[Column] Baratang Miya: Building gender parity in the technology and telecoms industry
01-11-2019 11:30:00 | by: Pie Kamau | hits: 2410 | Tags:

AfricaCom 2019 has a strong focus on building gender parity in the technology and telecoms industries this year, with a  number of initiatives that will be launched at the event taking place in Cape Town 12- 14 November 2019.

One such enterprise is in conjunction with Uhuru Spaces, that continues its commitment to help women-owned companies in Africa, gain traction and scale.  This time, Uhuru Spaces will unite female founders with innovation partners, key government representatives, the global venture capital community, and a niche group of angel investors from across Africa at AfricaCom 2019.  

AfricaCom is the world’s largest and most influential technology and telecommunications event and this year, gender diversity takes centre stage, with the launch of a Women in Tech initiative designed to increase awareness, and action towards gender parity in the tech and telecoms industry. 

Baratang Miya, Founder of Uhuru Spaces, says this new partnership will see meaningful conversations that will encourage an integrated African entrepreneurship ecosystem, and bridge the gap between ideas and investments: “At the core of this event, is the attracting of an influential and powerful inner circle to facilitate the sharing of hard-to-get information; encourage women to widen their network and do business with each other; and increase their access to information.”

AfricaCom is the largest digital services event in Africa, with an audience that spans the entire ICT ecosystem. The show creates a broad platform for everybody involved in powering the digital economy, and the themes vary from last mile connectivity and disruptive technologies, to digital inclusion and ICT strategies.

In a continued push to spotlight women founders, Invest in Women is also in partnership with She Talks Money and the South African Women in ICT Forum. Working with private and public sector as well as civil society, these organisation’s interests lie in furthering the advancement of women participation in the ICT sector. According to South African Women in ICT Forum’s Deputy Chair, Sonwabise Sebata, between 2001 and 2013, only three percent of venture capital funding went to women-owned companies. In 2017, that figure lowered to a disappointing two percent. These figures clearly show that conversations, task forces and commitments to gender diversity in the tech sector, are not effective solutions. What is in fact required, is implementation and accountability - acted upon with urgency.

The programme takes place on 12 & 13 November at AfricaCom’s AHUB, with an agenda of inspiring activities, including a series of masterclasses and dialogues with women from sub-Sahara Africa, all of whom have scaled their business globally.

Speakers include:       

Stella Ndabeni- Abrahams, Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services South Africa;

Matsi Modise, Founder & Managing Director, Furaha Solutions;

Carol Bouwer, Founder and CEO, CB Productions;

Lethabo Motsoaledi, Co-founder and CTO, Voyc.ai;

Shirley Ann Gilbey - Director, UK-SA Tech Hub

Other speakers to look out for:

Elisabeth Medou Badang, Senior VP Africa and Indian Ocean, Orange

Cassandra Enyan, Head of Android Platform Partnerships, Google

Deseré Orrill, co-Founder and Chairman, Ole!Connect

Negating the Bro-Culture

In addition to encouraging more investment into women-led businesses, AfricaCom 2019 will also host a series of specific conversations aimed at the vital contribution women bring to technology and the tole they play.

The ‘Women in Tech Takeover’ discussion taking place on the AfricaTech Centre stage on Tuesday 12th November 2019 (the first day of AfricaCom), will address ways in which, women can break into the tech industry. Identifying the challenges women currently experience and how to overcome them, will be high on the agenda.  Someone who understands and knows first-hand the difficulties women have traditionally faced and continue to experience, is Lorraine Steyn, the founder and CEO of Khanyisa Real Systems (KRS) a bespoke software house.

Steyn, who founded her software development company 30 years ago and now employs more than 60 developers, is outspoken about the need for the industry to adapt to attract and retain more women.   She says: “Women have a proud history of innovation in Tech, from inventing the compiler to leading the development that sent mankind to the moon. It is beyond doubt that women add significantly to technical teams, but we live now in a catch-22 where women are repelled by the bro-culture, and the less women that enter the tech field, the worse the bro-culture becomes.

“This can only be solved by investing in equal access to software skills from school age for girls, and boys, so that the pipeline of women into the industry gets rebuilt. The corporate culture will also have to look long and hard at itself and fix the many problems that deny women equal pay, equal promotion, and a respectful working environment.”

Joining Steyn for this lively panel discussion will be Louise de Beer, Head of Business Intelligence & Data Science at Leadhome and Kutlwano Mofolo, Brand and Communications Analyst at Tech Savvy Kids. 

Female Innovator of the Year

This year for the first time, the AfricaCom Awards will celebrate female achievement and contribution to technology, media & telecoms, with the introduction of the Female Innovator of the Year Award.

This award will recognise the outstanding achievements of women, who are playing a crucial role in driving Africa towards the fourth industrial revolution, as well as underscore the need for increased gender parity within the industry. 

Nominations are open and are not based on title or status, but purely on the contribution and passion that the individual brings to the industry, whether it be through high level leadership, embracing innovation or developing disruptive tech.

Baratang Miya is the CEO of Uhuru Spaces, South Africa