This week we are looking back at, arguably, one of the most important panel discussions of the Africa Tech Week Summit 2020. An all-female assembly of Top Empowered Women in Tech got together this year to celebrate women’s contribution to the field, and outline strategies for getting more and more women into leadership positions in Tech and IT. Four panellists headed this discussion: Yandisa Sokhanyile, Chief Digital Officer of Konecta Pty Ltd., Alexandria Claire Procter, the CEO & Co-Founder of DigsConnect, Caitlin F Dolkart, who is the Co-Founder of Flare in Kenya, and Dr. Diana Wangari Gitau who is the Principal & Founding Member of Lens Africa, based in Kenya.
Moderator, Zanele Morrison, introduced the women leading the roundtable talk, by highlighting the significant rise and importance of women innovators in the African Tech and IT space, and the crucial role they play in enhancing transformation and diversity in a traditionally male-dominated field. She highlighted key topics in terms of what the panel discussion would zoom in on: rethinking gender roles in Tech, women obtaining funding, addressing gender parity and breaking down barriers for future success.
Key takeaways from this all-women panel discussion included:
- There is a rising need for bringing women from marginalised communities forward in Tech – we need to get rid of the language barrier to empower these communities.
- Giving women leadership roles in the Tech space, and in any other sector for that matter, should not be seen as “doing them a favour”. Women have the ability to perform. phenomenally in leadership roles, as they desire to be a part of bettering the future for all.
- Women are so used to eating no for breakfast: enhanced support mechanisms need to be put in place for women to feel safer and valued in organisations. This is the only way that existing barriers can be overcome, allowing more women to enter the Tech field.
- We need to be more aware of our own biases within boardrooms, investor meetings, and the larger workplace environment in general. Allowing for a diverse set of decision-makers in an organisation is the only way portfolios can be diversified in the future – this needs to be made a policy across the board.
- The notion of “The Boys Club” needs to be redressed; this is everyone’s battle as we need to give women and other marginalised groups a fighting chance to succeed in all sectors – women need to be more assertive.
- There is no reason for women in Tech to try and emulate masculinity in order to be respected by their male peers. Women need to embrace their strong, feminine qualities as these bring something new and innovative to the table.
- Society needs to look at the stats and see that prejudice and bias is getting in the way of long-term economic growth and putting a blinker on so many opportunities.
- Aspiring Tech entrepreneurs should not feel intimidated by formal tertiary qualifications, as this is no longer a boundary to be concerned about. In the Tech and IT space, practical experience is most favourable, enabling more collaborations.
- Women who achieve success and leadership positions in organisations, should go back into their communities and disperse their knowledge and experience to assist other women who are battling the same initial challenges – help other women get a foot in the door.
- Technology is a game-changer: the greatest inventions of our time will come from rural communities. Therefore, we need more innovators and individuals who can lift other women up.
Yandisa Sokhanyile, Chief Digital Officer of Konecta Pty Ltd., is an all-round Digital Transformation Strategist, with a strong background in Tech Marketing and Consumer Engagement. She is passionate about bridging the rural digital divide, and has a keen focus on Analytics & Big data and Smart Mobility. She was an IBM Techscale Candidate for 2019, got featured on InspiringFifty, and was a Standard Bank Top Women Finalist in 2019 as well. Yandisa holds a seat on the ISOC-ZA Board, as well as on the Genuine Certificate – Certificate Publication Platform Advisory Board.
Alexandria Claire Procter is a young trailblazer and change maker, taking up the position of CEO and Co-Founder of DigsConnect.com. She is an influential member within the Stellenbosch Global Shapers Community, a hub in the Cape Winelands region of South Africa which was founded in 2016 and is committed to building and shaping Stellenbosch by doing impactful and sustainable work in the community. Alexandria is from the Eastern Cape, and moved to Cape Town to study Biology and Philosophy at UCT. During her third year, she was appointed to the Students’ Representative Council, and had the portfolio which included off-campus housing for students. It was this experience which led to her start DigsConnect.com as a way to assist UCT students with getting placed in off-campus accommodation.
Caitlin Dolkart is an American entrepreneur who is the Co-founder and Managing Director at Flare Emergency Response, in Nairobi, Kenya. Flare connects patients with simple, efficient and affordable ambulances in minutes throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Our on-demand mobile solution helps millions access critical emergency care transport, enables ambulance owners to better serve their customers and links with hospitals to inform them ahead of time that a patient is en-route. Prior to Flare, Caitlin has worked at Dalberg Global Development Advisors as the D.Capital Summer Investment Associate, and at Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. in Non-profit Organisation Management. Her educational history includes Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee, where she completed her BA degree in Medicine Health and Society, as well as MIT Sloan School of Management, which is where she obtained her MBA.
Dr. Diana Wangari Gitau recently placed first in the Oxford Postgraduate Rare Rising Star Awards for 2020. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Business Administration, through the Skoll Scholarship for social entrepreneurs, Saïd Business School. Diana was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and is a medical doctor with over 5 years’ experience in healthcare management, social entrepreneurship and investment experience in sub-Saharan Africa. She is currently the Principal of Lens Africa that is fostering a $50 million dollar Gender-Lens Investment Fund, which focuses on healthcare and financial inclusion around Eastern Africa.