All-female speaker line-up for tech, digital conference

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Samantha Perry and Lynette Hundermark are co-founders of the Women in Tech and Digital Conference.
Samantha Perry and Lynette Hundermark are co-founders of the Women in Tech and Digital Conference.

Useful & Beautiful and Women in Tech ZA have joined forces to host the inaugural Women in Tech and Digital Conference at the Belmont Square Conference Centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

Taking place on 12 June, the conference is targeted at men and women already active in the technology and digital spaces and seeking to master the skills they have.

Explaining the motivation to launch the event, Lynette Hundermark, Useful & Beautiful founder and CEO, says having been a speaker at many conferences over the years, she found it's still a majority male audience and male speaker line-up.

There are some amazing women doing great things, so why is it so hard for event organisers to find them, she asks.

"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."

Hundermark has been involved in the tech space for over 20 years, and describes herself as someone with a passion for developing digital products that are aligned to business goals.

She goes on to say that after winning several awards last year, lots of women reached out to her for mentorship opportunities, and asked about creating her own "female role model in tech" event.

Women in Tech ZA co-founder Samantha Perry says her organisation is involved in the conference because it believes there is a shortage of platforms that showcase the expertise and skills of women speakers in the ICT space. "We wanted to work with Useful & Beautiful to bring this to market."

Perry adds: "I'm hoping we will have a useful and fruitful exchange of ideas on the trends of the day, and issues and challenges facing the tech sector, including how to start tackling the diversity issue (and not just gender diversity) that still plagues the sector.

"We've been talking about this for five years as Women in Tech ZA, and the industry itself has been talking about it for longer. We're still nowhere close to bridging the gap and it's time to start looking at new ways of addressing it."

Hundermark hopes the conference will promote collaboration. "I'm hoping future event organisers going forward can see there are so many great women that lead by experience, whom they can include in their agendas going forward.

"We all know there is a gender and diversity problem in tech, and the big question is: what are people doing about it? I hope this conference opens conversations about working towards a solution or taking action, even if it's little steps to address it. I always say slow progress is progress."

While the organisers plan to announce more conference speakers in the next week, the line-up so far includes Anna Collard, founder and MD of Popcorn Training - a Knowb4 company; Aisha Pandor, SweepSouth co-founder and CEO; Birgitta Cederstrom, Frost & Sullivan global commercial director for growth, innovation and leadership; Barbara Mallinson, Obami founder and CEO; Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, Go Social SA founder; and Lorraine Steyn, KRS founder and CEO.

Hundermark and Perry are also among the speakers.

According to Hundermark, there are plans to bring the event to Johannesburg later in the year.

The conference is not a women in tech conference per se, Perry points out. "It's a tech conference with an all-female line-up because if you go to any other tech conference, the speaker line-up is mainly men and mainly white. We find it frustrating when we raise this and the organisers say they can't find speakers. Well, here you go. We found them. And we're doing the same with new speakers for Johannesburg.

"The conference itself addresses issues relevant to everyone in digital and in tech, and we hope to have as diverse an audience as possible to ensure we have engaging discussions which bring a wide variety of views and expertise to bear."

For further information, contact monique@usefulandbeautiful.co.za or visit http://usefulandbeautiful.co.za/events/.

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