In support of Women's Month: the fairer side of access control and technology
According to statistics released by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa, women make up more than half of South Africa's entire workforce, but only 20% of them are in the ICT sector in comparison to the 56% representation globally.
Admittedly, the ICT industry in South Africa is changing to appeal to more women, a fact that can be attributed to an increase in the number of female executives taking on more senior positions. And even though the surge of local women-led start-ups and mentoring initiatives aimed at introducing schoolgirls to the exciting world of technology, in turn, resulting in approximately 68% of young South African women enrolling in ICT-related courses at tertiary institutions, progress is still slow.
Powell Tronics boasts a 40% female representation within the company, from logistics and accounts, admin, sales, technical support to half the senior management team. Although Powell Tronics is a fairly young company by industry standards, recently celebrating its eighth anniversary, most of its staff members have worked in the access and security trade for over a decade, and can attest to the slow but steady increase of women in the field.
Zulmira Ferraz, technical manager at Powell Tronics, says a number of global and local initiatives are set to change the ratio of men to women in the technology sector. One such effort is the Cape Town-based Code 4 CT (http://code4ct.com/), which, among other facilities, hosts workshops for schoolgirls in which they are taught the design and development of an application, presentation and marketing skills, and are then offered the opportunity to present their product to prospective investors and corporations.
WomeninTechZA (www.womenintech.co.za) and GirlHype (http://girlhype.co.za), whose slogan is: "Providing fun, hands-on opportunities for girls and women to get engaged with technology", are two other South African initiatives actively empowering girls and youth, with the technical competencies and social skills needed to thrive in the ICT sector.
On the global front, international technology firm Cisco has, over the past five years, been actively involved with the annual International Girls in ICT Day. Each year, girls between the ages of 15 and 20 (Grades 9 to 12) are invited to spend the day at various Cisco offices. Throughout the day, the girls gain first-hand experience of what life is like in an IT environment, while meeting and talking to some of Cisco's successful senior female staff members about the challenges and rewards of working in a typically male-dominated industry. More than 80 Cisco offices participated in International Girls in ICT Day this year, impacting more than 3 000 girls in 50 countries. (source: http://www.cisco.com/c/en_za/about/press-releases-south-africa/archive-2015/why-tech-needs-female-perspective.html)
On the ground, social networking events are being regularly held throughout the country, to bring together women already working in the technology field to share their experiences and challenges, and to document and feed these back into the market using Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/845235035620680/ (Women In Tech CPT)) and other social media outlets, blogs and Web sites as a platform to publish report-backs and findings.
Because the world of technology in security is ever-changing, the Powell Tronics team feels product knowledge is key to being successful in the security industry. Therefore, there is the motivation to keep up to date with current product trends, and a willingness to continuously learn and apply this information is critical. Forming and maintaining relationships with clients and suppliers is also important for those pursuing a sales career in the technology sector.
In the spirit of community empowerment, the female Powell Tronics employees will be joining the mentor movement in the next few months.