Missed the live Masterclass? You can now watch it on demand here
Last week’s Standard Bank Top Women Masterclass was an imperative catalyst for equipping women and young girls with essential expertise and skills for claiming their spot in the techsphere, building the confidence to launch their careers to new heights, and overcoming gender biases in the workplace. In essence, the masterclass assisted women technovators with thriving in the ever-changing digital world, and adopting best practices for becoming a tech leader.
Driven by growing demand, the Standard Bank Top Women Masterclass series is geared towards inspiring women leaders in tech, assisting these phenomenal women in building and managing digitally transformative business initiatives. The series is ideally tailored for women executives and young female entrepreneurs who are making valuable contributions to Africa’s technological landscape – filled with massive opportunities for growth.
Hosted by Karla Fletcher, Head of Marketing at Topco Media, the Masterclass included four phenomenal expert women panelists, namely Mushfiqoh Samodien, Business Director, Aspire Solutions and Standard Bank 2020 winner: Top Women in Tech, Jenita Suknunun, Head of Legal at Netstar, Valencia Risaba who is the Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, and Sarah Adam–Gedge, the Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), at Wipro.
Karla introduced this week’s Masterclass by highlighting Standard Bank Top Women’s purpose: inspiring the world to do good business. The platform’s mission is to create a trusted network of 10 000 women owned and gender empowered companies – linking top 1000 corporates to 10 000 women owned businesses. Karla also invited women business professionals to enter this year’s Top Women Awards and Conference, taking place on the 6 and 7 October 2021. The closing date for all entries is 31 August 2021.
Polls from this Masterclass indicated that 68% of women feel that SA tech space is gradually becoming more inclusive of women. Whilst 93% indicated that they’re more drawn towards organisations which speak openly about diversity. In terms of challenges facing tech businesses right now, 68% agreed that there is a lack of funding options which acts as a barrier for business growth, as well as Gender Bias posing an even greater barrier for the promotion of women in tech.
Key takeaways from this Masterclass included:
- We need to look into ‘growing our own’. Many tech business owners start out in different fields before crossing over into the tech space. This proves that there is room for sustainable growth and new tech opportunities, regardless of gender.
- Unfortunately, one of the biggest factors involved in tackling Africa’s Digital Ecosystem, is the lack of gender equality and representation of women in the tech sector.
- It’s predicted that Africa will produce 54 million jobs by 2022 – less than a year away. However, it is really important that we’re not just creating jobs, but also sustaining them, especially for women in tech.
- Why women are leaving the tech space prematurely: there is a need for more impactful women role models, peers and women tech leaders – women in tech feel a need for stronger connections and networks.
- We need more women leaders in top seats ie. CEOs. Stronger women leadership in the tech industry will boost morale.
- Women have to take accountability for more than just their work life; we are constantly juggling other roles and responsibilities. This is often what causes women in tech to exit the system, or stagnation occurs.
- Women need to find ‘the right fit’ for themselves. Learning to code is not the only option available in the tech industry. Your fit is not defined by a shape or an environment, or the people around you. Your fit is defined by your work and perseverance and how you push through – this is your greatest tool.
- It is critical that top leaders and organisations offer women in tech support, especially those who are just starting out. There needs to be more opportunities and mentorship for these women to develop the required skills.
- Even when women achieve success in the tech industry, they need to remain vigilant and rigorous in how they conduct themselves to sustain their position in the playing field. Women need to constantly work towards normalising equal remuneration – there should be no pay gap as this is demotivating.
- We need to work better and be better so that we do not limit opportunities for women in tech. There needs to be a concerted effort in levelling the playing field.
Mushfiqoh Samodien, is the most recent Standard Bank Top Women in Tech Winner 2020 and Business Director of Aspire Solutions. Together with her business partner, she has built a multi-million company. Her work experience spans across FMCG, Oil and Gas, Finance, Business consulting and change and transition management. Mushfiqoh possesses strong business relationship management skills. This experience has effectively equipped her to play an integral role in the design aspect of business transformation and the applied use of business systems. With 16 years of experience in the IT environment, she has worked on both local and international enterprise information technology projects, in both private and public sectors. Her company now offers learnerships through the Aspire Academy and are actively working to establish an internal internship program based on the Aspire Technology template which they have developed.
Legal specialist Jenita Suknunun has carved out a unique niche for herself, rising to success in her field, but doing so on her own terms. The Head of Legal at Netstar, she is the leader of a women-only department at the vehicle-recovery and fleet-management organisation. She has earned her stripes over the 13 years she’s been with the company, and today she has the respect of colleagues, customers and suppliers alike. As a trail-blazing woman in a field that remains male-dominated, Jenita has faced challenges during her career. However, she has remained centred and aware of her personal values, managing to rise to a leadership role, without compromising her principles. As the head of the legal department, she is responsible for the legal, governance and risk functions. She deals with compliance, risk management, contracts, litigation, policy submissions, tenders and other documentation, as well as the drafting of major agreements for the telematics giant.
Valencia is an admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa. A seasoned commercial lawyer and capable manager with over 15 years of experience, 8 of which were in the Telecoms industry, she currently heads up Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Services at Liquid Telecom South Africa. She has served in legal and Regulatory roles in both the public and private sector, having worked in various capacities for a large State-Owned Entity (Eskom), and has a proven track record in the Telecoms sector in South Africa and African markets such as Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania. Valencia’s key areas of expertise include Commercial Law, Legal due diligence in major funding transactions, Labour law, Regulation, Stakeholder Management and Corporate Governance.
Sarah has proven experience in leading digital transformation initiatives for large organisations globally with a successful track record of driving growth, profitability, business agility and managing successful relationships with customers and the influencer ecosystem. She has worked in project and service-based consultancies for more than 25 years across Australia and New Zealand, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and Latin America. As the P&L leader for ANZ, Sarah will focus on Wipro’s vision for business growth, revenue expansion, client relationships, talent development, industry connects and brand building. Prior to joining Wipro, Sarah has held various senior executive roles as Managing Director of Publicis Sapient Australia, Managing Director of Avanade Australia, Managing Partner and Vice President at IBM, Managing Partner at PwC and Partner at Arthur Andersen.