While Women’s Month presents a chance to reflect and celebrate the role of women in South Africa, there needs to be ongoing focus on empowering female entrepreneurs to drive real change in equality.
This is according to Tashline Jooste, Chief Executive Officer at the Innovator Trust, who says female involvement in the ICT sector is a particular area in need of attention.
“Let us take time this month to celebrate the achievements that women in our country have made while remembering that inclusivity in our economy is a process that needs ongoing focus. This is especially true in the ICT sector which has the potential to fuel economic growth and employment in South Africa, but only when the workforce is representative of the broader population,” says Jooste. The skills gap in the South African ICT sector is hampering the country’s ability to compete at a level that will address the burdens of poverty and unemployment. This is according to the 2016 Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) ICT Skills Survey, which was published on 19 July, 2016.
Furthermore, the JCSE said that the fact that only 21% of respondents in their survey were women was “of concern” from the perspective of South Africa’s pursuit of gender equality, especially since this figure was largely unchanged over the past few years. Jooste says that the Innovator Trust was established to empower and upskill owners of Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs), particularly women and black entrepreneurs in the ICT sector.
“We believe that through innovative development programmes and mentorship we can assist in the development of SMMEs and contribute significantly to the growth of the ICT sector as a whole,” Jooste says. Yashmita Bhana, Managing Director of Nihka Consulting and a beneficiary of the Innovator Trust believes that education is key in presenting ICT as a viable career path for women.
“In order to increase female participation in the ICT sector, we need to encourage girls to study ICT subjects, such as science and mathematics, from primary school level to empower them with the skills to successfully enter this field after school,” says Bhana. Jooste concludes, “The Innovator Trust will continue to help create the female ICT leaders of the future through our tailored development programmes which provide training, mentorship, networking and infrastructure support.”