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Information Technology: Is It A Man’s World?

Women in the workplace want to make an impact worth remembering.

Katya Linossi

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We’re used to the argument that women in business are on the rise and the evidence for this speaks for itself. But the opinion that technology is a man’s game is often left unchallenged especially in some parts of the world. Traditionally women have had little representation in the IT world.

This was certainly the case when I started my career almost 20 years ago. Over time, the combination of increased reliance on technology, promise of equality in westernised countries and intensified recruiting efforts of companies across several industries has transformed this trend throughout the past decade.

Being a woman in technology, I’m keen to explore how – and why – women have become an asset to the IT sector.

My first encounter with IT was in the late 1980s by hanging out with the “geeks” at the after school Computing Club. Technology quickly harnessed my interest. My first big leap into IT as a career came when I was offered a job as a Test Analyst for a market research software company. I used my experience in market research as a basis to secure this position. I was then promoted into a role of pre-sales consulting which included coding in HTML and Visual Basic. By utilising my experience and training, I broke down any notion of a glass ceiling for myself – a woman in IT.

I was then offered a great job to run an e-commerce website where I had to work with teams in Copenhagen, London and Boston. When the dot com crash occurred in the early 2000’s, I was again able to try my hand in another field of IT, this time as a Project Manager for a large agency in London. In turn, this led to the inception of ClearPeople, the technology company that I co-founded.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

This quick summary of my CV is to demonstrate one main point – I did not come from a technical background. But this has not affected my progression in the technology industry. With each step my career has taken, I had to consume myself completely in new technologies. I believe it is your attitude and willingness to learn which enables success and I encourage more women to do the same.

Exposure diminishes gender barriers

Gender-roles

More women are entering the IT sector for a number of reasons. The first is that more are exposed to IT as technologies have become pervasive tools necessary to complete social interactions and work-related tasks. Such ubiquitous exposure diminishes gender barriers, thus increasing gender neutral interest in IT.

Over several decades organisations have driven programmes designed to acquaint women to IT related fields in an effort to close the gender gap and to create equal opportunities.

For instance, organisations like The Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology, the Society of Women Engineers and even the Girl Scouts have focused on increasing exposure and experience with technology, science, maths and several other fields to pave a path for women in historically male dominated industries.

As each gender barrier is broken down, it leads way for women to conquer new heights.

Currently, women hold 29% of tech positions overall. However, after analysing industry tech reports, CNET found that although the percentage of women in tech roles is on the incline, there are “significantly fewer women in positions to influence their companies’ product development and or strategic direction”. Female representation at Board level in any industry is still nowhere near high enough but we are making progress.

Although change may not be occurring at a rapid pace, I am pleased to see women are becoming more involved in technology, seen in the numbers of women enrolling in tech-related courses at university levels for example. As each generation progresses, we will see more women rise and become more influential in business.

A perfect example of introducing stereotypical male interests to women has been illustrated in a recent campaign by EDF, the second largest energy company in the UK.

Their “Pretty Curious” campaign captivates the momentum of young females that are fascinated, curious and inspired by technology. The technology, science and engineering sectors are facing a large skills shortage already now and this will only widen in the future. Efforts in corporations that encourages young women to be uninhibited by technology and science is a giant leap towards breaking down gender barriers and establishing unified interests across all fields.

Watch the campaign video below:

IT programmes

IT-programmes-for-women

Similar to EDF, many IT companies in the western world have implemented a number of programmes in order to bring and keep more women into the workplace. They are not doing this to just reach equality quotas set by some governments or to fill a skills shortage gap, but because it is proven that gender-diverse teams deliver superior productivity and financial performance compared with homogenous teams.

How? Through improved team work – a study of 272 projects in 4 companies proved that gender diversity on technical work teams was associated with superior adherence to project schedules, lower project costs and higher employee performance ratings.

Related: (Slideshow) 8 Tenacious SA Women That Rule with Smarts and Sense

Gender-balanced teams are also the most likely to experiment, be creative, share knowledge, and fulfil tasks. And most importantly, financial performance is higher than average when there is gender diversity at the top management. In particular, these companies demonstrated superior return on equity, earnings before interest and taxes, and stock price growth.

According to the Mail and Guardian, the share of women in the non-agricultural employment sector has increased from 43% in 1996 to 45% in 2012 (the latest available figure), and 77% of women earned the same amount as men, according to 2010 figures from Statistics South Africa. But there is still a way to go for full equality of women in business in South Africa who are still falling short in gender equality standards compared to other parts of the western world.

Diversity and being adventurous are two of our values that we continuously promote at ClearPeople. Being a woman in IT is empowering and fulfilling, and I encourage those who are interested in IT to follow your interest and to stay curious.

Katya Linossi is Co-founder and Managing Director of award-winning digital agency ClearPeople. She has been instrumental in shaping the strategy and operations of ClearPeople’s digital services since its inception in 2003, leading a team of over 50 staff in London and Alicante. She has over 20 years’ extensive international experience in both marketing and technical roles for software companies and has also managed large web-based projects and teams for blue chip clients like Microsoft and Ford. Linossi is a seasoned speaking, invited to provide thought leadership at events like Technology for Marketing & Advertising and publications such as the Law Society Gazette. Linossi holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Honours in Marketing, as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Warwick.

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

A Great Time To Be A Woman In Business

South Africa’s growing band of female entrepreneurs have many lessons to teach us all.

Morné Stoltz

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South Africa’s growing band of female entrepreneurs have many lessons to teach us all. In our first article in this feature, Marine Louw showed us the power of passion.

In this article, Cresi Heslop offers living proof that opportunities are everywhere – if we can see them and are prepared to seize them. She is building a business by identifying opportunities as they open up and then working hard to exploit them.

“It’s all about using what you have and thinking a bit laterally,” Heslop says.

Heslop and her husband started a youth sports blog in order to provide a motivational platform for a new generation of South African sportsmen and – women. They saw the blog, Heslop Sports, as a labour of love, with no commercial intent. However, spending so much time among athletes did reveal a potential commercial idea: a towel specially designed with sports in mind and that South African athletes could use with pride, especially at international events.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

The result was a new business, Wonder Towel. Its flagship product is a microfibre towel designed to look like the South African flag, supplemented with a range of other microfibre products.

“Microfibre is environment-friendly because it’s so absorbent – it dries easily and stays fresh longer, and it takes less water to wash,” she says. “It’s also super light, thus great for travelling.”

Since then, the business has grown, selling primarily to the travel, beauty, baby and household markets, as well as the sports industry. Much of the selling is done via her online store and agents in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria – as well as the e-commerce platforms. She singles out Takealot.com which, she says, does a great job in helping small businesses put themselves on the map.

She’s also just signed up a new distributor who is targeting independent schools, and schools with big water-sports teams.

Mentorship provided Heslop with welcomed inspiration and stability. She has built a solid relationship with a businesswoman who she respects enormously, Hendrien Kruger, the head of Inoar SA, which distributes a range of imported Brazilian hair products.

“We met seven years ago and I can turn to her at any point for sensible advice or just a good chat over a cuppa,” she says. “You should find some worthy people who inspire you in your field. They could even be people that you admire from a distance or whose books and lectures have become part of your way of seeing things.”

Because mentorship can play such a positive role, it’s vital that women offer themselves as mentors. Many successful women don’t realise how great an influence they could have on the next generation, starting what she calls a “cycle of future goodness”.

We’ve always heard about the power of the old boys’ club, and how it gives men a head start in business, but says Heslop, networks seem to be opening up.

“Female small-business owners are still in a bit of minority in South Africa, I believe however we are in a wonderful season of change at present,” she says.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

“I recently had dealings with one of South Africa’s oldest and most established suppliers in a particular market sector, and I found them both welcoming and nurturing to an industry newcomer – something for which I am very grateful.”

Of course, entrepreneurs must also learn how to cope with challenges all the time. Heslop says that she keeps strong by sticking to a set of habits and actions. Her religious faith is an important mainstay and she daily affirms her commitment to making a difference, to being alert for hidden opportunities, and to spreading love and respect always.

“At the end of the day it will all boil down to confidence, belief in ourselves, joyous passion and delivering extremely high quality of products and services that will command respect and ensure us our rightful place in our beautiful nation’s economy,” she concludes.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970).

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Celebrating Women In The Signage And Printing Industry

The event will take place from 13-15 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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Women are increasingly making their mark on the traditionally male-dominated signage and printing industry. For those who want to enter this industry, or want to grow their businesses, the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo, co-located with Africa Print and Africa LED, offers many opportunities for entrepreneurs. The event will take place from 13-15 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

Diane Jacobson, Managing Director at Ellis Lehman Signs, has been in the industry for 25 years, and enjoys being in a career that is dynamic, creative and interesting. ‘No two jobs are identical, and because it is an industry that serves a variety of businesses, it offers exposure to many types of people and companies,’ she said.

Related: Ideas To Start Your Own Business In Signage And Printing

‘I’ve worked with fantastic people and managed very interesting projects, from manufacturing plants to religious institutions, to petrochemical companies to retailers and sports events. I have met wonderful people over the years and have had the opportunity to travel to interesting places. It is an industry that has allowed me to grow my business skills in a creative space.’

Sign Africa candidates

Lehman’s key to success is understanding and servicing the needs of customers. ‘They are the lifeblood of all business. There is so much poor service out there, so doing things better and paying attention to detail and the final finished item sets anyone apart,’ she said.

Printing SA, the official trade federation representing printing, packaging and associated businesses in the industry, has a number of projects to empower women. The organisation runs a screen printing programme, which most recently trained 10 unemployed women from Cottonlands. The programme includes three elements: the theory of screen printing, practical application, and basic business skills that would assist in growing a small business.

A success story from the programme is Eunice Ngwenya, Managing Director of Eunique Printing, who completed Printing SA’s very first screen printing pilot course during 2014. Printing SA recommended Ngwenya to Konica Minolta South Africa.

Eunique Printing, which operates from Konica Minolta South Africa’s Johannesburg campus, has been in business for almost a year, employs three people and prints books, magazines, business cards, calendars, receipt books, brochures, invitations, photographs, as well as offering ring binding and glue binding services.

Ngwenya has always been interested in printing, and had done silk screening on plastic for 25 years. She is glad that she applied for the Printing SA training as it has led her to where she is today. ‘I’ve learnt so much from Printing SA, I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and with the help of Konica Minolta South Africa, I see myself going very far,’ she said.

Related: Celebrating The Multi-Faceted Woman

Sonja Groenewald is CEO of Colourtech Design & Print CEO, which has operated for 26 years. Its main focus is the publishing and education markets. The business has a unique set up as in addition to printing, there is also an in-house dispatch and deliveries division, which helps service 350,000 students.

Being in the printing industry, you’d think technology would be Colourtech’s most important asset, but it’s not. ‘Our staff are our most valuable resource – we consider each and every one of our employees as part of our family,’ said Groenewald.

They are integral to the business’ success. ‘I’ve always told my employees to treat each customer like royalty – whether a client is just popping in for a small pack of business cards, or taking on a major order. Good service is crucial.’


For more information about the Sign Africa, FESPA Africa, Africa Print and Africa LED expo’s, and to pre-register online, please visit: www.signafricaexpo.com/entrepreneur

 

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Celebrating The Multi-Faceted Woman

Fedhealth celebrates #WonderWomen this August for the multiple roles they take on and excel in.

Fedhealth

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Vital Stats

Fedhealth celebrates #WonderWomen this August for the multiple roles they take on and excel in. Whether you’re the CEO of a multinational company, the CEO of your home, or managing both, we’ve got plans to cover you every step of the journey — so you can focus on what you do best.

In celebration of Women’s Month, Fedhealth celebrates the strong women in our lives, and the various roles they fulfil with commitment and enthusiasm.

From mothers to caretakers to business owners and mentors, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.” And, since women are the backbone of so many families and communities, women’s health deserves to be cherished, during pregnancy, the childbearing years, and beyond.

Related: Why Donna Rachelson Believes The Secret To Your Business Success Lies With Women

Fedhealth’s family focus recognises the maternal role and how important women are in the family decision-making process. Fedhealth will take care of your family and your children through family-focused plans like Maxima Basis.

Fedhealth’s role in each stage of a Woman’s health

When you are young and single, Fedhealth looks after you by providing the contraceptive benefit

Oral contraception, contraceptive patches and certain contraceptive injections, as well as IUDs, are covered from Risk on Maxima Plus, Maxima Exec, Maxima Standard, Maxima StandardElect and Maxima Basis.

When obtained at a pharmacy, GP or a gynaecologist, the cost will automatically be covered by the Scheme and funded from the Major Medical Benefit.

When you are ready to start a family, Fedhealth has amazing maternity benefits

The experience of becoming a parent is priceless, but sooner or later you’re going to run into the expenses involved with a pregnancy.

The actual cost of pregnancy and childbirth can be steep, especially if you don’t have medical aid. The price tag of a healthy pregnancy can really add up, starting with prenatal care to ensure a healthy baby and a healthy delivery.

You’ll need to visit your gynaecologist throughout your pregnancy. If you have medical aid, prenatal visits and diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, will be covered. They are generally considered as ‘preventative’ care.

An ultrasound could cost anything between R600 to R800 upwards, while delivery could cost up to R13 000 at a private facility. Every day, scores of women in South Africa scramble to find a medical aid that will cover their pregnancy and childbirth.

Maxima Basis is an excellent medical aid option to consider if you’re thinking of starting a family in the future.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

At the later stages of your health, Fedhealth provides screening benefits

Yes, fifty being the new thirty would be particularly true for those who can afford good health care or have access to good health care.

Because of this, people are staying healthier for longer, and lives are starting later due to longer education times and difficulty finding jobs. People are settling down into careers in their mid to late twenties instead of earlier, making traditionally older ages, like 50, feel younger.

Women should have a general check-up every year, especially as you get older (even if you don’t feel like it yet). Have you scheduled yours?

Protect yourself against some of life’s nastier surprises by learning more about the most commonly misdiagnosed women’s illnesses:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: When tasks such as getting ready for work, which usually require an hour take several hours, you may want to look into why. CFS affects women in their 40s and 50s. Women are four times more likely to suffer from this disease than men.

Multiple Sclerosis: Women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS, and it generally appears between ages 20 and 40. Having a mother with MS can be the strongest risk factor. Blurred or double vision, fatigue, tingling, dizziness, lack of coordination and tremors are symptoms to look out for.

wonder-women

Fedhealth has a strong social presence and, through the use of its blog, Fedhealth’s team will produce great articles along the #WonderWomen theme, such as women in the workplace, breastfeeding in your lunch hour and celebrating being single. To follow the blog, go to www.fedhealth.co.za/healthy-living-tips/

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