April 13, 2024

SA businesses need to cultivate women in tech

3 min read

Substantial research has proven time and again that companies with a gender-diverse workforce are more likely to outperform the competition, delivering greater innovations, financial returns and income growth. Yet, the gender gap in South Africa’s telecommunications industry has only widened over the past seven years, pointing to the sector’s need to cultivate female talent and speed the pace of transformation.

According to a 2022 report by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the proportion of female employees in the telecoms sector declined by as much as 32.9% from 12 820 in 2020 to just 8 603 in 2021. Additionally, total female employment in the sector has further declined by 4.5% over seven years. 

As the world celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, this is the perfect time for business leaders in technology to reflect on ways to encourage and inspire young women to enter the industry, notes Arnoux Maré, CEO of Innovative Solutions Group (ISG), with subsidiary company MJL Communications.

“Over the past decade, several studies have proven that social diversity makes businesses smarter, more innovative and more financially successful. Having diverse teams encourages teams to broaden their views, think more critically and consider alternative solutions to the benefit of businesses and clients,” he explains. 

“Additionally, in the world of technology, women have been responsible for some of the greatest advances in the field.”

As one example, well-known computer scientist Hedy Lamarr established a communications system that served as the inspiration for GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Furthermore, Dr Radia Perlman developed the algorithm for the Spanning Tree Protocol, which was crucial in the development of the Internet.

“Embracing diverse workforces is not only a moral imperative, but makes good financial sense,” says Maré. “Arguably, this is one of the contributing factors to MJL Communications’ own success over the years, as a telecommunications business that was co-founded by a woman, Diana Becker.”

Inspiring local leader in telecoms

Co-founded by Becker and her husband in 1996, MJL Communications gradually built a niche reputation within Gauteng for next-generation systems, offering clients printers, scanners, phone services, virtual private networks, CCTV systems, as well as cloud and fibre solutions.

In July 2022, fast-growing South African investment holding company ISG acquired a majority stake in the business, and under its strategic guidance, MJL Communications has rapidly upscaled as it expands its national footprint. 

Becker has remained with the business as managing director, offering clients the benefits of her technical expertise. 

“The world of telecommunications has always been a passion of mine because the industry is so dynamic, and we’re constantly seeing new and practical solutions being developed for common problems for businesses and households. At the same time, the market demand for telecommunications services and products remains enormous, so we’re very excited to see what the future brings,” she says. 

“I’ve also always enjoyed managing projects and teams, so my work and career at MJL Communications has been very fulfilling. As a woman myself, I firmly believe there’s so much that women can bring to the table to telecommunications companies in terms of service delivery for clients.”

However, despite the country’s troublingly high unemployment rates, Becker notes there remains a critical shortage of skilled information technology workers, and particularly female talent.

“Hopefully, by seeing more women in the industry share their experiences, we can encourage other young women to study science and technology at schools and universities, because there are so many exciting career opportunities available.

“Likewise, telecommunications companies need to take a holistic approach to attracting, developing and retaining female talent. Ultimately, as MJL Communications itself proves, gender diversity is a win-win for businesses and clients.”

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