SA firms invest in empowering future women leaders in tech

Read time 4min 20sec
LG and Forge Academy drive skills development in ICT.
LG and Forge Academy drive skills development in ICT.

LG South Africa, Huawei South Africa and coding organisation GirlCode are among the organisations that have committed to train more South African girls in skills related to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), to enable the next generation of future female leaders to enter the field.

With the world celebrating the 10 anniversary of International Girls in ICT Day yesterday, many organisations underlined the critical need for encouraging and empowering more women to join the ICT sector.

International Girls in ICT Day is an initiative of the International Telecommunication Union, where it works with partners, to build awareness about the gender digital divide, support technology education and skills training, and encourage more girls and young women to actively pursue careers in STEM.

Despite the rapid growth of technology companies in SA, only 23% of jobs in the ICT field were held by women in 2020, according to Women In Tech. Furthermore, women in the local ICT sector earn 20% to 25% less than their male counterparts – this reflects a gender gap that is also present globally.

Yesterday, LG announced a partnership with Forge Academy to promote career opportunities for young girls in the technology sector. By partnering with Forge Academy, LG says it will rollout sustainable programmes throughout the year to drive skills development among local girls and women.

Farzana Abdul, human resources and legal director at LG, says bridging the gender divide in the sector lies at the heart of the electronics company’s vision for the industry.

“Our corporate citizenship programmes are driven by partnerships between local community citizens and dedicated NGOs. Through this partnership with Forge Academy, LG will actively support more girls and women to become front-runners in the future of ICT, democratising access to technology in our country,” notes Abdul.

Forge Academy is a next-generation education facility that focuses on giving African students the skills they need to thrive in a digital age. These skills include augmented reality, robotics, app development and 3D printing – all of which offer unique career paths that will become increasingly important in a tech-driven future.

Opening up the sector

Huawei South Africa this week also reaffirmed its commitment to actively support more girls and women to take up careers in the ICT field. The Chinese multinational telecommunications giant said it is investing R7 million to support 48 girl students across five universities with bursaries in the field of ICT.

“Globally, women are still dramatically underrepresented in ICT,” says Christina Naidoo, COO of Huawei South Africa.

“Improving that representation means encouraging young women to study technology and stay in the field once they graduate. That’s why we try to ensure a significant number of our bursaries go to women and that they have the best possible shot at long, fulfilling careers in ICT when they graduate.”

In addition to funding students, Huawei has a number of educational initiatives to empower students that have already entered the field though the Huawei ICT Academy.

The company has committed to train 6 000 ICT students from universities and TVET colleges in technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G and cloud through partnerships with local universities.

Meanwhile, GirlCode, a non-profit organisation that's been creating nationwide networks of coding clubs since 2014, has set its sights on teaching 10 million girls to code in 10 years.

In addition to its partnership network, the organisation says it has partnered with companies like fibre provider Vuma and Amazon Web Services, to expose young women to the software industry, provide practical development experience and access to industry leaders.

“We’re excited to be working with GirlCode to empower even more young women and create a platform for them to explore the vast opportunities within the technology industry,” says Taylor Kwong, CSI manager at Vuma.

“The programme’s success is clear through the partnerships, volunteer drives and sponsorships that help GirlCode achieve its goal of reaching 10 million girls and achieving gender parity within the ICT sector.”

GirlCode, which initially started with an all-women hackathon, has over the years introduced more programmes, like the GirlCoder Club and Online Coding Bootcamp, to expose more girls to the world of tech and coding.

“Working at a tech company opened my eyes to the shortage of women in the ICT space. I realised that I had to do something about that,” says Zandile Mkwanazi, CEO of GirlCode andsocial responsibility / community award winner of the 2020IT Personality of the Year award.

“So, I decided to quit my job and focus my time and energy on creating an initiative to help bridge the gap that no one else was closing and create the next generation of female leaders in ICT.”

Zandile Mkwanazi, CEO of GirlCode.
Zandile Mkwanazi, CEO of GirlCode.

See also