Only 23% of tech jobs are held by women in South Africa – out of 236 000 ICT (tech) roles, women occupy 56 000 of them, according to industry website WomenInTech.co.za. “As a sector, we need to hire women to improve diversity in the workplace (and it’s been proven that higher diversity equals higher productivity and profit). But we cannot find women with the required skills, and we cannot attract young women to the sector because when they look at conferences, in the media and inside technology companies, they mainly see men (who they can’t relate to), doing what they perceive to be ‘boring’ jobs,” explains Samantha Perry, the organisation’s co-founder.
A PWC report on Women in Tech globally claims women currently hold 19% of tech-related jobs at the top 10 global tech companies, relative to men who hold 81%. In leadership positions at these global tech giants, women make up 28%, with men representing 72%.
In 2020, however, it appears diversity and inclusion will transition from a buzzword into an expectation. The upcoming ‘Women in Tech Summit’ to be held in South Africa has attracted the world’s biggest brands and expects 100 speakers to inspire 1200 delegates over two days.
“It requires awareness, action, and consistency,” explains Karen Nadasen, South African CEO of Naspers’ PayU, and recently appointed Chairperson of the Ecommerce Forum South Africa (EFSA). “We have to open our eyes and get involved because technology companies play a significant role in economic improvement. And women do too. We need to see a dramatic upgrade and do more for each other in our industries. There’s a well-known TED Talk by Pat Mitchell and she opens with the line, ‘dangerous times call for dangerous women and you can’t be dangerous from the sidelines’.”
Nadasen is fulfilling her promise of a seismic shift towards women in technology, and women in her community. She heads up diversity and inclusion for PayU across the continent and is an advocate and avid supporter of women in STEM. In her dual roles for EFSA and PayU, she has taken a clear stance that diversity and inclusion need to move beyond lip service and into meaningful action and impact. She cites six current initiatives which other companies can follow or learn from:
The Industry Body
“An industry body can be a powerful force when united and coordinated. In our industry, EFSA will play a significant role, and we have set up a working group, led by one of our Board members, Mpho Sekwele, to look at how we can push this agenda with government and with international bodies,” said Nadasen.
PayU reviewed initiatives within their organisation. With respect to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) they implemented a system that, if a female needs walking to public transport because she is working late, a male will accompany her to limit her exposure to vulnerable situations. They also implemented Krav Maga training, a military and self-training system used by the Israeli Defence Forces, for the women in their office.
Analysing recruitment diversity, Nadasen partnered with a leadership training academy to work on a 3-year plan to provide mentorship and funding to educate females in the technology sphere, so PayU could either hire them or have them ready for an alternative workplace. “We are very aware that, as a technology company, we can continue to run and find ourselves in a fortunate position. We are showing that we are not just transactional and robotic, but want to assist in our human capacity,” she adds.
PayU partnered with the Byan Habana Foundation’s’COVID-19 Food Drive’ and committed R250 000 to deliver highly nutritional food parcels to families of four each week, over the next six months – as well as processing all transactions (up to R1m per month) at no charge including covering all the banking charges. “Our team will then get actively involved, packing the parcels, and we will be taking them into a school in Khayelitsha for distribution.”
On a personal note
Personally, Nadasen works with Kgalema Motlanthe’s “AI in Africa” Technology Bootcamps, in which high school girls from different schools go through a ‘design thinking’ programme to empower them, with the winning team seeing their app professionally developed. The bootcamps have reached 30 000 learners from Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. She speaks at local Women In Technology events discussing unconscious bias, and is part of the upcoming Africa panel at the ‘Global Women In Tech’ event series.
Technology for aspiring entrepreneurs
Nadasen concludes, “The reason why PayU is particularly conscious on these issues is that we operate and lead the industry in emerging markets – Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and India, and Africa. They have all gone through turmoil and have these issues in these countries. We need to aware of the plight of these countries. Women also contribute to the informal trading sector, so we need to direct them to technology that may be able to support them via education or financing – products like the app Spoon Money, which supports female street vendors to boost their business using loans, as well as stokvel principles and practices. We have to open your eyes and get involved because technology companies play a significant role in economic improvement. And women do too. We need to see a dramatic upgrade and do more for each other in our industries. There’s a well-known TED Talk by Pat Mitchell and she opens with the line, dangerous times call for dangerous women and you can’t be dangerous from the sidelines.” Nadasen concludes.