claim. Some argue that women are simply poorly suited for technology, lacking the logic and mathematical savvy to compete against men. A few even assert that women are simply riskier. 

Disproving such generalisations is easy, but the stigma is harder to purge. To Patricia Florissi, VP & Global CTO of Sales at EMC and a technology polymath, this perception is more about a lack of representation: “If more opportunities were given to women, especially at senior levels, then you would be able to see more of a sample of female leadership that would change some of the biases. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the fewer women you have in leadership, the more biases you create, because you don’t have enough samples to create an accurate image of how women act and how successful they can be.”

Under-representation sabotages opportunities for women, says Florissi. But she doesn’t pin this on a misogynist culture. People think of those they know and consequently offer opportunities to whoever is front of mind. If an organisation is understaffed with women, odds are that women will not be considered as candidates merely due to a lack of visibility.

One could argue that gender should have nothing to do with it, that it is all about the best candidate. This is true, but Florissi warns of a larger danger if diversity is not part of a company’s outlook: “We need to treat women in technology as a real issue, because we’re talking about fifty percent of the population, about digital transformation that is suffering from a deficit in intellectual capital and yet we leave half of the population behind. This is a business imperative. Where you don’t have diversity, you don’t have cognitive diversity, so you are in a position of disadvantage. We can only solve that together.”

 The need for diverse, out-of-the-box thinkers has never been greater. Technology needs women: the problems and opportunities of the world cannot be tackled from just one vantage point. Creating diversity in gender and creed is what helps companies evolve and open new channels. Everyone has a role to play in making this shift happen. As Maya Angelou said: “Nothing will work unless you do.”

For more information about Diversity & Inclusion in EMC Southern Africa, feel free to contact Sonelia du Preez, Marketing Lead: Africa on email: sonelia.dpureez@emc.com, or visit:  www.southafrica.emc.com.