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The gender disparity in leadership roles, especially in the technology field is an issue that continues to persist. According to PwC Africa, in South Africa, the proportion of females to males who graduate with STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees is out of balance. As a result, there is a significantly smaller pool of female STEM talent, restricting the potential of South Africa’s technology sector.

However, women continue to demonstrate that they are resilient and determined to change this narrative.  This was exemplified at last month’s inaugural Women in Tech event hosted by Women at Uber, an international internal employee resource group with a mission to connect, empower, and support the advancement of women. The event brought together innovative women leaders in technology such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, as well as the local start-up, SweepSouth, to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by women in technology.  

The Keynote was delivered by Dr Aisha Pandor, co-founder and CEO of SweepSouth. “Overall, the female representation in the workforce and especially in leadership positions is a barrier to gender equality. Giving women the opportunity to shine for themselves is the main reason why 90% of SweepSouth is currently run by women. As one of the very few black female tech startup CEOs both in South Africa and internationally, nothing brings me more joy than to see the upliftment and advancement of women in the tech industry. I am forever grateful to be in a position where I have been able to run a tech startup that is now currently operating in four South African cities and providing work opportunities for thousands of women.”

The riveting panel which was headed by women in leading positions within the tech industry, saw these women sharing their individual journeys and provided an outlook and advice for other women who are also exploring their journey. The discussion looked at the state of women in leadership positions and the overwhelming sense of underrepresentation that accompanies it. However, some companies are committed to unlocking the potential of women by continuing to give them access to opportunities and by empowering them not only within their companies, but also within the communities that they serve.

From left – Jocelyn Muhutu: Strategic Media Partnerships Manager at Facebook Africa, Ailyssa Pretorius: GM UberEats SA,
Lerato Mathabatha: manufacturing and industry resources lead for Microsoft,  Lindi Vundla: Head of Legal at Uber

Over the years, there has definitely been an increase in the number of women who hold leadership titles, however gender stereotypes still play a role in our society and trying to change those stereotypes requires everyone in society to be involved, which includes both men and women. This event is only the beginning of an even bigger global movement which will pave the way for what Uber and the community stands for, which is to continue building a strong community of women and allies to share knowledge, provide access to leadership and mentoring for all. 

Speaking at the event Thato Mabudusha, Women at Uber EMEA Co-Chair said, “I am so delighted to be a part of such a revolutionary initiative. Here at Uber, we’ve set an audacious goal to make Uber the most diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. We’re empowering our employees through various initiatives such as Culture Forward and Employee Resource Groups which are programmes that are aimed at deliberately driving inclusion, disrupting unconscious biases and ageism to name but a few. I am excited to see what the future holds for Women in the industry.”