African females need more role models to lead them into the ICT industry and for the gender scale to balance, enterprise developer Judi Sandrock told HumanIPO in an exclusive interview.
Sandrock was speaking to HumanIPO at the BT Global Services International Trade Bootcamp, where only one female entrepreneur was present, in Cape Town last week.
Hosted by the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (MEDO), the event served as a platform for 18 selected South African candidates to present on their startups in preparation for the next round of the programme, where 15 businesses will be sent to the UK for further training at Cambridge University and an opportunity to pitch to overseas investors.
Co-founder and Director of e-commerce craft item business WavuNow, Veronica Shangali Aswani, was the only female applicant and was chosen to present as part of the group of startups.
“I think that traditionally it’s kind of seen as a kind of boytjie [South African slang for boyish] thing,” Sandrock said.
Sandrock believes the male dominance is not only relevant in the ICT sector, but also in other industries because of a lack of self-confidence.
“Quite often what happens is we don’t believe enough in ourselves. You know, it’s like there is a whole lot of gender stuff that goes on around us,” Sandrock told HumanIPO.
In comparison to the UK, she believes that the problem manifests itself more in Africa due to poverty.
“Unfortunately what happens is that poverty really affects women and children the most,” she explained, referencing a recent case where an anonymous woman in Johannesburg could only complete her basic school qualification years later due to a lack of finance in her childhood home that forced her to work rather than attend school. Her brother, meanwhile, was granted an education.
“That’s unfortunate that it happens and then there’s an inequality. The women tend to be kind of kept out of the mainstream,” she continued.
However, Sandrock does not see education as the primary obstacle to advanced equal gender representation.
“It could be education, but I think what it is is that we need more female role models, because as women we need to believe enough in ourselves,” she motivated.
She added: “That’s what helps people to progress. Because it’s mostly about our heads, it’s about the confidence we have or lack and not necessarily about the education.”
Despite the room for progress, Sandrock is of the opinion the situation has definitely improved over the past few years.
“You’ve got to give it time. Because it will take a lot of time. It’s a lot better that it used to be,” she concluded.
Launched by Sandrock in 2011, MEDO has since helped approximately 200 entrepreneurs.