[Column] Tracy Molete: Transforming the South African tech sector through diverse leadership for powerful results
While male dominance in senior positions within the SA tech sector persists, there are encouraging signs things are changing rapidly as more organisations embrace diverse leadership teams and varied viewpoints to achieve powerful results.
At Apprentice Valley, an Ocean on 76 Group company, we’ve worked hard to create a good gender mix in our executive team. It is remarkable to observe team members working alongside each other in driving the business objectives, sharing various viewpoints and perspectives with respect and professionalism, and allowing opportunities for everyone to be heard – all of which helps eliminate preconceived gender and racial-based stereotypes.
To meaningfully drive change and transformation, we had to acknowledge the landscape in terms of gender representation in the tech sector and then afford more opportunities to women based on skill, qualifications and experience in order to propel gender inclusivity in the business. Our recruitment processes align with our objectives in this regard to systematically foster inclusivity and counter bias and privilege where possible.
The question of how to establish and maintain a culture that fosters creativity, collaboration and innovation while being mindful of South Africa’s diversity is not an either/or scenario. Tapping into the power of the many, which includes a diverse team and diverse partners, brings forward new perspectives which steer away from the sameness and orthodox thinking that stand in the way of fresh ideas. As a leader, encouraging experimentation, learning, intellectual stimulation and big picture thinking is based on the recognition that moving beyond self-interests can indeed translate into organisational goals and improve organisational culture, growth and performance.
Boosting small and large enterprises alike, in all sectors through the power of technology is incredibly rewarding. One evening, we received a call during an instance of xenophobic attacks taking place in the country and the following day we had deployed a system with war room functionality that enabled citizens to log incidents of such attacks and their locations. As a team, sharing this mechanism with family members who were in areas of concern, created a real sense of citizenship and served as reminder that we are very much a part of our society, capable of producing solutions of value that can make a measurable and immediate difference.
Empowering SMEs, enabling large enterprises, and using technology as a tool for social good are just some of the reasons Apprentice Valley have pursued transformation and diversity. With the rapid change in the IT sector, there is a strong need to foster a targeted and well-coordinated talent management system that ensures up-skilling and reskilling for retention and career progression.
It is imperative that the tech sector resists the urge to shy away from differences. A better, and demonstrably more productive way forward is to acknowledge differences and discuss them openly with a clear understanding that differing viewpoints increase our knowledge base and encourage the intellectual curiosity needed to drive the innovation needed to grow the South African tech sector to its full potential.