National Women’s Day is an annual public holiday celebrating the crucial role women play, not only in South Africa, but the world. This year’s theme – “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future” – gives us a chance to look back on how far we’ve come and assess which gaps need to be bridged in order to get where we need to be. For Women’s Month 2021, we’ve interviewed the remarkable women at Swipe iX, shining a light on the barriers they’ve faced, the women that inspired them along the way and the words of wisdom they would like to share with the next generation.
My name often leads people to believe that I'm a man, and it’s always priceless to see people’s reaction when meeting me and realising that I’m clearly a woman. It’s true that the tech space is dominated by men, but I've never felt discriminated against due to my gender. The technical arena is one that I adore, likely due to the fact that I believe it truly embraces a diverse group of people, irrespective of sexual orientation, race, class and of course, gender.
You can be and achieve whatever you set yourself out to be. Work hard and I guarantee you'll be successful. The most important attribute while building your career is resilience. Things definitely don't always go your way, but it's how you bounce back and react that is important.
Ooooh, I would love to have dinner with Billie Jean King. I’d just love to hear the story of the Battle of the Sexes from her directly.
I do think some roles are "assigned" a gender, likely just because our brains work differently or due to potential income and dependents. I haven't encountered any barriers while working but I do regret having an archaic mindset that coding (and a few other jobs) is a "male" job. I set my own barriers in that way. I think it's slightly better these days with more female developers but not nearly enough yet.
Be very mindful of how you think of yourself. Constantly ask "why" and "why not" when you reach a point where you think you can't go further. And then go a little further. You are, after all, the one you listen to most.
The easy answer – Jacinda Ardern. Wow, what a superwoman! I think after a conversation with her you'd probably feel like you can do anything! The lesser known answer – Yolisa Phahle. I'm biased, I know, but I’m truly in awe of her strides, innovation, intelligence and, well, power.
I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career to have been supported and encouraged as a woman in the workplace. In instances where there may have been slight gender bias, it has been through sheer grit and determination that saw me successfully through.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. – Amelia Earhart.
Without a doubt it would be Dian Fossey! Her immeasurable love, curiosity and passion for gorillas is something that inevitably led to her demise but never slowed her down and never stopped her! Her quest was filled with multiple challenges, danger and threats; yet her tenacity saw many breakthroughs with an even greater understanding of gorillas, which shed light on their behaviour and nature and so much more.
My first boss gave me my first real wake-up call to this man's world we call “digital”. As an inspiring MD of a very respectable Microsoft agency, she needed to make me strong and, in the long run, make sure I protected myself. “You fake it till you make it, and that’s it!” To this day, there is no better advice! No words can explain how important that was and still is in my life! There is so much power in being able to succeed regardless of your situation.
Education, in my opinion, is always the key, and the more we can educate each other in whatever we do, no matter how humble or diverse our beginnings, we will always be the same! “Keep swimming little fishes, even until you are old fishes. You have no idea how incredible you are!” – inspired by Anni Brink
My mom. I went to a private school for most of my life, not because we could afford it, but because my single mother made sure of it even if it meant “picnics” in the dark. Education was key, especially for a woman in the early 90s, and as a perquisite of this education she insisted I keep my marks up (as long as I got that bursary). I did great, promise. In all honesty, she got me there, and needed to make sure I stayed. My mum, at 26 years old, with a five and a two year old, made a plan. She made it from being a “girl Friday” to being an equal partner in the same business within four years. It didn’t mean she had to wear a short skirt (although she still did) but back then she really was an Erin Brockovich. Seriously, no one scares me more than my amazing mother!
My career has been pretty short thus far, having only graduated in 2018, and luckily I’ve never faced any gender-related barriers in my career.
I’m fortunate enough to have been surrounded by powerful and strong women my entire life, the most inspirational being my mom. After graduating high school in a very small town, she asked my grandmother for R30 and got on a bus to Cape Town, which was over 500km away. She arrived in this big city, not knowing anyone, and somehow made it work. Over the years, she built an incredible career for herself, got her degree at 40 and achieved many more things that wouldn’t have been possible had she stayed in her hometown. She’s honestly amazing, and each time we (her kids) fail at something, she reminds us that we can achieve anything we put our minds to. So to all the young women out there, all I can say is follow your dreams, get on that bus and, if life throws you a curveball, hit it out of the park.
Probably one of the most famous female artists in history, Frida Kahlo. Her life was a series of tragic accidents and yet she didn’t use her only means of escape, her art, to romanticise any part of her life or herself. She lived unapologetically and was, like most artists, ahead of her time and only rose to popularity after her death. Even though I don’t agree with some of her life choices, the “bad” doesn’t overshadow the good. Nowadays she’s an icon for the disabled community, women in politics and both the feminist and LGBTQ movements.
I would say yes, even though it wasn't direct and which I think most women in the technology industry go through, mainly because the industry is male dominant. I had to hold my head up high and remind myself why I started this journey – and that has made me survive in my career.
The message that I would like to send to young women is from one of my favourite quotes: “Behind every successful woman is herself". This quote has always carried me throughout my whole career. It has helped me tackle any obstacle in my career, shaped me into becoming the woman I am today, and helped me believe in myself more. I believe if we instill this in our minds and heart we will be able to conquer the world, queens.
That will definitely be Mamokgethi Phakeng, UCT's vice chancellor. She is such an amazing woman who firmly believes in women empowerment and development, and it's always amazing to watch women in leadership positions unshaken by any obstacles. She is so passionate about her work and always cheers on her fellow woman, which is such a beautiful thing to witness.
In previous places of employment, I have been described as “overly emotional” and/or “sensitive” and have not been taken seriously because I was expressing my emotions and “not being logical” or “pragmatic” about the situation. I have also been valued more for my positive, upbeat personality than my contributions and work. To overcome these, I try to be firmer when it’s required to allow for my work and contributions to be heard and acknowledged.
I would like young women to remember that they should not be afraid to express themselves authentically in their careers. There are many different ways, paths, methods to achieve success and build a strong fruitful career. They should remember that there is no “one right way” to do it and they should embrace their strengths and run with those!
Off the top of my head, JK Rowling. She faced many obstacles on her road to success, coupled with people telling her she would not succeed, but she was determined and did not doubt her strengths. She used her pain and difficult times and challenged it so bravely and beautifully, being empowered rather than defeated. She is also a creative genius! As she said: “Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve”.
No, not really.
Don’t let the fact that you’re a woman make you feel you have an inferior gender. Be bold as a human being and choose the career you really want regardless of what society wants.
I would like to have dinner with Oprah Winfrey. She accomplished so much and uses her platform to uplift women over the world. She’s also fearless.
We’re blessed to have such incredible women within the Swipe ranks and hope that their inspirational words encourage even more women to pursue careers in STEM. Happy Women’s Month, South Africa!