There is a major imbalance in the number of women and men in the technology industry. Women currently hold 19% of tech-related jobs at the top 10 tech companies in the world, while men hold 81%.
It is women like Palesa Antony, who choose to take up space, make it theirs and prove to other women that they have a place in career sectors that are mainly dominated by males. Antony is currently a Provincial Coordinator at mLab SA in Limpopo, her role focuses on unlocking the potential of the digital economy in remote areas in South Africa. She started her career as a Junior Coder at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and currently has approximately seven years of work experience in technology.
Exposure to technology institutions and resources are crucial for the development of young women who want to be in the tech space. “At the age of 19, I was already familiar and exposed to the Innovation Hub which is now called the Science Park”, said Palesa. Antony believes that children need to be exposed to such resources in order to be aware of the different careers that exist in technology.
Underrepresentation of women in tech
According to PWC South Africa the number of women and men with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related qualifications is unequal. Consequently there is a little pool of female talent in tech. This therefore exacerbates underrepresentation of women in technology.
Antony says that inequality in terms of job opportunities among men and women in tech has always been an issue. Recently, Antony attended a workshop and says she was happy to see a lot of women who are pursuing their technology careers. “I think we are slowly bridging the inequality gap in tech, I am proud to say that at the workshop I met women who hold leading positions in the tech industry”, She added.
The tech industry is risk-friendly, so it’s better to take the chance or take the lead if you think something might work. Just go for it and really put yourself out there, because it’s an industry that really responds to that. When you take risks and just go for it, you tend to be rewarded and see things happen.
-Megan Berry, Vice President of Product at Octane AI
For a while Palesa felt as though a career in technology was an impossible thing to happen, however she says the people she has met in her journey have helped her. This makes it important for her to reach out to young girls and women who want to be in tech, to expose them to opportunities.
“At some point I left like tech was something so far-fetched until I got to see women taking up positions like being Nuclear Scientists”, said Palesa. She remains excited for the future of women in tech and declares that women are slowly but surely infiltrating the technology industry.
She has aspirations that she wants to fulfill as part of playing a role in the development of young girls and women in the tech sector. One of her aspirations is to impart digital skills to young girls and encourage them to take STEM – related careers especially in innovation technology.
Palesa on social influence and trailblazing women in tech
“I want to initiate tech-inclusive programmes for women, upskill women in digital skills and help to grow tech ecosystems in remote areas”, Palesa stated. She is driven and inspired by women who stand firm in their roles in technology and wants women to help each other create positive impacts in the best ways possible.
Inspiration awakens one to new possibilities by granting them the green light to go beyond difficult experiences and limitations. It propels an individual to better themselves and transform the way they see themselves. Palesa says she is inspired by trailblazing women in tech, the likes of Alexandra Fraser and Nicoli Koorbanally.
Alexandra Fraser is the head of Fraser Consulting and former Partnerships and Ecosystem Advisor at mLab SA. “She is doing amazing work, when I came into the industry she mentored me until I was able to stand on my own”, said Palesa. Nicoli Koorbanally is the current CEO of mLab SA, she has succeeded in managing Chakana Consulting, advising at the APEC Center for Technology Transfer and was the Non-Executive Director at the WITS Commercial Enterprise.
“A heroine that is not noticed”, Palesa happily described Nicki and added that she is proud of the women she works with at mLab SA and all the other women in tech.