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The ICT sector remains a buoyant and rapidly growing sector for employment and a key economic factor underpinning both national and international development. This growth in employment, however, has not yet led to a parallel increase in women in this industry. Statistics show that women in South Africa only make up 20% of the ICT sector workforce compared to a 56% representation globally. [1]

As this problem garners more attention and awareness among socially conscious business organisations, many companies have now begun to fund more black female students to study towards Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) professions. In April, Belgium Campus made scholarships available to nineteen black female students from disadvantaged backgrounds. These girls were selected by the South Africa Women in ICT Forum led by Mrs Nokuzola Ehrens and FOTAD (Future of the African Daughter) led by Gqibelo Dandala. Last week, South Africa Women in ICT Forum hosted a brunch to celebrate the girls’ success so far.

Through her experience and academic background in the ICT industry, Gqibelo Dandala noted that a number of factors have contributed to the lack of women in the ICT industry. “I mentor a lot of young girls and I have come to realise that many girls are discouraged from endeavouring to find success in the ICT industry due to lack of resources and support, some are just not interested,” said Dandala. This is despite there being a lot of opportunities available for women in the industry.

 

Puleng Kwele, the CEO at Broadband Infraco, who chaired the event shared her own impressive ICT career path story as a black woman in the industry, this greatly inspired and motivated the girls.

Also present was the Principal, Professor Enrico Jacobs who reiterated that engaging women in the ICT sector is not only the right thing to do from the point of social justice. He added that as job opportunities in the digital economy continue to grow in South Africa, demand for qualified personnel especially women in the industry is also escalating. He urged the girls to work hard as companies are looking to increase the number of women in the ICT sector.

Mrs Nokuzola Ehrens awarded the girls for their hard work and commitment so far. “I am very proud that you are working very hard and I see that our efforts have not gone to waste. I have always believed that where women are educated and empowered, economies are more productive and strong,” she said.

The girls were very appreciative to Belgium Campus and the South African Women in ICT Forum for being given the chance to study. “We are very grateful for the opportunity that Belgium Campus and Women in ICT have given us. We are from disadvantaged backgrounds and one can only dream of such a chance. We are living our dreams and working very hard,” said one of the bursary recipient currently studying under this programme.

Belgium Campus is also working in collaboration with reputable ICT companies such as E.O.H to promote not only black females but also the disabled and the under privileged to bridge the inequality gap.