GirlCode has announced the winners of its women-only hackathon, which encouraged teams to find solutions for workplace biases against women.
The GirlCodeHack took place in Johannesburg, at 22onSloane with 50 aspiring female developers participating in the event. GirlCode partnered with AWS, Mint Group, Takealot Group, DVT and Lenovo to host the event under the theme “Break the Bias” in celebration of International Women’s Day.
The objective of the hackathon, which is now in its eighth year and is more commonly referred to as GirlCodeHack, is to address the lack of women in the technology sector by allowing women to showcase their skills as part of an inclusive network of peers.
As well as building their skills, the hackathon aims to give participants more information about what it’s like to work as a software developer, and those who took part in the hackathon had access to mentors to talk about their experiences working in their roles and guide them throughout the weekend.
“Technology is becoming one of those things where everyone’s interested because it’s progressing and there are more jobs popping up in that sector,” says Zandile Mkwanazi, GirlCode CEO.
After the two-day challenge, a panel of judges which included Khetho Netsianda, AWS Cloud Support Associate; Riekert Strydom, Senior Developer for Mint Group, Ronnie Cloete, Executive for Software Development at DVT Software, Fozia Martin, Partner Account Manager at Lenovo and Kgotso Buys, Engineering director at Takealot Group chose the following winners from the submissions:
NTV’s winning project, a web application that will allow a company to register and get a “company code” for all their employees to use to remain anonymous when reporting biases they encounter within the company. The winning team NTV walked away with laptops, laptop bags, computer peripherals, software and R1 000 in Takealot vouchers.
Hack-Gen built a complaint logging system that allows employees to report incidences on bias. The system would then be able to provide real data on the type of biases their employees are facing and allow the HR department to implement relevant remedial programs. The team walked away with tablets, software and R500 in Takealot vouchers.
Hack Invasion Girls built a web application that anonymises job application processes which are inherently bias whether it be on the basis of gender, race, and even location, where candidates who live in townships might be overlooked in favour of those who live in urban areas. The team walked away with tablets, software and R250 Takealot vouchers
“Despite the progress that’s been made, when you walk into most IT departments, you will be greeted with predominately male faces,” says Mkwanazi.
“GirlCode started as a hackathon with the aim to not only show off the female tech talent we have in South Africa, but also to encourage young girls to consider a career in technology, and local companies to think about how they can support the development of women in tech. We have been supported by companies like Entelect and Boxfusion over the past 7 years and are motivated to keep creating such opportunities for young women in South Africa,” concludes Mkwanazi.
South African women to take centre stage at SingularityU South AfricaAugust 26, 2021 in Events, News, Women in Tech
South Africa’s top female thought leaders across various industries are set to take centre stage at the upcoming SingularityU South Africa Summit 2021 – taking place online from 12 – 15 October. This future focussed summit aims to equip South Africans and Africans with the latest insights regarding exponential technologies and innovation across a number of fields.
Topics to be addressed include leadership and investment, artificial intelligence, crypto/blockchain, biotechnology, future of banking, scaling, ESG, 5g, cybersecurity, scaling, social impact, food security, education, NFT’s (non-fungible tokens), gaming, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, 3D printing, space, digital marketing (SEO, Online Ads, Social) and DEFI (decentralised finance).
Rapelang Rabana, the acclaimed founder of Rekindle Learning & FFWD Innovation, who has been named Entrepreneur for the World by the World Entrepreneurship Forum, will present a keynote sharing her unrivalled expertise on connectivity.
Andrea Bohmart, a partner at South African venture capital firm Knife Capital, will share her plans to prove that South African founders and the companies they build can compete on a global level.
Kim Hulett, known widely as the founder and CEO of Next Biosciences, and a SingularityU South Africa faculty member, will address the latest developments in reproductive biotechnology. Dr Tamara Pheiffer, an expert in biohacking, will address how the latest advances in medical biohacking can extend one’s longevity. Tanya Knowles, South Africa’s top thought leader regarding blockchain and cryptocurrencies, will share the latest insights in this fast moving area of exponential technology. Geci Karuri-Sebina will share her insights regarding the potential that smart cities have to improve quality of life.
Independent Strategy Consultant, Anu Sing will address leadership in business, while Melanie Rieback, the CEO/Co-founder of Radically Open Security, the world’s first non-profit computer security consultancy company, will tackle cybersecurity in business. The dynamic Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp and Nastassia Arende are the hosts for various discussion panels and will MC the summit.
Various international female speakers will also take to the stage including Cathy Wood (Founder & CEO Ark Invest), Paola Santana (Founder Social Glass), Nathana Sharma (General Counsel, Labelbox AI), Hilda Liswani (CEO & Founder We Bloom Africa), Jaya Baloo (Chief Information Security Officer at Avast Software, SingularityU Faculty on Cybersecurity and Quantum Computing), Amy LaMeyer (Managing Partner of WXR Fund), Laila Pawlak (CEO, SingularityU Nordic), Merritt Moore (Forbes 30 under 30, Quantum Physicist), Beena Ammanath (Executive Director of Deloitte AI Institute), Alix Rübsaam (SingularityU Faculty – AI), Kadine James (CEO & Founder, The Immersive Kind) and others.
“There has never been a more important time to embrace diversity and ensure that female voices are heard. It is essential that we not only close the gender gaps in trade and industry but also enable female leadership to take its rightful place in the workplace, if we are to create an abundant future,” says Mic Mann, Co-CEO of SingularityU South Africa. “The SingularityU South Africa Summit is one of the largest African thought leadership, innovation and technology events on the continent, focussed on driving positive change and exponential growth so that we can #futureproofAfrica,” he adds.
“For us, it’s all about how do we educate, empower, and inspire our community with bleeding-edge knowledge from the world’s most sought after thinkers and doers, who share unrivalled acumen in the topics that they address,” comments Shayne Mann, Co-CEO of SingularityU South Africa.
The SingularityU Exponential South Africa Summit 2021 will be hosted in collaboration with Deloitte and MTN. To join the SingularityU community of changemakers, or to book, visit: https://
The WIT Network South Africa is hosting its spring day event on 1 September at 16h00. Please register here for the event.
Matric results: Perhaps it’s time to democratise how we assign competenceAugust 11, 2021 in CEO, Events, News, Opportunity, Training and development, Women in Tech
Every year when South Africa announces its matric results the country goes into education discourse hyperdrive as analysts, politicians and the civil society attempt to make sense of the numbers. However, in our scurry to project meaning onto the milestone, it’s important to ask whether we are missing an opportunity to democratise how we assign competence, writes Nyari Samushonga, CEO at WeThinkCode_
As always, this year there has been acknowledgement of outstanding achievements in both the government and private school systems, coupled with questions about the national pass rate, bachelor’s pass, subject choices, and much more.
Make no mistake, the country needs excellence and high achievement in Matric and other academic endeavours should be celebrated. It is right that we value impressive education behind neurosurgeons, legal minds, engineers, mothers, fathers, and more. However, in our milestone mindset, have we begun to shut the door too soon? Is it not a bit extreme to shut off access to future learning opportunities on the basis of how a young person performs on this single test? Are we too rigid in what we communicate to high school leavers about viable options for their futures?
It’s a minefield to traverse. Statistics SA’s unemployment figures have made it abundantly clear that youth unemployment levels are inversely proportional to the level of education. Graduates are the least unemployed, followed by those with some post-matric qualification and then those that just have a matric. Youth who don’t have a matric have statistical odds weighted strongly against them. It is to this woeful backdrop that we have, possibly unselfconsciously, developed an obsession with education milestones – as if they alone will solve our unsustainable and world-topping unemployment rate.
This could not be further from reality. This is perhaps most vividly demonstrated in a series of interactions WeThinkCode_ had recently with various stakeholders in our journey to develop an accredited bachelor’s degree programme, in addition to our accreditation, that we currently offer our students.
A sentiment we continue to encounter is this narrow view of the path one should take from high school to university to the workplace. Any professional will tell you that learning a craft is a lifelong journey and that much of their competence is acquired not in the classroom but on the job. Not just from the lecturer, but also from the many people you collaborate with as you do the work. And yet we continue to insist that a matric result alone is a fair and appropriate proxy for how well or how poorly a teenager will one day perform in a job.
We deem it sufficient to condemn scores of youths to a life of no access to further education. However, if we read that against a reality of only 37% of people that enter the education system passing matric and, worse, only 6% of South African adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification, it seems a stretch to feed the narrative that an academic endeavour is the only possible route to exiting the unemployment queue. Which begs the question, how do we begin to create a more inclusive perspective on competency without compromising its core concepts?
To be fair, following the traditional academic trajectory currently represents the best possible chance of securing a stable, employed future in South Africa. However, I’d argue that there needs to be a paradigm shift among all stakeholders when it comes to assigning competence within the workforce. This shift informs the core mission of our academy. We’re driven by the belief that talent can come from anywhere, that with the right opportunity that talent can thrive, and in the right environment that talent can acquire the tools and skills to be workplace ready.
In addition to being a ladder towards developing professionals across fields, education should also be about preparing young people for the workplace, not just an exam. It should be about equipping young people to be productive. Passing or failing, six distinctions or an E average, present a milestone moment but they don’t accurately mark a measurable preparedness for employment.
Back to the matric class of 2021: Those that performed exceptionally will likely expect a smooth ride into their careers. Those that did not get university exemption, or those who didn’t pass, will likely believe their future is bleak.
The reality is that life becomes deliberately more difficult for people who failed or did poorly in matric. These young people will make up the majority of those that just get lost in the unemployment statistics. It’s no surprise that we, or even the young people themselves, believe they’ve missed the chance for a better life. However, as more institutions like ours create accessible and sustainable pathways to meaningful employment, my hope is that more young people realise that they have options. Options even after failing matric. Options even after passing matric and still not being able to pursue a particular degree due to limited resources, and options even after they’ve made it into their degree and things didn’t work out half way through for whatever reason.
So, how do various stakeholders begin to shift this paradigm? How do we practically and systematically expand perspectives of competence without compromising its true definition?
Corporate leaders, recruiters and team leads can become intentional about opening up their sourcing pools to slowly test the theory that competence isn’t necessarily a particular qualification from a particular institution. We’ve worked with a number of organisations over the years that have been incorporating WeThinkCode_ students into their graduate programmes to see first-hand how they perform against their university peers.
Secondary schools, particularly those within underserved communities and even private schools that have bursary programmes to take in students from underserved communities, can begin to expose students to their options by presenting them with non-traditional pathways. We partner with various schools and youth development programmes to mobilise talented youth within previously underestimated groups.
Lastly, and most ambitiously, perhaps the government, legislature and accreditation bodies can review new pathways that enable high school leavers to move forward towards meaningful employment despite not having matric qualifications. Although our programme at WeThinkCode_ is open to anyone between the ages of 17 and 35 with or without a matric, those that do not have matric gain the same skills on the programme but do not necessarily have access to the same work opportunities after the programme. Because of not having a matric, we are unable to give them the formal accreditation that the programme offers.
Of course, a paradigm shift like this is not the sole preserve of the IT or coding industry. It can, and should, be applied across a broad spectrum of society. There’s a strong argument to be made that while milestones are important metrics and measurement tools, a more holistic approach to developing a preparedness for a productive life should underpin all education.
This mindset is about restoring dignity. We tend to be punitive and one dimensional about milestones such as examinations and prescribe a “you are worthy” or “you are not worthy” badge.
Adopting this alternative mindset in no way undervalues the importance of quality basic and tertiary education. It is about broadening the criteria we use to ascribe competence and deciding who deserves a chance. There are a host of environmental factors that may or may not have contributed to a learner’s performance in a single exam. Let’s congratulate the achievers, work to improve education in all its guises, and honour the principle that everyone deserves a chance to be prepared for a productive life.
Final speaker line-up for Moving to Mastery: Women in Tech and Digital Conference announcedMay 31, 2019 in Events
Useful & Beautiful and Women in Tech ZA today announced the final speaker line-up for the inaugural Women in Tech & Digital Conference – to be held on 12 June at the Belmont Square Conference Centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town.
The event, unusually, features an all-female speaker lineup, including:
- Comedian Mel Jones – MC and hostess
- Anna Collard – Popcorn Training – a KnowBe4 company, founder and MD – Female entrepreneurship in Cyber Security
- Aisha Pandor – SweepSouth co-founder and CEO – The journey from student/researcher to employee to entrepreneur and making the purpose-driven decision (as scary as it was!) to quit my job
- Birgitta Cederstrom – VP Commercial Brand & Demand MEA MD B Incorporate, Frost & Sullivan – Demystifying AI, Machine Learning and other Tech Buzzwords
- Barbara Mallinson – Obami founder and CEO – Oh, the lessons I’ve learned! My experiences as an entrepreneur in Africa
- Jacqui Mackway-Wilson – Go Social SA founder – How to get the best out of social media for your business
- Lorraine Steyn – KRS founder and CEO – Sustaining your leadership as an industry expert over the years – aka leading from the trenches
- Lynette Hundermark – U&B co-founder and CPO – Integrating the Silos of Tech and Digital to create purposeful solutions
The event also features two panel discussions. The first, to be chaired by Cathryn Reece, product owner at Property24, will cover wellness including sleep (and getting enough of it), stress, health/fitness, parenting and health trends/work wellness with sleep scientist Dr Dale Rae of the Sports Science Institute, LivFit founder Olivia du Plessis, and Business Insider editor Helena Wasserman.
The second will be chaired by Samantha Perry – Women in Tech ZA co-founder – and delve into technology in action, particularly AI, Blockchain and Machine Learning, with Celina Lee (Co-Founder & CEO at Zindi Africa), Debra Roodt (CCO, Xago), Genevieve Mannel (Head of IT at Cipla), and Emma Kaye (Founder and CEO of Bozza).
Event beneficiary Sisters Incorporated, a safe house for abused women and children, will present on its activities after lunch. The day will conclude with drinks and networking.
Tickets for the Cape Town event are on sale now for R2000. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://usefulandbeautiful.co.za/events/ to purchase. Ticket sales close on 5 June and limited seats are available.
With thanks to our sponsors Popcorn Training – a KnowBe4 company – and the Belmont Square Conference Centre, media partner ITWeb, without whom this event would not be possible, and our prize sponsors Rouge Day Spa, OneDayOnly, Hope Distillery, TRACE, Kaku, Wellness Warehouse and ELEMIS who will be helping us to treat our delegates to goodies and spot prizes on the day.
Contact: Samantha Perry, Women in Tech ZA, email@example.com
Press release: Moving to Mastery: Women in Tech and Digital Conference announcedMay 9, 2019 in Events
[9 May 2019] Cape Town – Useful & Beautiful and Women in Tech ZA today announced the inaugural Women in Tech & Digital Conference – to be held on 12 June at the Belmont Square Conference Centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town. Featuring an all-female speaker line-up, the event is targeted at men and women already active in the technology and digital spaces and seeking to master the skills they have.
Says Useful & Beautiful founder and CEO Lynette Hundermark: “Tech and digital marketing are often seen as discrete sectors and part of what the event aims to do is bring them closer together – in discussion and in practise thereafter. We also want to touch on more complex topics like how to retain women in the sector and creative ways we can accommodate their responsibilities and roles outside the workplace, that often cause them to drop out of tech once they get married or have children, for example.”
The event will showcase a range of topics including Entrepreneurship at any age, Demystifying AI and other tech trends, Creating purposeful solutions, Advanced digital marketing and Self-care.
“This event is tailored to showcase the high degree of skills and expertise we have in the tech sector, and specifically among women in tech, who are very under-represented at events as speakers and delegates. That said, and while the name and content are tailored to women delegates, we want to make it clear the conference is for everyone,” says Women in Tech ZA co-founder Samantha Perry. “Bridging the gender divide in tech requires an inclusive approach and a joint effort from everyone in the sector.”
The speaker lineup so far includes:
Anna Collard – Popcorn Training – a Knowb4 company, founder and MD
Aisha Pandor – SweepSouth co-founder and CEO
Birgitta Cederstrom – Frost & Sullivan Global Commercial Director, Growth, Innovation and Leadership
Barbara Mallinson – Obami founder and CEO
Jacqui Mackway-Wilson – Go Social SA founder
Lorraine Steyn – KRS founder and CEO
Lynette Hundermark – U&B co-founder
Samantha Perry – Women in Tech ZA co-founder
As part of U&B and Women in Tech ZA’s commitment to giving back, the event beneficiary will be Sisters Incorporated, a safe house for abused women and children. All delegates will be asked to bring a donation of a toy, item of clothing, or a handbag to the event and will have a chance to hear more about the organisation.
Hundermark says plans are in place to bring the event to Johannesburg later in the year. Tickets for the Cape Town event are on sale now at an early-bird rate of R1750 (full rate R2000). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://usefulandbeautiful.co.za/events/ to purchase.
With thanks to our sponsors Popcorn Training – a Knowb4 company and the Belmont Square Conference Centre, media partner ITWeb, without whom this event would not be possible.
Contact: Samantha Perry, Women in Tech ZA, email@example.com/0834145586for more information
About Useful and Beautiful
Useful & Beautiful is a fast-growing mobile solutions consultancy, with a specialist focus on user experience and design, mobile technology and product development. Service offerings encompass mobile strategy, design and development with the aim of supporting business goals and integrated customer experiences with the unique qualities that mobile has to offer. Built on 20 years of experience in the mobile and digital space, Useful & Beautiful is passionate about leveraging the latest mobile technology solutions to map out intuitive and seamless user experiences that drive sustainable business value and results. For more info, visit www.usefulandbeautiful.co.za
About Women in Tech ZA
Women in Tech ZA is an initiative that aims to help address the gender gap in the ICT sector through showcasing women in the sector on the WiTZA website, providing a platform where technology companies can find women to hire, doing advocacy and outreach through events and speaking at conferences, and changing the image of the tech sector by showing the world the diverse faces of ICT.
Recently, hundreds of women involved in technology came from all over Africa for the Women in Tech Africa Summit.
Attendees of this unique event immersed themselves in specialist lead talks, paneled discussions, and action-oriented workshops, all centered around female empowerment and technological innovation.
Setting the stage was Haidi Nossair, Marketing director at Dell Technologies for Middle East, Turkey and Africa.
Haidi Nossair did not study technology – she graduated in languages and fell into the tech world by chance. She spoke about her journey as a woman rising to the top echelons at Dell Technologies saying:
“You really have two options in life. You choose where you are going or, if you land somewhere, you choose what will happen”.
Haidi Nossair discussed ways to develop your talent, build a network, let others know what you want and the importance of being a role model even when you think no one is looking.
“Speak about what you’re good at. Promote your talents and your brand. Hard work isn’t always appreciated – perception counts as well.”
Nossair also touched on the economic imperative to bring women into higher paid roles across industry stating: “Diversity is not nice to have. It’s a business imperative,” adding that if by 2030 women had equal levels of employment as those of men, the global economy could gain $5.3 trillion.
Mavis Ampah, CEO of Stinsad Consult and previously Lead ICT Policy Specialist for The World Bank shared an astonishingly good talk titled:
‘Upskilling fast to identify your path to seniority – 5 career lessons from a badass’.
She introduced herself and laughed on stage while she said that someone else had titled her talk and now she had to talk about being a “badass” to which she quipped nonchalantly “whatever that means”.
Mavis Ampah is so impressive whilst being so casual and down to earth that I was immediately awestruck.
Mavis Ampah has worked for The World Bank, transformed the telecommunications industry in Ghana and even had a hand in the project for laying the undersea cables that carry the internet.
Imparted wisdom included advising the audience to work on small projects with quick turnaround times stating that “the right visibility can be critical to getting a promotion”.
Other lessons included finding projects that expose you to the boss, the importance of learning to prepare great presentations and to state your issues confidently.
She encouraged attendees by saying:
“Say no with justification – you’ll gain respect. Ask for help with justification – you’ll be appreciated.”
Another valuable topic Ampah touched on is to claim and document your success, she then went on to discuss the value of having a mentor for motivation, training and guidance.
Mavis Ampah reminded us to embrace failure with dignity, explaining that failure should be seen as a path to gain resilience and that we need to adapt, learn and draw lessons from our experiences.
Her closing note was to be brave, telling the audience that “the best opportunities come when you demonstrate courage”.
The event was hosted at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town, South Africa on the 18th and 19th of March 2019.
By far the most impressive aspect of the Women in Tech Africa summit was the exhaustive list of exceptional female leaders from all over Africa who spoke.
The panels and speakers included a range of executives with roles such as VP of engineering, CTO, CEO, Strategic Growth Director, Chief information officer, Head of Global Business Services and more.
Topics ranged from cloud optimisation and getting into data science to practical advice such as how to present technology principles to a non-technical audience.
Getting exposure to tech giants
There were two tracks within the conference: one track of workshops and a ’speakers corner’ venue to meet the speakers, integrating attendees, speakers and sponsors to discuss career opportunities and field questions.
The major themes of the event were around diversity and inclusion, addressing the digital divide, skills development and using tech to drive economic development.
We know that addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop. Women are increasingly a bigger part of the workforce, but there are still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles.
The Women in Tech Africa summit was an opportunity to hear how tech companies engage in social upliftment and addressing these concerns.
Through Tricia Smyth, EMEA Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Dell and Vice President of Client Solutions David Brooke’s workshop on diversity – I learned of several strategies employed by Dell.
One such program was called Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) which helps men understand unconscious bias, insider/outsider dynamics and gender role conditioning.
Their focus includes flexible hours, education, mentorship and a promotion pipeline that puts women forward. They hold management accountable, saying that this action must start with a definite stance and plan from management. Dell also has a ‘Re-entry’ program which brings women back into the workforce after a career break.
When given an opportunity to interview Haidi Nossair for this article, we spoke about the challenges of diversity in tech and she stated that
“The key challenge is unconscious bias.”
Nossair explained further saying “there is a common perception that certain technology jobs are too difficult for women or because those women look after families that they will not have the time or commitment to cover certain technology roles.”
Going on to detail how bias extends into hiring practices she said “The technology industry is historically led by men, the number of men in the workforce are quite a bit higher than the women in the workforce and then when people are hiring they people nominate and recommend people they know – but they don’t know women.”
Nossair stated “Men need to have more visibility of women in the industry” and stressed that both sides need to engage adding that “Women need to make themselves more visible and to promote their work and their skill set.”
Speculating about causes of women holding themselves back she mentioned: “Either we are not making ourselves visible or we are not promoting the great work we are doing or we are not raising our hands to go after the jobs we want because we don’t feel ready.”
When aiming to satisfy the need for technical skills in the industry Nossair said “I hear a lot that we don’t find the skill sets in the market but that’s the pressure that is placed on the talent acquisition, to actually go out and find those skills to help the organisation and hiring managers make the decisions and not use that as an excuse.”
Her closing remarks were related to her enthusiasm for an IoT agriculture venture and the impact of technology on business use cases saying
“The potential is immense, I am more excited about technology than ever before”.
The first day of the event closed with an opportunity to network and share a drink with new friends and other attendees.
The second day closed with a heartfelt keynote from Asha Patel, Head of Marketing at Google South Africa.
Patel tied in many relevant themes and shared her perspective on the challenges of growing up as a woman of colour in South Africa and being a mother whilst being career driven.
Hearing stories like hers is transformational for the Women in Tech community throughout Africa. Inspiration and role models are needed by all of us to have a greater vision for our future.
A huge thank you to the organisers – Maddox Events – and to all the attendees and speakers who made it so wonderful. Thanks to Haidi Nossair who kindly gave her time to be interviewed for this Women in Tech ZA article.
Written by Whitney Tennant, 8th April 2019
Whitney Tennant is Engineering Manager at VIPERdev – a software development startup based in Hamburg, Germany. She works remotely, loves tech, art, raspberries and playing soccer. You can find her on the internet with the handle @whits_ftw