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How business can build future career paths for women in AI and emerging tech



The underrepresentation of women in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields continues to persist.  This is despite progress being made in gender equality and equity over the last decade,

According to the latest UNESCO report on gender-responsive education, too many girls and women are held back by biases, social norms and expectations influencing the quality of the education they receive and the subjects they study.

Girls are particularly under-represented in developing countries in the African continent; particularly around STEM education and, consequently, in STEM careers.

This gender disparity is alarming, especially as STEM careers are the jobs of the future. Think AI, workplace 4.0, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development.

This article seeks to understand the role of business in breaking the gender divide and how businesses can bridge this gap and create women leaders of the future.

Salesforce empowers women in AI

The greatest challenge to advancing gender equality in the workplace, particularly in the technology industry, is addressing women’s under-representation in emerging roles, such as AI as well as in cloud computing, engineering and Data, according to Ursula Fear, Senior Talent Programme Manager at Salesforce.

Across all sectors, systems need to become more equitable. To open up the technology industry specifically, the role of business to address the issue of equity should begin with education.

Encouraging more women to enter STEM fields  will help businesses address women’s under-representation in emerging roles such as cloud computing, engineering, data and AI.

“Addressing this challenge starts long before a woman enters the workforce. We need to work together – as education institutes, as business, as caregivers – to help cultivate an interest in ICT among young girls by exposing them to all the possibilities ICT holds,” says Fear.

“A successful outcome would be the day that we no longer need to talk about girls or women in ICT as a specific focus area. In the meantime we need to keep nurturing potential, interrogating how to make ICT more appealing to girls and women, and actively debunk any remaining stigmas, myths and stereotypes around ICT being a male field,” adds Fear.

Beyond Bias: Huawei’s Drive for Women in STEM Unlocks Futures

It is imperative to acknowledge the progress made towards gender equality in STEM despite the ongoing societal and educational challenges deterring women from these fields.

According to Vanashree Govender, Senior Communications Manager at Huawei South Africa, Huawei’s commitment to ICT education and empowerment is demonstrated through initiatives like the Seeds for the Future and the Huawei Bursary Programme which actively targets a 50-50 gender split.

“Our commitment to connecting more South Africans to the internet, with our telco partners, and bringing the very latest technologies to SA, means that we are well placed to run big ICT training programmes in the country. These programmes actively target women participants, from students to women entrepreneurs.”

Huawei’s Women in Tech programme, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in South Africa, provides crucial exposure to new technologies like 5G, Cloud and AI to women entrepreneurs and ICT students to advance their digital skills and prepare for the future workplace.

These initiatives are integral to creating an inclusive environment and equipping women with the necessary tools to excel in STEM without being limited by gender roles or accessibility challenges.

Uber champions female entrepreneurship

Over the years, the e-haling industry has been male-dominated. In recent times, however,  there has been a shift towards female e-hailing drivers taking up opportunities in this tech platform economy.

To aid and support women’s active participation and champion entrepreneurship in the South African economy, and through technology, Uber has launched several initiatives and in-app features to help women overcome the barriers that they face in their businesses.

These include Women Rider Preferred, a feature that provides women with a choice in opting to be connected to women riders.

“We are especially proud to have been able to empower women in South Africa with access to new and flexible earning opportunities by providing them with the necessary resources to thrive and continue to improve their mobility and independence,” says Lorraine Onduru, Head of Communications, Sub-Saharan Africa, Uber

“Uber is committed to women earners and working with industry partners to remove any barriers that exist for women to get on the platform,” adds Lorraine

Future Forex take proactive steps to empower women in fintech

As part of our commitment to addressing the gender divide in STEM roles, Future Forex  has taken proactive steps to empower and support women within the fintech sector.

“We’re proud to have a strong representation of women, particularly in key leadership positions, across various departments within our organisation,” says Harry Scherzer, CEO of Future Forex. These talented women and all the females within their teams bring diverse skills, perspectives and expertise, contributing significantly to our company’s success and growth.

Read Also: Trusted AI Needs a Human at the Helm

“An example of this is that, as part of our software engineering department, we have a seasoned female professional who has been instrumental in driving our technological advancements forward, demonstrating exceptional proficiency and dedication in her role,” says Scherzer. “Similarly, our Head of Trading is a science graduate who possesses a wealth of industry knowledge and strategic acumen, guiding our trading operations with precision and insight,” he adds.

Future Forex aren’t only addressing the gender divide by investing in the empowerment and capacity of women in STEM,  but also cultivating a talented and diverse female workforce that drives innovation and success for the future.

Creating purposeful spaces conducive for women in STEM

Study after study across the world and various sectors have shown that by including and empowering women you accelerate sustainable development across all metrics, from health and education to food security and finance. “It is how we achieve a higher return on investment (ROI) in our quest to solve the challenges that plague our communities,” says Ayanda Mvandaba, CA(SA) and Entrepreneur.

“We must be purposeful about curating spaces that are conducive for women in STEM to create magic,” adds Mvandaba. In bridging the gap, the first point of call is, and always will be, access to information and opportunities. Mvandaba says businesses need to be intentional in how they choose to expose women in STEM in ways that boost their confidence and their skills and grow their networks.

“In order to address the gender divide with women in STEM roles, in my capacity as CEO of Drink Nil , I engage in mentorship relationships, provide sponsorships, emphasise continuous professional development, expose women to my network while teaching them to use the network effectively and the importance of social capital.” Mvandaba, this year, has also launched the Ayanda Vabaza-Mvandaba Bursary for students going into any field within the commerce faculty at a South African University.

Journalist/PR Practitioner who seeks to tell the African stories in an African way. Be it on Politics, Sports, Business, and Current News the story will be told. Twitter @kmajangah

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