In a proactive effort to tackle the evident gender imbalance within the South African technology sector, GirlCode, an organization focused on developing software skills, has embarked on an inspiring endeavor. Their annual Hackathon, which took place earlier this month across Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, brought together a gathering of young female minds, all motivated to revolutionize the technology landscape.
Supported by Payfast, an online payment gateway, the event’s objective was to mentor and empower women, enabling them to establish themselves as formidable technological forces.
Data from Women in Tech ZA underscored that women presently hold a mere 23% of tech-related positions in South Africa, highlighting the critical necessity for initiatives that foster diversity and inclusivity in the industry. Recognizing this urgency, GirlCode’s Hackathon emerged as a beacon of optimism for ambitious young women eager to leave their mark.
Although the Hackathon was a competitive event, its defining feature was its collaborative ethos, driven by the core objective of fostering a robust knowledge-sharing atmosphere among aspiring women in technology.
Gadijah Dolan, Head of Human Resources at Payfast, stated, “Events like these are essential in our mission to foster a more inclusive sector. After witnessing the showcased talent at this year’s event, we believe the upcoming generation of female tech leaders will elevate the local industry to new heights.”
Looking at the larger context of South Africa’s technology industry, a significant shortage of skilled information and communication technology workers becomes evident. This issue is further complicated by limited access to the resources required for nurturing these skills and the unfortunate trend of skilled professionals leaving the country for opportunities abroad.
Considering the unemployment rates, which have surpassed 32% and disproportionately impact women, there exists a chance to empower young individuals with the essential skills needed to excel in the rapidly growing technology sector. GirlCode has taken the initiative to foster the rise of a fresh generation of software engineers and computer scientists, instilling optimism for a more promising future.
During the hackathon event, groups of female students and graduates united their talents to create websites, games, or mobile apps to address real-world issues. This hands-on experience not only bolstered their technical skills but also nurtured crucial interpersonal abilities and facilitated the expansion of their professional networks.
The participation of Payfast proved incredibly impactful, as they actively sought out CV submissions and engaged in discussions about potential job opportunities in South Africa’s technology and e-commerce sectors.
Dolan underscored the significance: “To bring about change in the technology field, it’s crucial to ignite interest among young individuals, particularly among females. We must inspire them to recognize that their gender won’t dictate their progress in the industry.”
She emphasized that displaying an interest in coding or software development serves as the initial stride toward a successful career, and events such as the Hackathon play a pivotal role in paving the path for a more inclusive tech industry.
The Hackathon drew participation from a consortium of tech companies, including Takealot, NinetyOne, Vuma, Mint Group, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Projects underwent meticulous assessment based on originality, impact, user experience, and functionality. The coveted title was claimed by the “Clueless” team from Durban, securing not only an R40,000 cash prize but also coveted tech gadgets.