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The underrepresentation of women in the South African technology sector is a problem that has for years begged the attention of government and the industry itself.
According to the Women In Tech ZA initiative, only 23% of tech jobs in South Africa are held by women. The Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on various sectors and the economy but has also been touted as the most effective catalyst for digital transformation, and the technology sector has reaped the rewards.
There is hope. According to Seugnet van den Berg, a founding partner at Bizmod, the technology sector is one of the sectors that can claim the least damage from the pressures of the last 18 months.
But there are several things that need to be done to close the gender gap in the industry.
Van den Berg says it starts with the recruiting process.
It is crucial that organisations recruit based on potential and performance, and not on gender. Therefore, selection practises should be designed to incorporate a portfolio or body of evidence.
Organisational policies also need to be reviewed, and reflect the change in the workforce demographic. Where necessary, policies need to be amended to attract more women.
The physical workplace and culture needs to be scrutinised to ensure that gender bias is removed and replaced with a gender-inclusive environment for all to thrive.
There are many benefits of a more balanced workforce. According to worldwide research, companies that employ women and utilise their competencies are 45% more likely to improve their market share and be more profitable.
Organisations that focus on gender equality and ensuring representation from women, tend to gain greater acceptance from stakeholders and communities.
Female representation increases the likelihood of other women accepting employment at an organisation.
With this, it also aids in finding suitable female mentors and makes it easier for women to navigate the organisation.
A lack of representation in the technology sector has an effect on how workplaces run and operate. If women don’t get involved in emerging technology, they will constantly find themselves captured in a world built by men and mostly to suit the needs of men.
The lack of representation affects the design of technology as well as how data is used.
“If technology like AI utilises a data set that is incomplete and representative of only a homogenous group, it is inherently biased. What remains is a view that represents the needs of only half the population, which is less than ideal,” said Van den berg.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE