Signs of gender transformation in the tech space 31 August , 2018

Despite global reports that gender bias still lurks within the work place, positive appeal from women at Ole! Media proves that transformation is underway in the tech space.

More than 10 years ago, when Luane Swart began her journey as a software developer, all of her female classmates opted for jobs in teaching, beauty and early childhood development. It was a time when venturing into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) were largely unfamiliar paths for South African women to pursue, and it was this very reason that drew Luane into the tech space.

She recalls boasting to her parents as a little girl – saying that she’d be a boss with a briefcase one day. Never imagining that her briefcase would eventually turn into a backpack for her coding laptop. “I took an aptitude test to determine my career path and the results suggested that I become an Accountant. At that time, a college visiting my school gave a tech presentation and I was wowed by the idea of becoming a Developer.” That presentation would be the push for Luane to pursue a career in tech, where she began her studies as one of only six women in a class of 100 students.

Where transformation begins

In an age where information is freely available, Luane says that the reason why few women occupy roles in the tech space is because schools do not provide enough education that encourages women to apply. She remembers a day where herself and classmates were tasked to choose their coding languages and when her lecturers stressed how complex Java would be to learn, she was adamant that Java would be the language she chose. She made a point of proving that she was capable of learning a complex coding language, even if that meant being the only female in her class learning it.

Had it not been for her own curiosity to learn more about tech after being vaguely introduced to the industry, Luane would probably have become an accountant.

Awareness of careers in the tech space is but one of the factors affecting women in Africa, according to a recent article published by HoneyKome. The article echoes Luane’s sentiment regarding education, adding that many South Africans still don’t have access to schooling or resources such as data, which could reinforce self-education.

Companies like Ole! Media are working to close the gender gap by offering growth opportunities to young, ambitious women pursuing careers in media, marketing, sales and technology.

When Luane joined, Mobimedia, the mobile division of the Ole! Media Group, she joined as a Senior Developer, and the only female within the team. Luane quickly rose to Team Lead as her passion for gaming and computers drove her to excel. When asked what she loves most about being a developer, she said that no two days are the same. “Every day is different. There’s always a new client, a new challenge, a new requirement – and it’s not boring. It’s fun and exciting.”

More female mentors

Having women in power in the tech industry is even more important for young women to have role models who represent future possibilities. Up and coming Graphic Designer and Developer, Nelmari Addison, has been working closely with Luane over the past year to advance the skills and experience as a Developer. Nelmari joined Mobimedia as a promising intern graphic designer who was then appointed as designer and developer at the company. She found coding by chance while working as a waitress at a coffee shop, explaining that the quaint coffee shop had a horrible-looking website that she desperately wanted to assist with. “All I wanted to do was help them change the look of the website because I felt that it didn’t represent the store at all. That’s when I decided to study Graphic Design and learned about web development, which I thought I might as well learn too. And here I am, loving every day at work.”

For Nelmari, life in the workplace appears to be flowing as it should be – with a relatable mentor, an opportunity for growth in the tech space, and the possibility that she may one day inspire a young female dev herself. Such small wins are to be celebrated and while Ole! Media displays one positive case study, it’s a show of positive transformation that can also improve if more companies follow suit.

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