Photo: HumanIPO I Mariska du Preez at the Mxit offices in Stellenbosch
“In South Africa it is almost like people pretend it’s not there, but more things get done by not standing there, advocating,” du Preez told HumanIPO.
As is evident by her list of titles, Du Preez is an active agent in the tech zone. Although she is not ignorant of the imbalance still experienced in the field, she believes that the emphasis should not be on the gender roles.
“I don’t subscribe to that idea,” she said regarding the focus on females still being outsiders when it comes to the tech world.
Her opinion is that it is quite significant to give women a platform where they are encouraged and supported.
“It is also important that they don’t feel discriminated against,” she added.
She refers to some of the most recent statistics that provide a clear picture of the progress made, though she admits that there is definitely room for improvement.
Harvard statistics show that 41 percent of female majors are Computer Science students, 55 percent of social media users are female and, overall, there was a 28.9 percent increase between 2011 and 2012 regarding women in the tech industry.
However, only eight percent of IT startups are driven by females and one out of every four Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) positions are held by women.
As for as the main obstacles to tech women entering the field, Du Preez lists education, empowerment and support.
“We need to get more girl children to consider (and go for) careers in tech. Initiatives like TechWomen and Girl Geek Dinners empower women with ideas and tools to excel in the tech world. We need to start supporting each other and celebrating the successes of women all over the continent who do amazing work in the ICT sector,” she said.
The Geek Girl dinner initiative was originally started by British Sarah Lamb who was annoyed by the underrepresented state of females at tech events. The idea is not to promote these events for girls exclusively, with males also welcome.
The next Geek Girl Dinner in Cape Town will take place on January 31. Tickets are available on http://ggdcpt.wordpress.com at R180, including a three course meal, goodie bag and a line-up of inspirational tech women speakers.