There are many ways in which the ‘new normal’ of Working From Home (WFH) has changed things, and one example of this is the impact it has had on women in the IT sector. With more flexible hours and no need to travel into an office, new opportunities have presented themselves. WFH allows better work/life balance, especially in the IT space, enabling employees to be human as well as part of the workforce, which is especially important for women, who are often the caregivers in the home.
“In the data management space, most of our work happens after hours, and many women do not feel safe traveling to work to start their shift at 1am. With WFH, this is no longer an issue. This is a similar situation to many areas within the IT sector. WFH has opened up new opportunities and empowered women to become more involved in IT,” says Iniel Dreyer, Managing Director at DMP South Africa.
Many studies have shown that businesses that foster a culture of diversity and inclusion are healthier, more productive and ultimately more profitable. This is because diverse groups have different views and can provide a wider range of input and ideas, stimulating creativity in problem solving. Diversity and inclusion is fast becoming a critical differentiator, especially as Millennials begin to make up the bulk of the workforce. Not only does it make for better, more flexible businesses, it also helps to promote change, encourage growth and create equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background.
“During lockdown, we have hired many more women with technical-specific IT skills. This is directly related to the remote working environment, which has offered the flexibility required to make this more of a possibility and to encourage women to join the IT workforce. WFH has empowered women with equal opportunity to get more involved in the IT sector. We have seen a significant improvement in productivity as a result,” says Dreyer.
One issue is the stereotype that IT is only for men, and this needs to change. There are many more women now entering the industry, and while they may face challenges, this is beginning to change at an accelerated pace. WFH in the IT industry has made it much easier to promote greater equality, as well as enhanced flexibility. This in turn has enabled the entire workforce to become more productive, happier and more effective.
“Women often have to deal with gender discrimination. Working from home has had an impact on the general culture in that people obviously have less physical access to each other, everything is done online, and most interactions are recorded, and I think because of that, people are more ‘careful’ and mindful of what and how they say things. Women now have an added “home-ground advantage” element to the workplace, that affords us more equality, confidence and vigour to excel in the IT realm,” says Leah Motlhokwane, Support Engineer at Gabsten Technologies.
“Working from home and having flexible hours has opened up new avenues, such as the ability for women to work different shifts and not have to drive at unsafe hours. And while there is this misperception that women cannot take on technical roles, this idea is slowly being eroded. IT is a broad sector and it is evolving every day, and as women, we want to learn and need to be open to the opportunities,” adds Promise Ntuli, Support Engineer at Gabsten Technologies.
The IT industry is specifically about outputs, and it is all goal-driven. This means it is an ideal candidate for greater flexibility, as well as enhanced diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, hiring should never be about gender, or about difference or disability, but about the best candidate for the job, regardless of their gender, disability or difference.
“As employers, we need to be encouraging participation, and not perpetuating stigmas and stereotypes. Not only is this essential for creating equal opportunities for all, it is also becoming an imperative for successful business today,” Dreyer concludes.