Challenges faced by women in ICT

Phakiso Lerato Mataitsane, Founder and CEO Pax Divitiae.

Johannesburg, 30 Aug 2021
Phakiso Lerato Mataitsane, Founder and CEO, Pax Divitiae
Phakiso Lerato Mataitsane, Founder and CEO, Pax Divitiae

August is significant for us as South Africans, as we dedicate the whole month to women and all our messaging focuses on women. The question of what value this brings, and changes sustained in the lives of women after focusing on them for a month, comes to mind. We dedicate a public holiday and an entire month to women to recognise the value they bring to society. One would expect that after 65 years – from 9 August 1956 – we would see a country completely transformed and with the real intention of changing the lives of women, not just lip service.

On the contrary, it is just talk when it comes to South Africa. The numbers speak differently, as well as the violence that happens this month particularly against women.

We need to follow examples of the likes of Rwanda: 60%-70% of the population are women; this, after the genocide that took between 600 000 and 1 million lives. The country, through the strong leadership of Paul Kagame, not only implemented policies, but also acted on them. Rwanda currently has 48% of the seats in parliament reserved for women and the next election is aiming at 64% representation of women in parliament. This is not limited to politics – we can clearly see the growth of the country as it becomes the star of East Africa, with fewer resources than most countries.

Let’s compare this to our government and its female ministers to see if the number of women who have been empowered or promoted in various portfolios during their time (or at present) measures up. We even have a ministry for women in the country, yet we are still dealing with inequalities against women. Is it talk or just lack of action? We had a female minister in ICT who delivered how much transformation for women in ICT?

We are privileged to now have a young, amazingly vibrant minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who has an ICT background from SITA, and our hopes for change fall to her. We can only hope that she uses this platform on her journey to do things differently, with engagement and the skills obtained as she acted as minister in the presidency. This means she knows the three key objectives for the president, namely:

  • Employment particularly for youth;
  • The eradication of poverty; and
  • Equal opportunities for all.

Her experience has also informed her knowledge of the challenges faced by small businesses all over the country during her term as minister of small business.

Given the move to digital, the time is ripe not to follow the norm, and make a sustainable impact for the youth and women that will last beyond her time – she is our hope. The new gold has become data and Ntshavheni sits at the helm of this strategic portfolio to drive the changes that could shape the future of this field.

In ICT, we have a serious lack of female representation, from development to executive positions, where we honour a few and say that they are the “first female for…” We cannot be proud of saying that after all this time – we need to change the trajectory by ensuring we give opportunities to more women. This will ensure that at the end of the funnel, there are tons of leaders who are predominantly women and who can take on the executive roles.

With our unemployment rate now sitting at 41% (including people who have stopped looking for jobs and the ones still looking for jobs at a staggering 34%), we need to ask ourselves what it is we can do to change this effectively. The highest percentage of unemployed people in South Africa are women and youth.

“According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey of the 2nd quarter of 2021, the South African labour market is more favourable to men than it is to women. Men are more likely to be in paid employment than women regardless of race, while women are more likely than men to be doing unpaid work. The proportion of men in employment is higher than that of women; more men than women are participating in the labour market as the labour force participation rate of men is higher than that of women; and the unemployment rate among men is lower than among women. The rate of unemployment among women was 36.8% in the 2nd quarter of 2021 compared to 32.4% among men, according to the official definition of unemployment. The unemployment rate among black African women was 41.0% during this period compared to 8.2% among white women, 22.4% among Indian/Asian women and 29.9% among coloured women.”

With these statistics on hand, we as leaders need to have a drive to make sure that opportunities are given to women and youth as well as provide them with a safe platform for them to shine. It is quite alarming that the African women percentage is at 41% when we have policies in place for women empowerment. Is it lack of will or implementation?

The acceleration of digitisation through COVID-19 should be used as a platform to ensure that we increase the number of women in ICT, now that some of the barriers have been removed given the work-from-home policies. There is rarely a need to be office bound, with this in mind. Let’s create an atmosphere for women to work and feel safe in an environment that supports their needs. How many jobs can we create in ICT now with cloud opportunities and the ability for people to work from anywhere in the world and service everyone?

I personally ask the following questions sometimes, to most leaders who run teams of mainly men: “Do you have a daughter? Who will hire them once they complete their studies if you are not employing women now?”

The youth unemployment rate has also increased to 78%, which is sad. One thinks back to Youth Month as people were celebrating in June but did nothing to change this scale. Let’s implement the changes with intent rather than just for a tick in the affirmative action box as it affects us directly.

We as Pax Divitiae are currently at 70% women employed and we intend to keep the numbers at that level, never falling below 60%. We will be hiring an additional four to six women within the months of August and September combined. We consistently seek opportunities to transform lives and make a meaningful impact with our customers and the communities where we operate. This group of young women will be given opportunities in different facets of our advisory and niche solutions business with leading decision-making roles. Even with a few customers or opportunities, you can make an impact at some scale.

Also, we have made a commitment to support women businesses by partnering with them on several of our business requirements like finance for CFO in a box with Rudkor and human resource management with Recruitment Genie. We are who we are because of women… Society would not exist without women.

Let us make an impact together. Contact us for our services that directly give women opportunities as well.