Information Technology is an industry that plays a big part in every advancement in the modern age. As the world becomes more digitally sound, reliance on the IT industry increases, creating more opportunities, more career choices, more innovations and more options to connect.
Every day, many pioneering women continue to prove that they can be just as versatile and skilled as their male counterparts. The IT industry is one of the best examples where women have validated themselves and shatter stereotypes pertaining to industry dominance.
Even in a country like South Africa, where the digital age has not been fully consolidated, one can see women doing amazing things. It is impossible to talk about innovative South African women in IT without mentioning the women pioneering the industry. One such woman is Joan Joffe.
Joffe is a Lead Independent Non-Executive Director of Datacentrix Holdings Limited. She has been in the ICT and telecoms industry since 1960 and in 1977 started Joffe Associates which she later sold. Joffe is also a Mathematics and Computer Science graduate from WITS University and Stanford University. Her track record includes serving companies like IBM, Hewlett Packard, Wells Fargo Bank, Vodacom and Standard Oil of California. In 2004, Joffe was awarded the Computer Society of South Africa (CSSA)/Computing SA (CSA) Fellowship Award. Joffe is a pioneer who not only started her own company, but is an allrounder mentoring and inspiring women in IT and other industries in breaking boundaries. She is viewed as a role model and mentor who has shown dedication to advancement in the local ICT industry.
Following the trend of specular IT alpha females is Ulandi Exner. Exner, while she was still in her 30’s, served as a CIO for an investment company and is a former Treasurer and Vice President, before being elected as President of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA). She has exceptional qualifications from Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) as well as the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)².
Even in state institutions, the power of women has set a clear path in innovation with the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor. Her portfolio in education and teaching extends to lecturing in both Botswana and London before joining the University of Cape Town in 1989 as a senior lecturer. She was appointed as the Minister of Education in 2004, and has identified the gaps we have in education. Using her knowledge and experience, Pandor is the perfect custodian to introduce new innovations and ideals regarding ICT and IT in South Africa.
Celebrating women in IT is not complete without looking at the future of the industry, and with individuals like Lebogang Madise rising through the ranks, that future looks bright.
Madise is the founder and CEO of Fruitymo, a technology education company whose primary focus is teaching people how to code as well as developing solutions centred on education through ICT skills. As a young prodigy in the industry, Madise emphasizes the importance of learning from people, who are experts in the field, and in turn building character and skills level set.
The Department of Science and Technology and at least three other government institutions have bursary programmes that support IT Related courses. The Cell-C ‘Take a girl child to work day’ project has given plenty of young women a chance to explore many opportunities in the world of IT, proving the success and need to expose young women to the opportunities in the IT sector.
If there is one thing South African women are making clear, it’s that they will not allow the imposed limitations of society stop them from taking their place in history and making positive contributions to the world.