Phumza Dtyani: Sales and Marketing Chief Officer for Broadband Infraco  

15th ICT Summit

Venue: East London International Conference Center, Eastern Cape

Date: 20 to 21 November 2019

Topic: Woman in ICT

Suggested talking points:

In order to derive an effective economic spin-off from the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have to build a capable working force. A capable working force will not be capable enough unless there are women involved in it.

Today, I would like to highlight there is a gender gap within what we call the digital revolution. There is a gap and women are being left out. This needs to change.

The digital sector offers highly skilled, well-paid jobs but fails to attract and employ many women.

In fact, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a growing sector that creates 120,000 new jobs every year. In recent times, the sector accounted for 4.2% of the EU’s gross domestic product. However, by 2020, the EU will lack 900,000 skilled ICT workers.

Women are under-represented in this sector and are less likely to take up studies in this field and are much less represented in the ICT job market. Women in the ICT sector are under-represented and earn less than men.

Women made up only 17.2% of the 1.4 million people who chose to information and communication technologies in the EU in 2015 and only 16.7% of the nearly 8.2 million employed as ICT specialists in the EU in 2016.

The situation is also dire compared to other industries. Women only take up 19% of managerial position in ICT whereas the average for other sectors is 45%.

Women empowerment and gender equity in the ICT sector is one of the topics discussed during activities to mark International Women’s Day and the South African Women’s Day celebrations.

In the work front the battle is even intense because the societal stereotypes are replicated. There are lesser women in management and leadership positions globally, but the percentage is even higher in the ICT environment.

One of the main obstacle that hinder career progression in ICT sector is gender stereo typing which stands out on the barriers because it works on the self-esteem and confidence. Men are viewed as psychologically and biologically wired to belong in the ICT work environment and their direct and firm approach is tolerated by women and men alike.

The social construct that ICT environment is a male domain is incompatible with the social construction of female identity – so a woman is misplaced in the ICT space – she is not supposed to be there especially in leadership or technical.

In the end there are more men and they shape the ethos, they shape the culture and they shape the tone of discourse.

Research states that women find the ICT work environment chilly and hostile – so they do not enter or they leave

 The other barriers to work success in ICT are –

– Family responsibility – starting families and getting disconnected is an antithesis to sustainable retention of women

– Work flexibility – working hours

– Lack of confidence

So, how do we go about dismantling these barriers in the ICT sector and collaborations is required?

The sector is not a leading pioneer of diversity in all respects and we therefore need to conduct introspection.

We need to acknowledge that there are capable women that can enhance the current capabilities that we have in the ICT sector, but women empowerment or bringing about change in the sector should not be about faces but merit and demographics and more so creating equal opportunities.

Employers must have policies and practices that promote gender diversity – addressing stereotyping and removing unconscious bias.

Families and partners have to provide moral and psychological support to dates long hours and family responsibility.

Government and regulators should legislate and monitor progress and hold companies accountable.

Educators have to be empowered to understand ICTs and to deliver digital content.

Women in general – those in leadership must be brave tackle the stereotypes head on – to support men through awareness to be sensitive – women must stop resisting women leaders and women in leadership need to nurture those in lower position.

In conclusion, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, it is clear that most jobs of the future will require ICT and digital skills.

If we do not address the stereo types that continue to reflect the desires and perspectives of men women will left out of this Revolution.

It’s starts at home – when troubleshooting for technical devices is required, the boy child is the one highly likely to be asked to assist – so the boy ceases to be the beneficiary or consumer of ICT but a creator and fixer – this builds the confidence to belong.

Government and companies should form partnerships to encourage and grow women participation in the ICT sector. Government should come up with strong policies to enforce women empowerment and gender equality in the ICT sector.

The private sector should subscribe to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 2015, and align their programmes to Goal 5 which speaks to gender diversity.

The attainment of this goal is driven by our very own Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, former Deputy President who is head of UN Women.

I follow her pronouncements and one that resonates with my current occupation as a woman in ICT is what she said during the ITU launch of the Global Partnership on Gender Diversity in the digital era called EQUAL where she said: “The information society cannot be complete without the inclusion of girls and woman.”

She fully embraces the resolve to achieve gender diversity through ICTs by 2020, she fully embraces that the use of ICTs by women have the potential to increase productivity and to address the gender wage gap as the world moves into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The ITU is the designated UN agency to facilitate the attainment of the SDGs through ICTs and they drive several initiatives that all SDG signatories must use as guidelines and adopt where possible.

The UN global partnership on gender diversity – EQUAL – has three pillars that serve as a guide for all stakeholders to use in order to assess progress made in gender diversity

These pillars are:

– Access

– Skills

– Management and leadership

What are these barriers to access?

A GSMA research stipulates the following as barriers to access mainly amongst women – (GSMA is a global body of mobile operators)

  1. Cost of airtime, data and devices – women as the most vulnerable economically feel most of the pinch when it comes to affordability – so they buy less minutes, data and basic handsets or they do not have at all, they piggy back on partners.
  2. Security and harassment – fear of theft, mugging and online harassment – again women are more vulnerable to gender based violence and therefore discouraged from getting high end devices or to use devices in public
  3. Network quality and coverage – lack of rural coverage stands out to affect mainly women than men because women in these areas tend to spend most time in rural areas than in cities nurturing families – indoors coverage is weaker, dropped calls or complete black out, no power to charge, some basic phones have inferior radio frequency.
  4. Digital literacy – the ability of a person to use the device and its functionality – already 130m girls are out of school so general literacy amongst women is lower than in men especially in rural areas. Study indicates in China 48% of women do not know how to use the phone – they know functionality by color – green is for answering and red for dropping
  5. Last barrier, is distrust for the mobile operators – as a result of low levels of confidence, women afraid of being cheated by agents – not being told the whole story on cost and bill shock, not being made aware of full details on device functionality
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