While the information and communication technology (ICT) industry is undoubtedly the most exciting and rapidly expanding industry, there is however still a marked lack in the presentation of females in this workforce.
According to Tashline Jooste, CEO of ICT enterprise development initiative, the Innovator Trust, this is particularly true for black females. "We identified this as a major shortfall within our local sector, and our primary goal is to empower and upskill our entrepreneurs," she explains. “The goal of this is to be a significant contributor to the growth of ICT sector through the successful development of small businesses through innovative development processes.”
Through her experience as an ICT industry SMME incubator, Jooste explains that some of the main challenges and barriers to entry for black, female-owned SMME's in this field are the scarcity of both technology and business resources and skills, as well as a lack of access to potential clients. “In some instances the stereotyping of women by organisations within a primarily male dominated industry present major hurdles for females, many are discouraged from endeavouring to find success in ICT due to a perceived lack of support.”
"With that being said, however, it is important to note that these gaps also present valuable and sustainable opportunities for black female ICT professionals and entrepreneurs," Jooste notes. "As this garners more attention and awareness among socially conscious business organisations, many companies have now begun to add more black and female owned companies to their preferred supplier lists. These businesses actively seek their services over those of more established service providers, in order to support the industry and make a meaningful social impact."
However, Jooste states that simply gaining access to markets is not enough to boost businesses and the industry at large. “Concrete business acumen, a sustainable and workable business model, as well as on-going skills development are crucial elements to the success of black female owned SMME’s in the ICT sector,” she explains. “Because of the high standards and strong demands of this industry, we have employed strict entry criteria to ensure the SMME’s we invest our resources and mentorship in are viable and have real profit potential.”
For many of the black women heading up SMME’s and entrepreneurs trying to break into the South African ICT market, gaining access to the required business skills and resources could mean an invaluable and crucial jump start into the industry. “We are passionate about creating successful and highly skilled black female business owners and entrepreneurs, and believe that by helping to create these role models, this passion and perseverance will spread - having a significant impact on the industry,” Jooste concludes.