Category Archives: Advocacy

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:, or visit:

Lianne du Toit

Lianne du Toit, Silicon Cape, U-Start

Lianne du Toit, Silicon Cape, U-Start

Name: Lianne du Toit

Designation: U-Start Business Developer and Silicon Cape Events Liaison

Company: U-Start and Silicon Cape

What do you do every day? I am blessed as it changes daily, from meeting startups, assisting with tech events, liaising with partners and stakeholders, coding with the youth, speaking at events, creating content for sponsors, going to and planning networking events, to researching the industry and implementing our social media strategies. Every day is an awesome and fulfilling day.

How did you get into the tech space? By default, I am secretly a geek wannabe. Though it was my passion for creating engaging events for the community to meet and collaborate that got my foot in the door to the tech space. I was also inspired by a visit to the Google Campus in London a few years ago. It was there that I thought, imagine how cool it would be to have daily tech and startup event in Cape Town! Through Silicon Cape that vision is becoming a reality with the support of an engaged community.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Do what works for you; be the change you want to see in the world; expect less, give more and persistence and determination go a long way. Nothing is no until it is a flat out no.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Go to networking functions, research trends, meet new people, give more than you receive, get a mentor in the sector and add value where you can – the break you need will find you.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? My novel-thick to-do list.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.

Find me on:
Twitter: @Siliconcape, @barefoot_Binary, @govhackSA, @u-startconf

Zimkhita Buwa

Zimkhita Buwa, Britehouse & SiliconCape

Zimkhita Buwa, Britehouse & SiliconCape

Name: Zimkhita Buwa

Designation: BI Manager & SAP Mentor

Company: Britehouse

What do you do every day? I help organisations to make sense of their data. Helping them find the gold in their mountain of data is rewarding. I am a true data geek who is also passionate about data visualisation!

I am a SiliconCape Exco Member heading up the Students & Careers Portfolio. I am passionate about helping other women and am a founding member of the STEM-IT-Forward non-profit with five amazing women. STEM-IT-forward aims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers to young girls.

How did you get into the tech space? My brother and I are two years apart and we were always competitive. He chose Information Technology as his major and came back home flaunting his new found programming skill. Of course, not to be outdone, I also decided to register for a tech-related course to prove that whatever he could do, I could do. Needless to say what started out as a competition is now not only my bread and butter but my passion.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Last year I had the honour of being part of the Techwomen Programme where 78 amazing women from Africa and the Middle East were selected to spend six weeks in Silicon Valley being mentored by other women at various big tech companies. We were allocated two mentors, a cultural mentor and professional mentor. The best advice came from these two amazing women. Barbara Williams, my cultural mentor, said, “Do it afraid” and my professional mentor, Tanya Kobyluk, used to tell me often: “Believe in yourself, believe that you are amazing”. I miss my two pillars!

Another piece of advice came while watching Oprah interview LLCoolJ, he said, “Dreams don’t have deadlines”.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? I would tell them to find themselves a mentor who can assist them with their journey. A lot of us thought we have to do it on our own. Find someone who is already in the tech sector, even if they seem inaccessible, ask….learn from them. Did I mention ask….yes! Ask as many questions as possible – you will see it won’t be as daunting and it will save you a lot of time and save you from making unnecessary mistakes!

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? My family, my little nugget (4-year old boy) who thinks I’m a Ninja Turtle, making a difference in my professional capacity and also helping other young people realise their potential.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? A combination of my sister and my mother. My sister because of her strength, confidence and sheer determination to be the best she can possibly be. My mother because of her compassion and her ability to be a mother to anyone who crosses her path!

Find me on:
Twitter: @zimbuwa