When it comes to women empowerment in the tech industry, many companies talk a good game, particularly during Women’s Month. Actually implementing real change is an entirely different matter for Fikile Sibiya, the CIO, and Busisiwe Mbatha, the Head of Infrastructure and Operations at leading South African fintech specialist, e4.
At e4, the true test lies in ensuring this empowerment is visible in every aspect of an organisation – right from prominent leadership positions to the organisational culture and purpose. But this is more than just bringing women into the boardroom, it’s about positioning women to make an impact beyond the bottom line of the business. It’s about making an impact on the broader community and acknowledging and nurturing the potential of young girls by highlighting the critical role they can play in the future of the technology industry and equipping them with the right skills and mindset to actively pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
(TOP: e4’s women in Tech: Busisiwe Mbatha, Head of Infrastructure & Operations with Fikile Sibiya, CIO at e4).
Foundational support: Girls in STEM
In 2021, fintech specialist e4 founded the Girls in STEM programme in partnership with Melisizwe Computer Lab Project. With the aim of addressing the gender disparity in these fields, this program gives girls in under resourced areas the support they need to pursue careers in STEM post matric. With the aim of addressing the gender disparity in these fields, this program gives girls in under-resourced areas the support they need to pursue careers in STEM post matric. Launched in Gauteng with 30 girls from two schools, Girls in STEM provides tutoring and mentorship sessions along with educational activities such as boot camps, excursions and site visits, where girls learn tech skills as well as essential life and people skills, such as problem solving and leadership. The programme runs from Grade 9, the pivotal year in which school subject choices are made; it exposes learners to science, software development, engineering, and robotics in an interactive and engaging way, showcasing the many opportunities for women in these career fields. The programme continues until the year after matric, with the subsequent aim that girls seek further education or pursue careers in STEM.
Creativity, resourcefulness, and empathy
Speaking about the importance of starting career interventions at a young age, CIO Fikile Sibiya notes that there is more opportunity for creativity in these fields than first meets the eye. For this reason, diversity is critical in business. “Technology is an enabler, and we are at a point where creativity is a necessity in the development of technology, in order to facilitate how it is consumed by its users. While I am very careful not to be biased, it’s apparent that women are naturally more creative in their thinking, and more imaginative. This is the difference that we bring to the table, the ability to drive effective solutions with resourcefulness that’s rooted in empathy,” she explains.
“While these are usually seen as soft skills, resourcefulness and creativity are important because technology is used by human beings. So there’s a level of empathy that needs to be built into the technology and this is one of the biggest contributions that women can make in shaping how we use technology to solve problems and improve lives,” she adds.
Inclusivity means putting people first
“The technology industry is already making massive strides in gender inclusivity,” says Busisiwe Mbatha, Head of Infrastructure and Operations. “At e4, we have a headcount of just under 200 people, and the mix between men and women is fairly even. This comes from visible company practices of putting people first, in hiring the right people with the right experience and skills for the job, while focusing on putting the right supporting mechanisms in place for them to grow along a career path that helps them to reach their potential and deliver on business outcomes for clients. This includes effective line management, an open and continuous culture of learning, and a recognition of every individual’s unique perspective.”
A focus on diversity and skills development from the inside out is critical to achieving gender inclusivity in traditionally male-dominated fields. Sibiya and Mbatha say tech businesses in South Africa have a critical role to play in empowering people to work beyond the bottom line and client lists. “By giving young girls guidance at the right time and providing the support for women starting a career in tech, more meaningful strides can be made where more diversity in people and skills benefits the entire industry.”
e4 is a technology company specialising in digitalisation. By understanding the complexity of a digital journey, e4 partners with its clients to provide innovative solutions that suits their unique needs. Using an omni-channel platform approach, e4 offers a range of digitally-inspired services as well as solutions. Working across financial services, data and the legal sector, e4 understands the intricate requirements in these sectors, and uses its expertise to assist clients in effectively managing their businesses through digitalisation.