And it was a male figure who ensured Noluxolo Gcaza of the Tshwane University of Technology’s Information Technology Department stood tall as one of the Inspiring 50 South African Award winners.
Gcaza said her former manager Jabu Mtsweni from the CSIR International Centre nominated her for the award, but did not tell her why.
She said, however, having colleagues nominate her for such a prestigious award was humbling and indicative she was on the right path.
Specialising as a cyber-security researcher, Gcaza said she mentored young girls interested in the field of technology in her spare time.
She believed one of the biggest challenges hampering the increase of women in technology was because it was difficult to get them to specialise in IT.
“The struggle is that black women think it's enough to get a matric or a diploma. We don’t think we can go higher and get a PhD.
"So when I mentor the girls I make them think bigger and higher because even I didn’t think I could reach that level I credit a man for that inspiration and words of encouragement.”
That man was her former supervisor Professor Rossouw von Solms.
Another winner working in the field of digital transformation in education, Bonolo Sedupane, who nominated herself for the award, said she believed young women needed to believe in themselves more than anything.
“I want young women and girls to tell themselves every day 'you are not a drop in the ocean, you’re the entire ocean in a drop’,” Sedupane said.
She and Gcaza, along with other inspiring women, were celebrated at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Pretoria.
The awards were introduced to South Africa in 2017 by former Dutch consul-general Bonnie Horbach, who sought to increase the visibility of successful women in Stem.