It is becoming increasingly more common to see women in information technology (IT) teams, leading divisions and running entire regions for multinational IT companies, says Veeam’s Senior Manager of Channel and Alliances in Africa, adding that while the industry has made progress in diversity of representation, more needs to be done.
“It is patently clear that diversity is a business strength,” says Strydom. “There is still a perception in some quarters that IT is a man’s industry, which is definitely not true. As we see more women grow into leadership roles this old stereotype will become less prominent and there will be more role models for others to follow.”
She says schools and universities are making inroads into inspiring young girls to dream of a career in IT and technology more broadly, and that role models are important. “Schools already offer some interesting subjects, and, personally, young girls in my family want to emulate other young women they have met who are studying exciting IT subjects such as robotics at university.
“Seeing a young woman study something like robotics can light a fire in a girl’s eyes, and as she enters the workplace, having mentors and role models who have walked the same road as her will inspire her to succeed.”
Strydom says that while there are studies such as S&P Global’s “When women lead, firms win”, which found that companies with women CFOs are more profitable, and companies with women CEOs and CFOs have better stock price performance than the average, or studies which found that women score higher than men in most leadership traits, the pursuit of gender equality in the workplace is not about pitting one gender against the other, rather, it is driven by an understanding that a diverse team makes business sense.
“Women bring a different perspective and tend to be good listeners. These are important traits in helping teams gel and perform,” she says, adding that different points of view or styles in dealing with finer details provide more options to solve business problems.
Strydom says there is a skills shortage in the IT industry which needs to be addressed. This, she says, provides an opportunity for businesses and government to promote opportunities for women. “We need the skills, and so here’s a perfect opportunity to try increase the number of women entering the industry,” she says.
She adds that many companies in the industry are already involved in school-leaver and intern programmes to try and increase the skills in short supply. “It would be great if government and the private sector worked together more closely on this – it is in all our best interests.”
Strydom, who says that Veeam encourages mentoring for women with initiatives such as the multinational’s Women in Green programme, believes young women should be encouraged to seek out mentors.
“Women can climb the corporate ladder just as easily as men and this is helped massively when they work with mentors. A good mentor can stretch you and help you grow, expose you to an expanded network which is very important, and guide you because she has been there before.”
Strydom says the most exciting aspect of IT is that it is evolving at a rapid pace.
“There are so many opportunities, from coding and developing, to management, consulting, robotics, artificial intelligence, and much more. I wake up every day excited to be part of this industry because of how fast it is evolving. There is a space for all personality types, and I believe that when I get to the end of my career one day there will be many more women who are leading, innovating and changing the world,” she says.