New technology is providing Africa with a tremendous opportunity to advance ahead of many countries that remain encumbered by legacy technology. However, slow progress in expanding the number of women leaders in the field of technology is holding back this advancement.
Women comprise 55% of the country's entire workforce, yet only 20% of ICT professionals are women .
“We cannot miss this opportunity to grow this market, or be too slow to close the gender gap. It is crucial that the gateway to innovation and change is opened, and the levels of equality in the world of technology are improved,” says Jayshree Naidoo Head- Standard Bank Incubator from Standard Bank.
Innovation as a key practice for entrepreneurs needs to be instilled and, in this regard, Standard Bank and co-sponsor Liberty are launching a Women in Technology Conference to address challenges faced in the industry. This is the culmination of various initiatives such as the first ever Standard Bank Female Hackathon and a 3 months women in technology accelerator launched earlier this year to support and develop women in the technology sector. The conference will also include a showcase for the women entrepreneurs to get access to market opportunities.
We want to encourage women entrepreneurs to collaborate in order to ignite innovation that will move South African women, and thus South Africa, forward. This starts by acknowledging and assisting female-owned enterprises and business achievements, as women still face many obstacles in business and in the workplace.
The rise of women in technology is seen as being crucial to the success of the continent as a whole.
“This conference hopes to make a difference by providing a platform for women in technology and those aspiring to enter this field to meet, engage and exchange ideas and experiences,” says Nicole Borges- Head of IT Investments CIB from Standard Bank.
The conference will have panel discussions and keynote speakers addressing how access to market opportunities can be created. This event will also address how women in technology continue to innovate and can advance in the workplace.
The World Economic Forum's Annual Gender Gap Report shows slow progress and minimal change in many countries worldwide; it estimates gender parity globally may now be over 170 years away. Previously, they estimated an 80-year timeframe, then it was 120 years.
Yet, according to a recent report published under the auspices of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, strengthening women’s participation in the ICT sector is important for three reasons: first, increasing employment opportunities for women enhances gender equality, which is fundamental to human rights and dignity. Second, empowering women leads to benefits for their children and communities. Third, bridging the gender gap in ICT jobs can help address the mismatch between the supply and demand for jobs in emerging countries.
Meanwhile, smartphone penetration in Africa opens the door to a new vista of opportunities that entrepreneurs need to embrace. Every entrepreneur has the power to access global markets and build their brands with a minimal budget.
“Innovation, leading to new forms of technology, has opened up opportunities for women in Africa. It is up to us to grasp those opportunities, and we hope this conference will assist in closing gender gaps and inspiring women entrepreneurs to drive change through technology,” says Jayshree Naidoo Head Standard Bank Incubator .
The Women in Technology Conference takes place on 19 October at Protea Hotel, Melrose Arch.