Getting the gender balance right

The IT sector has long been called out for its gender imbalance. However, a changing workforce – increasingly demanding equality in all things – is shifting the dial.

Johannesburg, 15 Aug 2023
Farrah Engelbrecht, Senior Specialist and Key Account Manager, Altron Managed Solutions.
Farrah Engelbrecht, Senior Specialist and Key Account Manager, Altron Managed Solutions.

Despite the many strides that have been made in promoting equality in the workplace, women still face many barriers in the business world, especially in the IT arena. This is even true of IT sales, where men tend to dominate the positions, making this yet another area that needs to be urgently addressed.

Farrah Engelbrecht, Senior Specialist and Key Account Manager at Altron Managed Solutions, notes that statistically, there is a stark disparity in the representation of women in this space, with men particularly dominating the leadership positions.

“This is why it remains important to inspire future female leaders at an early age, through IT awareness and promotional campaigns. It is imperative that girls receive early exposure to the potential careers that spin out of a strong knowledge of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields, in order to encourage them to study these subjects from the outset,” she says.

“Championing gender equality in the workplace is equally critical, in order to ensure those girls studying STEM subjects have equal opportunities when they reach the workplace. At Altron, for example, our company leadership and HR department play a pivotal role in promoting gender equality, by investing in the equal development and training of women and men, and by encouraging transparent recruitment practices.”

Engelbrecht adds that it is really a two-way street when it comes to driving gender equality within a business. It is critical that it is driven in a top-down approach by management, but it must also be driven from the bottom up. And it is worth noting that those organisations that do create a safe environment to drive gender equality forward are seen by those entering the workforce as progressive companies to work for.

“This is something that organisations should also be aware of – the Millennial generation is eager to work for businesses that have similar values to themselves, therefore, they seek out organisations that provide diverse representation too. 

"Moreover, with social media platforms, potential employees have multiple avenues to check out which companies are considered progressive, while it allows female candidates to reach out to women already employed in the industry for advice.

“In my opinion, there are multiple reasons why women are a good fit for an IT sales role, not the least of which is that they are renowned for their ability to multi-task. In a sector with such rapidly evolving technology, the ability to juggle multiple balls at once is critical, and this is something most women are used to doing in their daily lives already.”

Communication is another quality that is very important in a sales environment, she suggests, and is something women generally excel at. She suggests they have a tendency to listen more closely too – something that is a key talent in any salesperson’s ‘toolbox’. Clearly, adds Engelbrecht, embracing diversity in your sales team will improve creativity, allow for different ways of thinking, and add a new dynamic to the team.

“Women are also known to be empathetic, and empathy is a massive ability to leverage. If you can place yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can understand them and their needs better, enabling you to more easily build long-term, successful partnerships.

“The other key element for successfully improving your gender diversity in a company is mentorship. Such programmes are non-negotiable in my view, as being mentored by someone with similar traits and values makes it easier to adapt to an organisation. Beyond mentorship, self-studies and continuous learning should also be encouraged, along with personal growth workshops.”

This actually matches Engelbrecht’s own life motto, which aims for ‘continuous improvement’. She states this should encompass your values and personal growth, and should be about continuously expanding your knowledge – and not only in your specific area of business. Learning additional skills adds new strings to your bow. This is good advice for women, as it seems to be the case for many who join the IT industry, that they have to work twice as hard, in order to be viewed as half as good.

“However, despite current disparities, I feel the gender gap is rapidly closing, and it is my hope that this will happen sooner, rather than later. After all, when one looks at the recent leaps and bounds that have already occurred in respect of gender equality, and with the Millennials now entering the workforce with new skills, knowledge and attitudes, I think the change will continue to speed up.

“Ultimately, we want an IT industry where everyone is judged on merit, rather than on their gender, and the youth of today are increasingly demanding equality in all things, so I feel this will only help to accelerate the pace of change,” she concludes.