GirlGuides’ Lungelo Shezi sat down with Shana Kay – serial entrepreneur and lover of all thing tech. With a Bachelor of Commerce (Information Systems), A+, INET+ and a few entrepreneurship certifications, she co-founded her first company in 2004 but exited to re-invest and in her latest business called Infointeg now trading as IntelliCred (www.intellicred.com).
In 2009, she was privileged to be selected as one of 12 women tech-entrepreneurs to study entrepreneurship at the University of Baltimore, Maryland USA. “The experience was incredible, eye-opening and inspirational,” she said, “I am passionate about developing women in technology and have a philanthropic side which manifests in an Annual Toy Drive where I raise funds for various orphanages.”
Why do you think there are so few women in the tech industry?
In my opinion, technology is an emerging “career”. It is not pitched at school level, as something to aspire to. Perhaps the career path is not defined enough which means a lot of women, may not see the potential opportunities. The amount of women in technology is increasing, but on a slower than expected rate.
What motivated you to pursue a career in technology and did you face any discouragement against pursuing it?
Just after high-school, my uncle opened an IT Company, providing hardware and software support and training in various courses, I embarked on completing my A+ and started helping him out. I’ve never been a girly-girl, always had a love for technology, gadgets and even reading science-fiction novels, so to me, technology has been such a part of my existence, that I can’t imagine life without it. While working as Technical Support for a food company I would visit a client and they would always speak to my male colleague assuming I was not part of the team. I had to work twice as hard to prove that I could do the job and fight against constant questions of whether or not I was in fact Tech-Support.
In your view, have there been any positive developments in terms of the roles played by women in technology?
Jane McGonical, author of “Reality is Broken” and the co-founder of SuperBetter, a game that combines fun with combating real-health challenges, educates people around gender challenges, especially living in a gaming world. Microsoft has a Women in IT program, supporting women-owned businesses, and the local government have initiatives encouraging women-owned business to apply for various funding opportunities. There are a other amazing women leading the way such as Marisa Meyer, the CEO of Yahoo!
What are some of the challenges facing women in general in technology?
Women, if they decide to have a family, will be setback by 2-4 years and with technology changing daily, by the time she returns to her tech career, it takes her longer to ramp up and her male counterparts have sailed past. For women that do not want families, the male/female ratio is still unbalanced. The challenge of competing head-on-head with your male counterparts mean women have to learn to become more assertive and not end up with tech-admin roles, because they may slide into it easily.
Which sectors within technology are women involved in the most?
In my view, I see women filling mostly the tech-admin roles, meaning Operations, Project Management within technology or Business Analysis.
Which sectors would you like to see a greater presence of women in?
Most sectors have a gender divider, but the sectors interesting to me are in Science and Technology and Finance. New sections within finance using technology, such as Forensic Auditing, are exciting new fields created.
Do you think young girls have enough info about careers in tech and are there are many or too few of them who are interested in a career in tech?
The careers in technology may not be communicated early enough to girl-learners to get their interest. There are programmes starting in grades 11 and 12, but in my opinion, they should start earlier.
What do you think the future holds for these young girls?
The future for young girls is bright and innovative. They’re being exposed to technology at early school levels and it’s becoming part of their existence. Education around making technology-career-decisions is in progress and we hope that this will encourage them to move into this direction. More education in the Science and Technology needs to happen to grow their interest.