While women are still vastly outnumbered in the fields of science and information technology (IT), some exceptional women have made the world take notice. Gradually these trailblazers are being joined by other ambitious and determined women and at last there are welcome signs that the industry is opening up to them, says Mark Taylor, CEO of Nashua Mobile.
The Wired Women Conference taking place in Johannesburg today, 15 October 2013, promises to be an inspirational event, showing young women some of the opportunities available and showing the industry the female talent that is knocking down the doors.
Nashua Mobile is sponsoring this important event organised by Quality Life because women bring a broad set of skills to the workplace that no company can afford to ignore.
The conference is specifically designed to encourage women to take advantage of technology to leverage their careers, benefit their organisations and change the world, and to encourage younger women to take the leap into careers in the exciting IT sector.
Businesses around the world will be all the richer once we achieve gender equality. Yet sadly there is still a long way to go. The lack of women in IT is interestingly not just a local problem, but a universal challenge.
Forbes Magazine recently reported on a Connecting Women in Technology event in Dublin, Ireland, which highlighted the same issues. Forbes argued that the women who achieve success in IT do so by driving through the obstacles, not through any changing attitudes in the industry.
Although there is a tendency to assume hi-tech careers are not attractive to women, the truth may be that women with the right aptitude also have better career prospects in other fields. Research by the Universities of Pittsburgh and Michigan found that female students who are skilled in science, technology, engineering and maths are also more likely to have high verbal abilities.
That gives them wider career options, and they often choose careers using their verbal ability. So hi-tech companies seeking skilled women must make careers in these areas more welcoming, accessible and financially attractive.
While women currently make up less than a third of the IT landscape, Huffington Post reported that they filled 46% of new tech jobs in the first quarter of 2013.
Other women are striking out on their own by founding start-ups and among the 125 most successful tech start-ups of the past decade, 200 women were founders or cofounders. Venture-backed hi-tech companies led by women average 12% higher annual revenues than those run by men – and use a third less capital to achieve that.
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg helped lead a rebound that triggered a 19% jump in Facebook’s stock. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, nearly doubled the company’s stock price and many former employees are now eager to return.
Closer to home, Africa’s remarkable IT women include Kenya’s Ory Okolloh, the co-founder of Ushahidi.com, a non-profit company that develops free open source software for information collection and interactive mapping. Okolloh has also served as Google’s Policy Maker for Africa and champions the greater representation of women in IT.
These women – and those who will address the Wired Women conference – are successful role models showing why the industry must expand its perspectives and harness their entrepreneurship and innovation.