South African businesses need to cultivate women in tech

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There’s a telco leadership gap, which women can adequately fulfil.

As the world celebrated International Day of Women and Girls in Science last week, Arnoux Maré, CEO of Innovative Solutions Group and subsidiary company MJL Communications, believes that now is the ideal time for business leaders in technology to reflect on ways to encourage and inspire young women to enter the industry.

Substantial research has repeatedly shown that companies with a gender diverse workforce outperform the competition in terms of innovation, financial returns, and income growth. However, the gender gap in South Africa’s telecommunications industry has only grown over the last seven years, highlighting the sector’s need to cultivate female talent and accelerate the pace of transformation.

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

“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. Embracing diverse workforces is not only a moral imperative, but makes good financial sense,” says Arnoux.

“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, MD at MJL Communications.”

Inspiring local leader in telecommunications

Diana and her husband co-founded MJL Communications in 1996, gradually building a niche reputation in 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.

Diana 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 that there’s so much that women can bring to the table to telecommunications companies in terms of service delivery for clients.”

Despite the country’s troublingly high unemployment rates, she notes that there is still a critical shortage of skilled information technology (IT) workers, 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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