Guests revealed that “it’s lonely at the top” as a woman trailblazer in the IT industry, and that the existence of a women’s circle is an important safe space for like-minded powerhouses.
On 19 October, the CIO South Africa community once again reinforced its commitment to foster greater diversity and inclusion in the technology space by hosting another successful women-led dinner. Clico Boutique Hotel and Restaurant, in Rosebank, Johannesburg, was a fitting venue for the esteemed women CIOs in attendance.
Over and above being a platform for women leaders to engage in vibrant discussions and share ideas that are set to redefine the future of technology leadership, the CIO Women’s Circle strives to bring together women leaders with an unyielding spirit of driving technological progress and transforming the industry through their expertise, determination, and unity.
The concept of creating a platform dedicated to women leaders is nothing new. In fact, one attendee mentioned that in her own organisation, the women there have tried to create a safe space for themselves through an IT forum. However, these happen in pockets and are rarely inclusive to members of the broader IT community, and CIO South Africa has taken the first step in forging such a path.
Topics that dominated the evening ranged from inclusivity, increased recognition, remuneration or rather the unequal nature thereof, to leadership development programmes and opportunities for creating the next generation of IT leaders.
One guest expressed her appreciation of being in the environment: she said that the women’s circle is a great platform for like-minded women to meet and compare notes. Another attendee shared those sentiments and said that the only way to navigate or address the challenges that women face is to merge techies in order to develop solutions.
It doesn’t end there, she said: you then create that culture among the youth to unite and help each other, and change workplace policies, for instance, that don’t necessarily cater for women. “It’s about helping each other move forward as women,” she said.
For another guest, it’s also about creating a supportive environment or better yet, a sisterhood, where women leaders are able to call each other whenever they feel stuck. “We should be one call away,” she said.
“The IT industry is largely male-dominated and women are rarely prioritised,” one CIO commented. She added that at a certain point, she realised that women had no guidance, and it was for that reason that they decided to start their own internal IT women’s forum.
“There’s something special about showing up. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but another thing to walk the talk,” she added. With that said, she encouraged organisations to be deliberate about hiring women, and start the talent pooling early, even before vacancies are advertised. That way, when vacancies do come up, those candidates can easily be set up for interviews and placement.
Another CIO mentioned that for the most part, organisations hire women just as a tick-box exercise, and once they’re absorbed into the company, they often struggle to move up the ranks. But on the brighter side, she said, her organisation is slightly different, because they are a little more progressive as far as the recruitment and elevation of women are concerned.
One IT leader believed that internship programmes were a good way to get more women and young people in the industry, something she witnessed at her previous company. They started an 18-month internship programme including participants who both were and were not able to complete their studies, and at the end of this programme, four women and a man were absorbed into the company.
One CIO in the mining industry said her company had been quite deliberate about employing and creating employment opportunities for women in the villages in which they mine.
At the end of the evening, the guests shared possible strategies that could take women’s agenda to greater heights, such as creating safer spaces for women to express themselves, opportunities for elevation in the workplace, better or equal remuneration, skills development, and better recognition, one aspect that is already headed in the right direction.
Those in attendance were:
- Sophy Moumakoe, Sedibelo Resources Systems Application Manager
- Patricia Coerts, Dentons Global Director, GAM: Business Technology
- Sne Dlamini, Discovery Insure CIO
- Tintswalo Shilowa, C-BRTA CIO
- Nomahlubi Sonjica, CIO South Africa Community Manager
- Mahlatse Molekana, CHRO South Africa Marketing Manager
- Mmule Sapula, Nutun Executive: Special Projects