This post was contributed by Kutlwano Rawana, Chief of People, Rectron, a large Zebra distributor in South Africa. Since Rectron was established in 1995, the team at Rectron has prided itself on being a dynamic and innovative information and communications technology (ICT) provider. It offers printers, barcode scanners, software, networking, and data center solutions to 7,000 Zebra resellers in South Africa as well as partners in Botswana and Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital transformation and emerging technologies, as has the demand for a diverse set of skills, providing new career opportunities for women.
According to a report compiled by PwC South Africa, women currently hold 28% of leadership roles at the top 10 global tech companies. Nevertheless, my colleague Spencer Chen, Managing Director, Rectron, has noticed a shift in gender representation.
“Within our own business, we have more women taking on roles throughout the organization at every level, including management. In the past two years, we have appointed more women to our extended leadership team, increasing their representation to 45%,” he said.
But more must still be done on a local and global scale to balance the workforce. We need greater diversity of thought.
What is holding women back?
There are still exist historical barriers preventing women from being equally represented in the industry, let alone in leadership positions. One of these is the misconception that stereotypical female attributes, such as emotion and compassion, are unsuitable for tech-related careers. The other is that women are unable to be successful in leadership roles because of the many other perceived responsibilities they must fulfill in society, such as being caregivers at home.
Changing misconceptions at an early age is necessary to attract more women to work in technology and encourage future industry leaders. The imbalances need to be addressed at the school and tertiary levels by exposing young learners to the world of technology and female role models within it. We can’t prove these gender stereotypes wrong if we only have a small sample of women in tech leadership roles to reference. The cycle perpetuates itself.
Building a workforce for the future
Technology businesses can play a huge role in reaching this next generation, such as supporting young girls in tech through mentorship programs. Chen adds that at Rectron, there are many internal initiatives in place to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“We want women to step up and become leaders in their own lives by nurturing their skills and talent within our own business. Three years ago, we established Basadi, a female empowerment program that supports this aim.”
Company support is critical in addressing gender imbalances at work. Businesses need to identify where their top female talent is and where the skills gaps lie, especially for women. Then, they can support these individuals in training programs for future roles within the organization and ensure they have the same access to opportunities as men. As a woman in leadership, the conversation around gender equality is even more critical with male counterparts. Female business leaders play a huge role in driving the gender empowerment agenda around the executive table, for instance.
As a business leader, Chen has seen how a more diverse workforce benefits a company.
“Having different points of view increases innovation within our organization and offers new perspectives for better problem-solving and decision-making at the senior management level.”
However, despite the growing movement toward a gender-balanced technology sector, more needs to be done to ensure women have equal opportunities to rise to the top. Organizations committed to gender diversity and supporting women both inside and outside of the business can help overcome the challenges of under-representation.
When women realize their full potential, it opens possibilities for female leaders of the future, with benefits both for the tech industry and society as a whole. It’s encouraging to note that most of our partners and distributors have the same vision as we do for the place of women in society – including Zebra. However, we know more must be done. So, together we will continue to encourage equal opportunities as well as education to help #BreakTheBias. We hope you’ll join us.
This is one of many posts that will publish in March and throughout the year focused on women’s issues, strengths, and opportunities. Sign up now for biweekly updates from the Your Edge Blog and Podcast to stay in the loop.