Concern over lack of women in SA tech

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Lynette Hundermark says that more women should be mentored for tech employment positions. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Lynette Hundermark says that more women should be mentored for tech employment positions. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - A lack of South African women in the local technology industry matches a worldwide shortage, says a long term industry professional.

"There're very few women in tech worldwide. I think we are seeing it from a South African perspective, but it's actually a global concern," Lynette Hundermark told Fin24.

Hundermark has more than a decade's experience in the local technology industry and is the co-founder and chief product officer of Useful and Beautiful, which specialises in building mobile applications.

Despite the fact that women make up a significant proportion of the online audience, hiring practices at major corporations reflect a heavy male bias.

Search giant Google recently revealed in its Diversity Report that women make up just 30% of employees, but that includes jobs in non-tech positions where women make up nearly half (48%) of employees.

Role models

In tech positions at Google, women make up just 17% and in leadership positions, 21%.

With few exceptions, the situation is repeated at most top Silicon Valley firms where the focus has shifted to producing apps as people demand content specific to smart mobile devices.

According to advocacy organisation Women in Tech, only 23% of tech jobs in SA are held by women.

"Apps are a technical product and require technical knowledge if one wants to have a career in it. Hopefully with the re-focus on getting women involved in tech, this pattern will change," Hundermark said.

In SA, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) is actively encouraging women to pursue careers in the mobile tech industry.

"Our VeloCiTi Woman in Business programme is focused on getting female entrepreneurs to grow their business through the effective use of technology," said CiTi CEO Ian Merrington.

Hundermark said that when she was at university women outnumbered men in her computer programming course.

"During my university years, there were actually more women in my class than guys."

However, as with many school leavers who have skills at maths and science, they do not remain in the field, choosing instead to go into business courses.

Hundermark said that part of the problem is that women often do not find role models in the tech industry.

"I think there're not enough role models or publicity for women who are in this space."

Watch this online video where Lynette Hundermark explains that more women should be mentored for tech employment positions:

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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