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Women in Leadership Round Table Discussions

IMG 1496Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of
Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Occasion
Women in Leadership Round Table Discussions
09 July 2015



I would like to take this opportunity and thank the organisers of this conference for the chance given to us as leaders from vast areas of the economy. Sharing of ideas, challenges and successes is always key in building one another as women for our greater participation in the mainstream economy.

Looking around in the developed and developing country one will realize that the most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human capital and talent i.e. the skills, education and productivity of its workforce. Women account for half the potential talent base throughout the world, according to ITU’s year 2012 report “A bright future in ICT — opportunities for a new generation of women”.

Women Leadership in the Country


Women make up 36% of all entrepreneurs in South Africa; while they make up 52% of the total adult population in the country. This observation is not unusual in the world of work as women make up about 42% of Entrepreneurs in richer countries. As employers, women make up only 21.1% as compared to men.


The largest number of women entrepreneurs is in the retail trade. Women entrepreneurs are really the backbone of the informal economy. They often have to provide a living for families as overall 57% of all women entrepreneurs make a living outside of metropolitan areas. The second largest number of female business owners is in the clothing industry followed by economic and professional organizations.


Department’s Work with other Organizations

Organizations will be more profitable, more engaged, and more productive when the most important decisions are made by an equal proportion of men and women. The Department works together with an organizations such as, the South African Women in ICT Forum and the South African Communications Forum (SACF) to propel women inclusion in the sector. Amongst others we make use of the South African Women in ICT Forum to:

• Promote the advancement and representation of women professionals in the ICT industry;
• Actively participate in discussions around the ICT Charter as it relates to women empowerment; and
• Promote public awareness and understanding of the ICT industry, particularly amongst women in South Africa.

The South African Women in ICT Forum works with women CEOs, leadership teams, and high-potential women. These women are used as a hub for transformation. The work we do with the forum focuses on providing resources, education, career and professional development opportunities for women in the ICT industry, which may include inter alia to:

• Encourage, promote and facilitate tertiary study in ICT related fields of study to increase the entry of students and graduates into the ICT industry;
• Link ICT related public, private and academic institutions into an effective network to support interdisciplinary communications,

management innovation and professional development amongst women in ICT;
• Promote, uphold and enhance the highest relevant professional standards and principles in women leadership;
• Provide cohesive and coordinated continued professional development training and mentorship programmes in critical management areas to address knowledge and skills gaps of women professionals in the ICT industry; and
• Develop other programmes of actions aimed at achieving the stated vision and objectives of the Forum.

South African Communications Forum (SACF) is a non-Profit industry association which was formed in 2001. The SACF is a membership organization and a representative forum of all the stakeholders in the South African ICT sector. The South African Communications Forum (SACF) brings together the Public Sector, Private sector and civil society organizations with the goal of Building partnership in bridging the digital divide and creating an Information Society.

The Current Challenge in the ICT Sector

As a society we come from a past where patriarchy was deeply entrenched in our daily lives to an extent that it began to look normal to us. Sectors such as the ICT sector where considered to be male-oriented and as a result you can even see today that they are still male saturated.

Limited participation of women in decision-making structures:

Women are underrepresented in all these decision-making structures, be it company boards, political governance structures, and this has negative implications for negotiating the redistribution of power in favour of women.

Lacking in confidence to take on major job roles:

A recent research study by management consulting firm Bain & Bain & Company revealed that upon entering the workforce, 43 percent of young women have the confidence to apply for top management roles. After only two years on the job, those numbers drop by more than 60 percent.


Survey results by KPMG International on the same issue revealed that Survey results showed that six in ten women expressed interest in senior leadership roles, but six out of ten women had trouble picturing themselves filling those positions.

Structural problems involved with women having children:

Women tend more often than men to define their success in terms of both work and family, and may inadvertently self-select out of positions providing career advancement in order to avoid sacrificing family. Research shows that managers are likely to assume that women will not accept promotions or assignments on the basis of family, making managers less likely to offer opportunities in the first place.


Women’s efforts are unlikely to be rewarded:

Women still need to do more than men to prove themselves. Research shows that women need to perform significantly better than their male counterparts to be seen as equally competent. This makes ascending to higher levels of management all the more difficult for women. It is often assumed that men are more capable, which puts women in the position of having to go above and beyond the standards to which men are held in order to demonstrate their competence.

Legislative Guidance



National Development Plan - Vision 2030 articulates the position of government on ICT, skills and inclusion of women in the mainstream economy clearly. When comparing South Africa’s ICT infrastructure with the best international standards, the NDP notes that our ICT infrastructure is appalling.

To turn the situation around, efficient information infrastructure that promotes economic growth and greater inclusion requires a stronger broadband and telecommunications network, and lower prices.

The economic and employment benefits of doing this outweigh the costs. The NDP is quite firm and resolute on the outcomes it desires to see accomplished with regards to the e-skills needed for a growing economy. Our goal is to promote socio-economic development by reducing and eliminating poverty, contributing to job creation and bridging the digital divide thereby reducing inequality.

Opportunities this sector has for women

There is really no limit to what a woman can do in the ICT sector. We want women to become engineers, network specialists, programmers, software developers etc.


Women’s empowerment forms the cornerstone of many of government’s policies. The government recognizes that by empowering women, the whole nation will be empowered. But we know that it is not enough; and more needs to be done to transform our society to one where women are equal at all levels.

Ensuring equal opportunities for women and girls at all levels and all spheres requires that we acknowledge existing gender disparities and take appropriate, positive differentiation to bridge the gender gaps.


Thank you.