At e4, the true test resides in ensuring that this empowerment resonates throughout every facet of the organization, extending from prominent leadership positions to the organizational culture and purpose. However, this endeavor entails more than simply bringing women into boardrooms; it involves positioning women to exert an impact beyond the business’s bottom line. This impact extends to the broader community, encompassing the recognition and nurturing of the potential of young girls. By accentuating the pivotal role they can play in the future of the technology industry, we equip them with the requisite skills and mindset to actively pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).
Foundational Support: Nurturing Girls in STEM
In 2021, e4, a fintech specialist, established the Girls in STEM program in collaboration with the Melisizwe Computer Lab Project. With the objective of addressing gender disparities in STEM fields, this program provides support to girls in under-resourced areas to pursue STEM careers after completing matriculation. The initiative was launched in Gauteng, initially involving 30 girls from two schools. The Girls in STEM program offers tutoring, mentorship sessions, and engaging educational activities like boot camps, excursions, and site visits. These experiences not only impart tech skills but also essential life and interpersonal skills such as problem-solving and leadership. The program commences in Grade 9, a pivotal year for making school subject choices, exposing learners to interactive experiences in science, software development, engineering, and robotics. This exposure showcases the numerous opportunities available for women in these career fields. The program continues beyond matriculation, with the ultimate goal of motivating girls to pursue further education or careers in STEM.
Unleashing Creativity, Resourcefulness, and Empathy
CIO Fikile Sibiya emphasizes the significance of commencing career interventions at an early age, highlighting the greater scope for creativity in these fields than meets the eye. In this regard, diversity assumes a pivotal role in the business landscape. She remarks, “Technology serves as an enabler, and we find ourselves at a juncture where creativity emerges as an imperative for technology development. This creativity is essential for facilitating the user experience. While I am cautious not to generalize, it becomes evident that women inherently possess more imaginative and creative thinking. This distinct perspective is what we bring to the table—an ability to drive effective solutions through resourcefulness grounded in empathy,” she elaborates.
Sibiya continues, “Although these attributes are often termed ‘soft skills,’ they hold significant import since technology serves humanity. Hence, an element of empathy must be woven into technology. This capacity to infuse empathy into technology stands as one of the paramount contributions that women can offer in shaping the utilization of technology to resolve issues and enhance lives.”
Prioritizing Inclusivity by Prioritizing People
Busisiwe Mbatha, Head of Infrastructure and Operations, asserts, “The technology sector has already made substantial strides in promoting gender inclusivity. At e4, our workforce of nearly 200 individuals strikes a harmonious balance between men and women. This equilibrium stems from transparent organizational practices that prioritize individuals. We are diligent in selecting the right individuals possessing the requisite experience and skills for each role, while concurrently establishing a supportive framework to nurture their growth along a career trajectory that enables them to fulfill their potential and contribute to client-centric outcomes. This framework encompasses robust line management, an environment of perpetual learning, and an acknowledgment of each person’s distinct perspective.”
Mbatha underscores the necessity of concentrating on diversity and skills development from within, a vital approach for fostering gender inclusivity in traditionally male-dominated sectors. Both Sibiya and Mbatha affirm that tech enterprises in South Africa shoulder a pivotal responsibility in empowering individuals to transcend conventional bottom-line considerations and client rosters. By furnishing young girls with timely guidance and affording women in tech the necessary support as they initiate their careers, substantial strides can be achieved. These endeavors will ultimately infuse the industry with greater diversity in both people and skills, thereby reaping broader benefits for the entire sector.