Innovation through diversity: Empowering women in the SA tech sector

By Mia Odendaal, Marketing Manager at Ecentric Payment Systems

In South Africa’s tech industry, significant strides have been made in recent years to drive innovation through diversity. However, the journey towards cultivating a truly inclusive and supportive environment for women is far from complete. Despite this progress, a pressing need exists for further advancements in creating a welcoming space that empowers and embraces women in our tech industry.

While some women may lack the confidence that they can compete with their male counterparts, one should not forget the role that unconscious bias plays in how boys and girls are introduced to the tech industry from a young age. The former might be given opportunities to attend technology classes while the latter is often pigeon-holed into arts and cultural pursuits.

At the recent 2023 UN’s sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, industry leaders shed light on the vital role of women and girls in driving digital technology, innovation, and their active involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This increased participation not only holds significant economic implications for countries worldwide but also plays a pivotal role in fostering global sustainability and transition towards a more inclusive future.

Yes, having a diverse workforce is a moral imperative, but it also becomes a business enabler that can drive productivity and organisational growth. Those companies who have diverse teams in place benefit from different viewpoints on everything from problem-solving and product development to innovation. This gives them a platform to create products and services that cater for a more diverse customer base.

Different views

Women bring with them a unique perspective that can enhance how technology businesses enable competitive advantage. The diversity of thought and skills that females bring into the workforce contribute to higher profitability and result in fostering a successful and thriving business environment.

Women constitute a considerable portion of the workforce, not only in South Africa but the world. The technology industry can benefit from this untapped potential by embracing a diverse talent pool. Unfortunately, historical trends and biases make technology and computer science less appealing or accessible to many women.

However, the landscape is gradually changing, with more top female leaders making their mark in the technology space. It is essential for women to champion their skills, advocate for themselves, and gain the confidence to thrive even in the minority. This shift requires the active exposure of girls and women to the breadth of opportunities within the sector that go beyond the realms of software development.

Change starts from within

For instance, Ecentric has embraced the creation of a more diverse workforce. From only a handful of female employees seven years ago, the company has focused on promoting the growth of a female workforce. This has seen an influx of female talent. In the past two years alone, female recruits have doubled. Having a more representative workforce has enabled the company to drive innovation, business growth, and create a more inclusive environment.

But it is about more than just appointing female employees. Companies must also create an environment where women feel valued, empowered, and accommodated. For example, businesses should provide flexibility to everyone in the organisation who want to maintain a better work life balance. This is especially important for women who are caregivers at home. By offering this flexibility, businesses can help their female team members get a sense of belonging without feeling discriminated against for wanting to raise their families. Ecentric has been dedicated to promoting career growth while providing equal opportunities for advancement and rewarding exceptional performance.

Providing perspective of potential

Attracting and retaining female professionals begins with visibility. Women must realise that they are seen and heard within a business and recognised for the contributions they make. This helps create a sense of belonging, especially in a male-dominated industry like technology, that can foster a work environment where female team members feel valued and are motivated to excel.

It needs to extend to companies making sure they have senior female role models. Showcasing successful female leaders who can also act as mentors to new recruits or junior staff become critical for growth. In this way, women starting out at the organisation can see for themselves that there are opportunities to grow within the business.

In today’s modern, digitally-driven market, it has become imperative for companies to embrace gender diversity. Having more women in the technology sector goes beyond equality. It is also about providing the means for businesses to innovate faster and develop solutions that cater for a broader market.