Cape Town - As the month which celebrates women in South Africa comes to an end, several women are still subjected to injustices like gender-based violence, inequality, and poverty, while only a few manage to break the barriers unleashing their potential to empower others.
The month of August was declared as women's month in honour of the courageous contribution of women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956, towards changing who and how women are today, both nationally and the world.
However, in 2019, South Africa is still working its way around empowering more women along with the vision of seeing more women inspiring others.
Like Andrea Campbell, a Commercial Attorney for Corporate, External and Legal Affairs at Microsoft (Cela), and the Honourary Treasurer of the Information Technology Association of South Africa (Ita) as well as the Treasurer of the SA Women in ICT Forum, who has played a huge role in uplifting and inspiring women in the ICT sector.
She said growing up in Eersterust, east of Pretoria, during apartheid, her life could have been vastly different. But being born into the Campbell family with education among its core values meant her life took a more positive path, along with her four siblings.
So important is education to the Campbells' that every one of its seven members has graduated with a degree from the University of Pretoria. It’s an incredible achievement, and Campbell's career thus far has been a shining example to young South Africans of the potential and opportunities education can present.
“My mom and dad worked extremely hard and had multiple jobs, at times ensuring we were equipped with good education and the best of everything they could afford despite us growing up for the most part during the apartheid regime,” Campbell said.
ITA represents more than 200 companies in the IT industry and works closely with government and consumers to improve skills and standards in the sector. Campbell is hoping to highlight the issues faced by women in the sector and speak out against unfair practices and discrimination in the workplace all year round.
Her upbringing has prepared her to endure the challenges that come with being a woman in a key position in the ICT sector, a sector dominated by men in powerful, decision-making roles, she said.
“Well if I can be honest, being a woman comes with its challenges nine days out of 10. I find I have to work twice as hard as my male counterparts to prove that I am capable,” Campbell said.
“I have to constantly motivate why I deserve a seat at the table despite having the necessary skillset and experience. These stereotypes are like shadows which follow you and the only way to deal with them is to keep your head up and remain focused, because I’ve learned that when you do that there is no limit to what you can achieve.”
As ITA celebrates its women leaders at this time of the year, Campbell sees her role at the organisation as an opportunity to uplift and inspire women in the ICT sector.
“Today as a working woman in South Africa the challenges are similar, the legacy issues of apartheid are still very present in the workplace, but more so are the stereotypical limitations which are placed on women. South Africa, while ranking as one of the countries with the highest number of female CEOs in Africa, only has 11.6 percent women CEOs and chairpersons across all sectors and, of the 25 largest listed companies, only two percent have 21 percent or more director positions held by women,” she said.
“If I was a male, the conversations I would be having would be different, I would potentially be much further in my career and this article would also be written differently as it would not include the gender parity dialogue.”