It’s no secret that when certain jobs come to mind, whether it be an electrician or rugby coach, some of us still have a stereotypical picture of it being something only men are engineered to do. This has long been the case when it comes to the sphere of IT. The IT guy – donning a messy or intentional bedhead of hair, bearded and trendy spectacle-wearing man from those long hours in front of the PC, is typically what pops into many of our heads when we think of those working tirelessly writing complex code which breathes life into the websites and apps we in this day and age, virtually cannot live without.
And, even more so now during this trying time of Covid-19, all things technological have become so crucial to our daily existence. From working remotely to having groceries and other deemed “essentials” (like curly hair detangler or non-alcoholic beverages, each person’s necessity to their own) delivered to our homes. But most importantly, tech has allowed us to stay connected – that phone call, WhatsApp or video call – instantly giving you that fuzzy warm feeling when you get to hear or see gran or your parents, “cuzzies” or kids, separated from you as a result of current social distancing measures.
We live in a physical realm but the virtual one has become vital to the way we live and love. This cutting-edge tech is a job sector which has particularly been dominated by men, but today, there are many women who have joined the ranks at the forefront of innovation. With August being the Month of the Women, these phenomenal women, from the working moms to the homeschoolers, and every one of the women who have perfected the art of multitasking and multiple house chores, are being celebrated.
Datafin prides itself as an all-women recruitment agency and leaders in helping carve new careers or new paths on the job journey of candidates specifically in the IT sector. We have placed many incredible women and love seeing them excel equally as their male counterparts but also pave the way for other women to follow suit.
Two such women have shared not only the challenges they encounter in the IT landscape, often working with mostly men, but also the rewards of being in such a competitive and ever-evolving industry.
“People assume you are there to take notes, but you actually one of the guest speakers,” joked Teri Pietersen, an Agile Consultant. She was driven to break the perception that women belonged at front desks or other typically thought of as female-type jobs.
“Oh I knew it was predominantly male, but I think that made me go for it even more because of this perception that women are suited for roles as Secretaries or Assistants or anything that is not seen as “a force to be reckoned with”. I wanted to show that women can do just as much and even more that the conditioned thinking believes we can do.”
Teri believes being a woman in IT, has often encouraged and inspired others to seriously consider a career in tech and even more significantly, change the opinion of some that “women cannot be leaders or game-changers and be really good at it”.
Initially, Pietersen never believed she would end up in IT, having previously worked as a Financial Administrator. But after she was approached by the Engineering Manager at the time, she eventually became a Scrum Master and has never looked back.
Head of Portfolio Delivery, Sarita Van der Walt, currently manages both the Project Management Office (PMO) and Scrum Masters. When she chose a career in IT, she quickly discovered she was one of very few women who actually opted to study in the field.
“…it became crystal clear on my first day of student orientation that I chose a “male-type career”, as there were 5 females in comparison to 300 males, “ she recalled of the vast difference between the gender of her fellow IT students.
Now in the tech industry for around 18 years, Van der Walt admits it is still dominated by men but has seen an increasing number of women getting into IT.
She explained that women face some tough challenges especially when there are mostly men on a team, often perceived as being “over emotional” or having to deal with “mansplaining” type of condescending commentary. She stressed however, that this was experienced by women in sectors across the board, not only in IT.
“There will always be challenges between males and females in the workplace, but the sooner we aim to bridge them, the better.”
She added that women brought their own unique value to the competing arena of Tech where you can get the chance to make “impactful” changes and consistently develop and grow.
“We approach decision making and risk-taking different to males, so we bring great spice to the team – fresh perspective and teams find value in this. I believe that working in the IT industry carries prestige to it as we have one of the fastest-changing industries and to remain relevant you truly need to be abreast of what is happening – we are often seen as the “cool kids” in the economy,” explained Van der Walt.
She acknowledged, that without the opportunities and support she has received from male colleagues, she would not have achieved the success she’s attained thus far.
She and Pietersen said while there have been some strides made by both government and the private sector to get more women to study IT, much more could be done, but ultimately the decision rested with you as the individual.
“Own your destiny! Don’t allow anyone’s perception of how things are meant to be, deter you from knowing your value,” expressed Pietersen.
Van der Walt advised that young women contemplating the idea of a career in IT, should do as much research as possible, until you find a specific area that may spark your interest.
“…there are things like game design and development, UI/UX, Software Development, Quality Assurance, Analysis, Database Administration, etc. The list of specialization fields is so massive, so figure out what in IT excites you, and then just go for it.”