It’s a well-known fact that the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), are currently dominated by men. According to South African Women in Science and Engineering, only 40% of South Africa’s scientists, engineers and technologists are women.
More and more programmes today are being created to ensure that women are being more involved in the industry. Among these are organisations that support the achievements of women in the STEM fields. With the lack of women in these fields around the world, organisations where one can meet like-minded people are extremely important. Young women in particular who have an interest in technology but do not have an idea of how to be involved and bring value to the industry are able to use these as a learning ground for their own careers.
An observation I made, however, was that most of these organisations were for already “seasoned” entrepreneurs who have owned multiple businesses over the years. What I’ve found to be lacking, are organisations focused on empowering young women, especially in the STEM fields.
As part of the biggest women’s organisation in South Africa, namely: the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA), I’ve come to the conclusion that many 25 year olds like myself trying to make names for themselves in the STEM fields yearn to be exposed to women who run multi-million dollar and multi-national companies, but are not aware that these organisations exist. In most engagements I’ve made over the past few months, I am usually the youngest person to attend, and it got me thinking: One has to search rigorously online to find these organisations, and only once you’ve found a contact from within the organisation, do you then realise that there is a host of other women’s organisations available in the country. But why are they not readily available to young women, especially from high school, university and entry-level professionals?
With the changing times and young people being more than willing to start their own organisations, there are young women organisations that have been created for the purpose of upskilling young women in tech. The support from organisations such as BWASA and We Lead, and also Everywoman which is a UK organisation which runs similarly to BWASA, would help in the growth of Leadership or Entrepreneurship programmes, as the network of women in these fields may help young women grow at a faster rate. Exposure to professionals and entrepreneurs that have become a success in the industry is important, as young women need to know that it’s possible. In order for more young women to be involved, support structures from well-known women’s organisations needs to be established.
In keeping with the spirit of Women Empowerment at the Cortex Hub, a great initiative began last year for Women’s Month. Our flagship event, Women Hacker’s Unite, was created to help in addressing the lack of women in technology. In our engagements with various women in the tech industry, we established how important and how valued Women Empowerment is and how important it is to be addressing this issue.