As we come to the end of Women’s Month in South Africa, I am proud that approximately 50 percent of all our Networks Unlimited employees are female, including our current interns. It is proof of our commitment to gender parity. I believe that diverse talents create a stronger company overall, because different ways of looking at a situation will always broaden the company’s horizons and skills in general.
But don’t let me tell you about how our Networks Unlimited women are strong, empowered and diverse - let them tell you in their own words. We asked some of the senior ladies in our company for their input on the power of women generally, and in the IT world in particular.
Let’s hear it for Risna Steenkamp: General Manager ESM Division; Siphokazi Mato, Compliance Officer; Shamini Schaaf-Hardwick, Channel Marketing Manager; and Yolanda Clark, Regional Channel Manager for Kwa-Zulu Natal and East Coast. We asked them some interesting questions and got some compelling replies.
Question: What is your business philosophy/motto?
- Risna: “Great things never came from comfort zones” – Ben Francia
- Siphokazi: From primary school years I have believed that you must have integrity above all else. As an admitted attorney, it is the most important principle we are taught to embody in our ethical training. Integrity is also one of Networks Unlimited’s core values, which shows you how important truthful and honest conduct is.
- Shamini: Doing the right things right, the first time, and paying attention to detail.
- Yolanda: Always be of value.
Question: Why is it so important to see women advancing in the workplace, both in the IT arena and in South Africa in general?
- Risna: IT was always seen as a male dominant vertical; however, over the past 15 years or so, more and more women have been seeking out the challenges the IT industry brings. They have also been seen as leaders and visionaries in this industry. We need to take this opportunity not to concentrate on what makes us physically different from one another but to focus more on competence and capabilities. You have every right to excel in what you feel passionate about.
- Siphokazi: It is important because women are still the minority in leadership roles, and representation matters. It allows those who have been previously under-represented to strive for better, and it brings hope in hopeless situations. Furthermore, the more women we have in management in IT specifically, the more women and young girls we will see taking up opportunities in this space. Equal and fair representation will eradicate unconscious bias.
- Shamini: I believe our maternal instinct of developing and growing our children and family translates into the business world, where we utilise collaboration rather than individualism, and where we want everybody to be part of our success, including our partners, our colleagues and the communities in which we operate. I do think we understand the bigger picture of being part of a successful community, giving back to ensure continuous growth.
- Yolanda: Women connect and engage on a more emotional level with those around them, which is vital when dealing with people. They work hard; generally juggling both a career and a family, and should therefore be recognised for the efforts and sacrifices they make. We work smart and can handle just about anything life throws at us. We can be gentle, yet firm and ambitious at the same time. Our contribution to the workplace is invaluable.
Question: if you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
- Risna: If you don’t have faith in yourself, nobody else will.
- Siphokazi: Read more, seek, and take up as many opportunities to learn and/or lead in any environment you find yourself. Experience is the best teacher.
- Shamini: Follow your passion
- Yolanda: Know your worth. Be confident and trust yourself more – make your own choices and stop doubting yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes so you can learn from them. Learn to love and accept yourself and never be afraid to say “No”.
As you can see from the above, we are most fortunate to have this amazing selection of senior women as part of our management team at Networks Unlimited.
And finally, here’s a sneak preview for you: we have invited Baratang Miya, the founder of Girlhype, to give a motivational talk to our partners and employees later this month, in celebration of Women’s Month in South Africa.
Girlhype exists to empower young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to pursue careers in the tech arena. When Baratang shares her story, we are looking forward to finding out more on why and how she encourages girls and women to enter into the tech field in South Africa.
As the ICT arena only grows more and more disruptive and exciting, we at Networks Unlimited look forward to playing our role in opening up the tech world to all, regardless of race, creed or gender.
Diversity, like unity, brings strength.