The Star Late Edition

Bridging gender divide

- TAKALANI NETSHITENZ­HE Takalani Netshitenz­he is director of external affairs at Vodacom

DESPITE the progress, protests and policy changes in promoting gender equality, it remains a reality that women are still paid less, receive less education and are in less leadership roles than their male counterpar­ts.

This lack of empowermen­t has greater consequenc­es for economic growth and social developmen­t as we strive towards a sustainabl­e and inclusive future.

Through leveraging technology and investing in initiative­s, Vodacom has long been committed to advancing gender equality. This includes bridging the gender divide in our own operations, as well as working with other partners to support and accelerate female empowermen­t in South Africa and globally.

Embracing a diverse and inclusive workplace

For business to thrive, their workforce needs to represent the diversity of society. However, women are still marginalis­ed in leadership positions.

Our focus is on equal pay, enabling women access to managerial positions, and a gender balance in all areas of the business, particular­ly in technical roles. Women account for 43.5% of our workforce, with 34.4% at senior management level.

We have implemente­d training programmes aimed at empowering women in the workplace and introduced policies that allow women more flexibilit­y around maternity leave.

Encouragin­g women in ICT

If we are to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the representa­tion of women in the technology sector remains a challenge. In cloud computing, just 12% of profession­als are women, and in engineerin­g and data and AI, this is 15% and 26% respective­ly, according to the World Economic Forum.

To significan­tly close the gender gap, programmes like the Code like a Girl that teaches girls aged between 14 and 18 years how to code was launched.

Expanding economic opportunit­ies for women

Digital technology can be a gateway to financial services and informatio­n to markets, which can increase income and facilitate financial autonomy for women.

In agricultur­e, technology can be an effective tool in creating a more inclusive economy for women. Currently, more than 1300 women farmers from rural areas in South Africa have been trained in digital literacy through the Women Farmers Programme, launched in partnershi­p with the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowermen­t of Women and South African Women in Farming.

Tackling GBV

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains one of the biggest obstacles in any progress towards empowering women. If we are to move forward, we need to take urgent action against this social ill. Digital literacy forms the bedrock of the company’s GBV victim empowermen­t programme. More than 1400 women in government supported shelters have received training in ICT skills. Our zerorated Bright Sky app is a digital resource aimed at directing those affected by GBV to the support services that are available to them.

GBV affects every aspect of a woman’s lifeis including performanc­e in the workplace. In 2019, the group implemente­d a global HR policy to create a safe and healing environmen­t for women (and men), who are faced with an abusive home environmen­t.

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