Breaking the gender divide: How business can build future career paths for women in AI and tech

Too many girls and women are held back by biases, social norms and expectations influencing the quality of the education they receive and the subjects they study. Picture: Gerd Altmann/Pixbabay

Too many girls and women are held back by biases, social norms and expectations influencing the quality of the education they receive and the subjects they study. Picture: Gerd Altmann/Pixbabay

Published Mar 8, 2024


This week marked International Women in Tech Week which coincided with International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Despite progress being made in gender equality and equity over the last decade, the under-representation of women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields continues to persist.

According to the latest Unesco report on gender-responsive education, too many girls and women are held back by biases, social norms and expectations influencing the quality of the education they receive and the subjects they study.

Girls are under-represented in developing countries in the African continent; particularly around STEM education and, consequently, in STEM careers.

Salesforce empowers women in AI

The greatest challenge to advancing gender equality in the workplace, particularly in the technology industry, is addressing women’s under-representation in emerging roles, such as AI as well as in cloud computing, engineering and data, according to Ursula Fear, the senior talent programme manager at Salesforce.

To open up the technology industry specifically, the role of business to address the issue of equity should begin with education. Encouraging more women to enter STEM fields will help businesses address women’s under-representation in emerging roles such as cloud computing, engineering, data and AI.

“Addressing this challenge starts long before a woman enters the workforce. We need to work together - as education institutes, as business, as caregivers - to help cultivate an interest in ICT among young girls by exposing them to all the possibilities ICT holds,” Fear said.

“A successful outcome would be the day that we no longer need to talk about girls or women in ICT as a specific focus area. In the meantime, we need to keep nurturing potential, interrogating how to make ICT more appealing to girls and women, and actively debunk any remaining stigmas, myths and stereotypes around ICT being a male field,” Fear added.

Beyond Bias: Huawei's Drive for Women in STEM Unlocks Futures

According to Vanashree Govender, the senior communications manager at Huawei South Africa, Huawei's commitment to ICT education and empowerment is demonstrated through initiatives like the Seeds for the Future and the Huawei Bursary Programme which actively targets a 50-50 gender split.

“Our commitment to connecting more South Africans to the internet, with our telco partners, and bringing the very latest technologies to SA, means that we are well placed to run big ICT training programmes in the country. These programmes actively target women participants, from students to women entrepreneurs,” Govender said.

Huawei’s Women in Tech programme, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in South Africa, provides crucial exposure to new technologies like 5G, Cloud and AI to women entrepreneurs and ICT students to advance their digital skills and prepare for the future workplace.

These initiatives are integral to creating an inclusive environment and equipping women with the necessary tools to excel in STEM without being limited by gender roles or accessibility challenges.

Uber champions female entrepreneurship, empowering women to drive

Over the years, the e-haling industry has been male-dominated.

In recent times, however, there has been a shift towards female e-hailing drivers taking up opportunities in this tech platform economy.

To aid and support women’s active participation and champion entrepreneurship in the South African economy, and through technology, Uber launched several initiatives and in-app features to help women overcome the barriers that they face in their businesses.

These include Women Rider Preferred, a feature that provides women with a choice in opting to be connected to women riders.

“We are especially proud to have been able to empower women in South Africa with access to new and flexible earning opportunities by providing them with the necessary resources to thrive and continue to improve their mobility and independence,” Lorraine Onduru, the head of communications, Sub-Saharan Africa, Uber said.

“Uber is committed to women earners and working with industry partners to remove any barriers that exist for women to get on the platform,” Lorraine further added.

Future Forex take proactive steps to empower women in fintech sector

As part of our commitment to addressing the gender divide in STEM roles, Future Forex has taken proactive steps to empower and support women within the fintech sector.

“We're proud to have a strong representation of women, particularly in key leadership positions, across various departments within our organisation,” Harry Scherzer, the CEO of Future Forex said.

These talented women and all the females within their teams bring diverse skills, perspectives and expertise, contributing significantly to our company's success and growth.

“An example of this is that, as part of our software engineering department, we have a seasoned female professional who has been instrumental in driving our technological advancements forward, demonstrating exceptional proficiency and dedication in her role,” Scherzer added.

“Similarly, our Head of Trading is a science graduate who possesses a wealth of industry knowledge and strategic acumen, guiding our trading operations with precision and insight,” he said.