by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – IT remains to be seen if South Africa’s professed Silicon Valley will address the gender inequalities in the country.
The continent’s most industrialised, technologically advanced and diversified economy is celebrating National Women’s Month (August) amid a large skills gap with an even larger disparity when it comes to women.
Females account for only 13 percent of South African graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and hold a mere 23 percent of tech jobs.
Recent reports indicate that South Africa is establishing its own Silicon Valley.
Some global technology giants like Amazon and Panasonic are increasingly opting to set up headquarters in the country.
As local start-ups hire as a result of growth, many career opportunities in the tech space are becoming available to South Africans.
Industry experts noted however the country is still faced with a large skills gap with an even larger disparity when it comes to women.
Riaz Moola, Chief Executive Officer of HyperionDev, Southern Africa’s largest tech education provider, said with women and their employment opportunities being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, STEM offers a way for them to almost crisis-proof their careers.
“Nowadays, it is much easier for women to pursue careers in tech with the growth of online bootcamps making studying more accessible,” Moola said.
Moola said this was enhanced by the availability of part time courses and the ability to learn remotely.
This is along with the provision of mentorship and one-on-one sessions to help students to be job-ready by the time they complete their studies.
HyperionDev has raised over R60 million from over 800 investors globally to fast-track affordable education across Africa.
This is through strategic partnerships with The University of Edinburgh, University of South Africa (UNISA) and the University of Cape Town.
There are plans in place to secure partnerships with ten of the world’s top 50 universities to collaborate on bootcamps across the globe by the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, Chanelle Bosiger experienced the fallout from the pandemic first-hand.
In April 2020 she lost her job as an e-commerce sales manager at an online retailer.
Bosiger has since regained employment as a junior software engineer but points out that women are severely lacking in her field.
“As a woman, I wonder why this is still the case when tech is a field for everyone,” she said.
Moola noted also that not only are the number of STEM jobs growing at a faster rate than other occupations but these jobs continue ranking higher on the pay scale.
This motivated Amy Marais’ decision to further her tech skills.
“I knew I needed to be in a field where the demand for work was high and ever-growing,” she said.
Prior to completing a full stack web developer bootcamp, Marais was a student and part-time sales consultant. She is now on her way to becoming a software developer.
Busisiwe Ngubane-Webster’s decision to upskill herself from accountant to data analyst was also based on fears of unemployment.
Despite being skilled and capable, she felt that the job market in her industry was overly saturated and competitive.
In conclusion, Moola noted President Cyril Ramaphosa had set South Africa a goal of being “a nation that has fully harnessed the potential of technological innovation to grow our economy and to uplift our people” by 2030.
“If the country is to attain this, we not only need to close the digital skills gap but the gender gap within it too,” Moola concluded.
– CAJ News