Technology opens many doors and women should also be allowed to enter them
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By Takalani Netshitenzhe
Despite the progress, protests and policy changes in promoting gender equality, it remains a reality that women are still paid less, receive less education and are in less leadership roles than their male counterparts.
This lack of empowerment has greater consequences for economic growth and social development as we strive towards a sustainable and inclusive future.
Through leveraging technology and investing in initiatives, Vodacom has long been committed to advancing gender equality. This includes bridging the gender divide in our own operations, as well as working with other partners to support and accelerate female empowerment in South Africa and globally.
For business to thrive, their workforce needs to represent the diversity of society. However, women are still marginalised in leadership positions.
Our focus is on equal pay, enabling women access to managerial positions, and a gender balance in all areas of the business, particularly in technical roles. Women account for 43.5% of our workforce, with 34.4% at senior management level.
We have implemented training programmes aimed at empowering women in the workplace and introduced policies that allow women more flexibility around maternity leave.
If we are to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the representation of women in the technology sector remains a challenge. In cloud computing, just 12% of professionals are women, and in engineering and data and AI, this is 15% and 26% respectively, according to the World Economic Forum.
To significantly close the gender gap, programmes like the Code like a Girl that teaches girls aged between 14 and 18 years how to code was launched.
Digital technology can be a gateway to financial services and information to markets, which can increase income and facilitate financial autonomy for women.
In agriculture, technology can be an effective tool in creating a more inclusive economy for women. Currently, more than 1300 women farmers from rural areas in South Africa have been trained in digital literacy through the Women Farmers Programme, launched in partnership with the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and South African Women in Farming.
Gender-based violence (GBV) remains one of the biggest obstacles in any progress towards empowering women. If we are to move forward, we need to take urgent action against this social ill. Digital literacy forms the bedrock of the company’s GBV victim empowerment programme. More than 1400 women in government supported shelters have received training in ICT skills. Our zerorated Bright Sky app is a digital resource aimed at directing those affected by GBV to the support services that are available to them.
GBV affects every aspect of a woman’s lifeis including performance in the workplace. In 2019, the group implemented a global HR policy to create a safe and healing environment for women (and men), who are faced with an abusive home environment.
Takalani Netshitenzhe is director of external affairs at Vodacom.