The dire shortage of specific industry skills and the growing demand for these talents mean that the industry has the opportunity to meet the capacity gap by encouraging more women to join the ICT sector. This is the view of Portia Thokoane, Chief Human Capital Officer at DFA, who suggests that giving opportunities to women will mean that there are more skills available to close the deficit.
‘Despite the progress made in terms of including more women in the sector, it is still viewed as a predominantly male industry. We need to inspire girls from a young age to consider a career in ICT by encouraging them to select STEM subjects and to shift the general, gender-based perceptions about a career in this field,’ she says.
‘It is important that ICT be seen – and showcased – as an area where women can be successful,’ she adds. Doing this will further bolster efforts to attract women into the field, as young women and girls will have more role models to emulate. She says that having more women in ICT enhances diversity, which, in turn, leads to different approaches to ways of thinking about problem-solving, innovation and other important aspects that contribute to the company and the industry’s success.
She notes that success in this area will only be achieved with men’s full participation and commitment to change mobilisation.
‘We need to see more women moving into technical and leadership roles and tailor recruitment strategies to attract and retain them. At DFA, learning and development is a major focus area, and we set aside significant budget towards ensuring that employees – especially our women – are able to take advantage of both in-house and external training through local and international institutions.
‘Women’s participation in the sector should not only be viewed from the standpoint of employing them and giving them growth opportunities in ICT companies. We need to think beyond that and do more to empower women to participate in the industry as producers and providers of goods and services. This includes providing tools to help them plug into the right networks and devising mentorship programmes and events that are targeted at supporting female ICT entrepreneurs.’
Thokoane adds that a demonstration of DFA’s strong commitment to the advancement of women is evident in its Employment Equity Plan. A core objective is to earmark positions specifically for women to enhance female representation at all occupational levels.
‘We ensure that they have access to the necessary skills development and continuous learning through our Igniting Leadership Development Program,’ she notes.
‘DFA recently established an affinity group for women that will look specifically at issues that may need to be addressed at an organisational, departmental, or personal level to remove barriers, including limiting self-beliefs, that may hinder women’s progress and to open up opportunities for them to grow and lead.’
DFA focuses on inclusive diversity and has developed comprehensive action plans to address gender disparities in all areas of its business. The leadership has committed to supporting women to achieve their full potential through actively mentoring female leaders and reviewing the fairness of recruiting and pay structures for women.
‘It’s imperative that we make room for women in our organisations, and we must make sure that they are ready and able to take advantage of existing opportunities. Organisations, and the sector as a whole, will be better off for it,’ concludes Thokoane.