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There are too few women in South Africa’s tech industry. There are also too few ethnically diverse employees in tech. The thriving and growing ICT industry, which is pegged to be worth $6.75 billion in 2022, contributing approximately 8% to the country’s GDP, has many opportunities to balance the scales of equality in hiring talent for its technology sector.
One of the biggest challenges that recruiters are facing in ensuring diversity is simply the lack of talent. Robyn Stainbank, Managing Consultant – Technology, Michael Page, Africa, says, “Traditionally, the technology space -- software development, in particular -- has been dominated by men, and it translates into the lack of women both in technical/specialized roles and in the senior and strategic roles. Diversity from an ethnicity perspective is lacking, too, with a wide skills gap between individuals from a previously disadvantaged background and those from an advantaged background.”
Industry website Women In Tech reports that women held only 23% of tech jobs in South Africa. The 2021 State of the Software Developer Nation report found these inequalities in the tech world. It hired 83% men and 14% women, the rest belonging to other genders including non-binary and genderqueer. 47% of the employees were white or of European descent, 35% were black and 6.5% were colored.
Robyn explains that women need to be educated about this space at a much younger age – at high school – so that they could opt to study computer science at university. Currently, for every 5 males who choose ICT subjects, 2 females choose it, says this PwC South Africa report. GirlCode, a coding club of South African girls, GirlsMakingTech (a British Council initiative), Coding Camps and ICT training for Young Girls in Africa, and Code4CT (Code For Cape Town), a community of young women tech leaders are examples of initiatives to encourage females to learn to code.
“In addition, companies could also consider training and mentorship programmes for women within their environment who may have the aptitude for more technical roles, to upskill them in a software development role,” Robyn adds.
Similarly, Robyn says that seasoned developers should be encouraged to offer training and mentorship programmes within companies to address the skills gap and to create a more diverse work environment. The good thing is that developers who enjoy this work don’t need much encouragement to take online courses or to stay abreast of the latest trends.
As the tech industry expands to every area of life, egged on by the pandemic-spurred work-from-anywhere lifestyle, cyber security has taken on an even more important dimension. In 2021, South Africa lost R48.15 million to data breach as cyber security continues to remain a challenge. Recruiting for the cyber security space is difficult, Robyn shares, because of the skills gap. The candidate pool is small, in general, and is even smaller when trying to ensure diversity.
“As a potential measure to combat the skills shortage, companies could consider their Network and Network Security resources, and invest in upskilling them. Companies should consider graduates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, introduce them to this field and upskill them. We should learn from the nations that are advanced in managing cyber security while considering mentorship programmes for junior resources,” says Robyn.
Women have been adding great value to this industry and finding success as some of them are leading in the Cyber Security space. While this is encouraging news, more needs to be done to ensure greater balance and equality in the tech space, in general, and cyber security, in particular.
D&I are globally relevant issues, and South Africa finds itself in a unique position to implement equal hiring opportunities and balance the scales in a growing industry where there is room for improvement and will. South Africa can show the world how it’s done. Find out how we at Michael Page can help you source the right talent for your IT team.
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