The role of ICT in empowering women, particularly in South Africa is a big issue, however relatively little is known about how, when, and why such empowerment is not occurring (Wheeler, 2008).
According to Adigun (2008), access to content and the use of ICT are connected to gender norms and inequalities, as well as to the efforts to question and change these. ICT has the potential to alleviate some of the barriers faced by women, this includes illiteracy, poverty, time scarcity, hindrances to mobility, and cultural and religious taboos. Women empowerment paves the way for an equal society where no gender discrimination exists.
Many organizations such as Geek4Learning are working to build the capacity of women in the IT industry or who are looking to be part of the industry through providing training for related jobs, as well as training for women in their professions. As a contribution to empowering women, Geeks4Learning has partnered with subject matter experts (SMEs) such as Catherine Jaramba, who is a young energetic woman who is also a certified scrum master. She studied B.Com. Hon in Information Systems at Rhodes University and is succeeding in her Business Analysis career in order to show contribute to the mission of empowering women in the country.
Women empowerment is focused on increasing a woman’s power to take control over decisions that shape her life. Catherine mentioned that she chose the ICT industry because she realised that we are living in a technology era, a digital age, and ICT is playing a huge role in our day-to-day lives and she recognizes that ICT permeates all aspects of life, providing better and quicker ways for people to, network, seek help, gain access to information, and learn.
Addressing the imbalance to ensure full participation of women in ICT is crucial as the ICT industry is viewed as one of the key drivers of the South African economy, and it has been identified as one of the key sectors/industries of growth by the South African government through its various national initiatives. Catherine believes that ICT offers women flexibility in time and can be of value to women who face social isolation, especially women in developing countries.
Dottin (2022), mentioned that not only is the low participation of women in high-level ICTs a problem for just women, but also for the industry and the country. Women are missing an increasing number of technology-related job opportunities and run the risk that technological developments will not be relevant to their needs.
A country cannot compete in an increasingly global ICT market if half of its talented citizens are not participating. It is important that women be in a position to influence and direct the ICT sector. Catherine said that ICT can enable women and men to gain a stronger voice in their communities and at the global level too. The use of digital technologies has the potential for economic empowerment of women and increasing gender equality says Catherine.
According to Ursula (2016) a continued exclusion of women from ICTs implies that women will have few opportunities to influence the ways in which these technologies develop and affect their lives. Moreover, the ICT industry is losing the talent of skilled women who can bring to it a richness and diversity of thought and perspective and can help alleviate the shortage of skills, which is exacerbated by their lack of participation or inclusion.
In most communities’ women are being taught how to use computers in order for them to be literate and be able to get employment as ICTs can assist in providing women with employment resources and opportunities that could narrow the gender wage gap, assist in making education and health information more accessible, contributing to the end of violence against women, and lead to a nation that has empowered women, and Geeks4Learning works to ensure that it equips young women to be job ready in order to contribute and improve the country.
Catherine’s advice to women is that they should feel free to ask for help, in fact, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, especially when it comes to pursuing a career in technology, and lastly, communication is essential in the tech industry and for its continued growth.