Women, diversity 'key' to SA's tech industry

Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi says that having women technology fields is key to growth. (CiTi)
Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi says that having women technology fields is key to growth. (CiTi)

Cape Town - More women need to be actively supported to pursue careers in the male-dominated South African technology scene, says an industry expert.

"Creating a greater awareness of the career opportunities for woman in tech is important, however a supportive environment and forums which provide a platform for networking and support can be very effective," CiTi CEO Ian Merrington told Fin24.

Merrington has extensive experience in the ICT sector, including as group financial director of BBDO and as chief operating officer for iKineo.

CiTi, formerly known as the Cape IT Initiative, is a Cape Town-based non-profit that focuses on technology, innovation and start-up incubation.

But Merrington is concerned about the lack of women and diversity in the ICT industry.

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

Tech jobs

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

Gender patterns in SA mirror those in Silicon Valley where a number of tech firms including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have made commitments to expand diversity in the sector.

Merrington said that the VeloCiTi Woman in Business programme was part of a broader strategy for the organisation.

"It also serves as a catalyst for a network of like-minded business women with a focus on tech who continue to remain in touch with each other and are able to offer each other career support and advice."

The Bandwidth Barn, which is one CiTi's projects, aims to incubate start-ups through providing space and internet connectivity for entrepreneurs.

"We have, with the assistance of the Western Cape Government launched a community Barn in Khayelitsha, which is a well-designed and fully equipped facility," said Merrington.

"Our initial focus has been on community engagement and needs assessment," he added.

The Barn also provides support to entrepreneurs in an effort to develop technology solutions to local problems and Merrington said that there already successful signs that could see the Barn being expanded nationally.

"We already have many examples of local solutions to local problems within The Barn community. If this proof of concept is successful in Khayelitsha then we will seek to partner with business to roll the model out to communities on a national basis."

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