Women only hold 23% of jobs in tech locally, according to Women in Tech ZA. To combat this, organisations need to drive more diversity, by investing in and uplifting young women interested in the sector. Software development skills organisation GirlCode, is working to make an impact by hosting their annual Hackathon. As part of the event, which took place on 5 and 6 August 2023, in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, software developers from online payment gateway Payfast, mentored hackathon teams.
“While this is a competition, at its core, it is an intensive collaborative event, designed to bring young women in tech together in a knowledge-sharing environment. Gatherings like these are fundamental in our mission to create a more inclusive sector, and after seeing the talent on display at this year’s event, we are confident that the next generation of female tech tycoons will take the local industry to the next level,” says Gadijah Dolan, Head of Human Resources at Payfast.
In general, South Africa is facing a chronic shortage of information and communication technology workers. This issue is compounded by the fact many do not have access to resources to nurture certain skills, and that many of our skilled workers are lost to companies overseas. With an unemployment rate of over 32%, and over 36% for women specifically, there is an opportunity to provide young people with the skills needed to thrive in the growing technology industry. This is where GirlCode is stepping in, to help nurture a new generation of software engineers and computer scientists.
The hackathon event consisted of groups of all-female students and graduates working collaboratively to create a website, game, or mobile app that addresses a selected real-world challenge. This process gave participants the chance to learn new technical and interpersonal skills, share ideas, and build their professional networks. Payfast were also on the ground, calling for attendees to submit CVs, and answering questions about job opportunities in South Africa’s tech and ecommerce space.
“To drive change within the technology sector, we need to start fostering interest amongst young people, particularly females. We need to encourage them to see that gender will not define their growth in the sector – and that interest in things like coding or software development, are just the first steps towards a successful career. Creating opportunities for young women to engage with like-minded individuals, and learn from leaders in the industry, is one of many steps towards building a more equal technology sector,” says Dolan.
In addition to Payfast, other tech companies including Takealot, NinetyOne, Vuma, Mint Group, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), took part in the event. Projects were judged based on originality and impact, user experience, and functionality. The winning team, Clueless – who are based in Durban – walked away with a R40 000 cash prize, and new tech gadgets.