While the ICT industry is changing and expanding rapidly, there is still a marked lack of females represented in its workforce.
According to Tashline Jooste, CEO of ICT enterprise development initiative the Innovator Trust, this is particularly true for black females. “We identified this as a major shortfall within our local sector, and our primary goal is to empower and upskill our entrepreneurs,” she explains.
Through her experience as an ICT industry SMME incubator, Jooste believes that some of the main challenges and barriers to entry for black, female-owned SMME’s in this field are the scarcity of both technology and business resources and skills, as well as a lack of access to potential clients. “In some instances the stereotyping of women by organisations within a primarily male dominated industry present major hurdles for females, many are discouraged from endeavouring to find success in ICT due to a perceived lack of support.
“That being said, however, it is important to note that these gaps also present valuable and sustainable opportunities for black female ICT professionals and entrepreneurs,” Jooste notes. “As this garners more attention and awareness among socially conscious business organisations, many companies have now begun to add more black and female owned companies to their preferred supplier lists. These businesses actively seek their services over those of more established service providers, in order to support the industry and make a meaningful social impact.”
However, Jooste points out that simply gaining access to markets is not enough to boost businesses and the industry at large. “Concrete business acumen, a sustainable and workable business model, as well as on-going skills development are crucial elements to the success of black female owned SMME’s in the ICT sector,” she explains.
“Because of the high standards and strong demands of this industry, we have employed strict entry criteria to ensure the SMME’s we invest our resources and mentorship in are viable and have real profit potential.”