Women In IT Inspired By The TechnoGirl Approach

May 11, 2017 – Johannesburg

The fourth IAMCP WIT South Africa gathering united women from various positions and skill levels in the IT industry under one roof, enabling them to share their own career development and mentorship initiatives within their organisations, and brainstorm ideas aimed at promoting more female entrants into the industry.

Two key trends that surfaced during the meeting was the shortage of available candidates and the absence of suitable mentors to help guide both new and established entrants through their career paths, and into possible leadership roles.
In response to the skills scarcity crisis, business development and client management consultant strategist Ceinwen McNeil recommended that instead of fighting over the same pool of scare skills graduates, organisations need to rather grow their resource pipeline and widen the pool through early-intervention initiatives.

Mint Group HR Executive Lauren Clark concurred with McNeil, and noted that, while South Africa does have challenges, organisations need to stop bemoaning the education system and blaming external factors for the shortage of skills and need to start being proactive and fostering expertise from a young age.

“When it comes to scarce skills, such as those required in the wider IT industry, we are all grasping at the same resource pool. Instead, we need to get involved with eager and interested students at high school level and mould and nurture them to join our organisations in future.”
Clark highlighted the UNICEF programme, TechnoGirl, which Mint joined in January 2017, which enables high-school girls to gain first-hand insight into the buzz and excitement of the working world and the different careers available in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.

“Mint has already taken two girls under its wing and has also started a program where it identifies talented high-school students and commit to guiding and sponsoring them through tertiary education opportunities. These students will then join the company and contribute their knowledge and expertise as part of Mint’s Internship Programme.”

Attesting to the success that programs such as these can have, University of the Witwatersrand Physics undergraduate, Malebo Sehanke, and Geography undergraduate Dikae Manchidi, who both joined the TechnoGirl initiative while in high school, shared their own experience and career development, which was made possible because of the TechnoGirl initiative and the exposure and guidance gained from the corporate world.

Mentorship needs to be Measurable

Tackling the issue regarding a lack of mentorship in the IT industry, McNeil highlighted the Australian approach of ‘sponsorship’ as a possible answer to the lack of guidance that many WIT members noted they are or have been exposed to.

“While many organisations have mentorship programs in place, they are either not accessible to all or they lack the structure and commitment needed to actually impact an individual’s career path and ensure cross-skilling,” explains McNeil.

Therefore, organisations in Australia like to differentiate between mentorship and sponsorship to ensure that employees receive the guidance they need to further their careers.

“Mentorship is valuable, but it is not always suitable, especially when hands-on experience is needed,” McNeil noted, explaining that the concept of ‘sponsorship’ ensures that valuable and measurable job experience is provided to employees, enabling them to build their business network, gain hands-on-experience, build their confidence, and foster measurable change in their organisations.

Attendee Nishie Sewpersadh from Accenture contributed her experience of participating in in-house buddy programmes and mentoring programmes. This was supported by others who have either experienced similar programmes or are looking at best-practice to bring these structures into their own organisations.

Clark added that mentorship is not effective if it is not measurable and encouraged attendees to put knowledge into practice. “We also need to discern between internal vertical mentorship opportunities, and external lateral opportunities with peers in similar or aspiring roles.”

Attendee René du Bruyn from Acctech added her experience of exposure to all aspects of business and mentorship, which enables career growth and employee maturity, through the mini-MBA programme she completed. This initiative can be implemented into organisations to foster career development as is illustrated by EOH’s graduate leadership programme – an initiative highlighted by EOH employee Nosi Hlongwane.

Clark concluded the session by reminding attendees that “WIT is not only about ensuring more female entrants into the field, but also advancing and guiding existing participants and enabling partnerships that promote change.”

“We are focusing on levelling the playing field so that appointment by merit becomes the norm with an equal number of female-to-male applicants being reviewed for a position. There are so many aspects that differentiate the male and female employee experience, and far more of these put women at a disadvantage. We can make a difference by implementing these kind of programmes in our own companies, and then sharing our experience with each other.”

If you are interested in joining the IAMCP WIT South Africa chapter, please get in touch with Mint or join the WIT LinkedIn Group.