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Huawei Graduate Program Participants

Young female graduates lead the way in ICT advancement.

Women are making strides in all sectors of society, but challenges remain, particularly in the tech sphere. With only 33% representation in the workforce and Black women CEOs earning 38% less than their white male counterparts, the urgency for change is palpable. The disheartening attrition rate, with 50% of women leaving tech roles before 35, highlighted the need for concerted action.

Against this backdrop, a group of driven young female graduates I’ve met recently at Huawei South Africa are challenging norms and driving meaningful change in the industry. Their journey at the company serves as a rallying cry for gender equality and empowerment in the digital age. All in their early 20s, they are facing an industry that, without significant change, suggests their newly started careers could have a ten-year shelf life. These sobering statistics are not just numbers—they are narratives that demand a transformation of the current landscape.

Having collaborated with leading tech firms for over two decades, I’ve witnessed firsthand the cyclical trends of innovation and the barriers they bring. Unfortunately, the stark longevity forecast for these young women’s careers in ICT echoes a historical pattern I’ve observed: bright beginnings often meet with premature conclusions. This insight is drawn from data from countless discussions with industry peers and observing career trajectories that diverge sharply due to systemic challenges. It justifies why the landscape transformation is necessary and imperative for sustaining the talent companies like Huawei are investing in today. 

The call to cultivate leadership skills in young women and prepare them to navigate and shape the future of technology is urgent. Leadership in this context goes beyond holding positions of power; it, in fact, encompasses inspiring change, championing diversity, and driving innovation. 

Rising Stars: From University to Uncharted Territories

Nqubeko Tshabalala, Tina Mtonga, Nozipho Mtsweni, Puseletso Mogapi, Saudah Harrar and Amogelang Monageng are not merely graduates; they are symbols of potential and the embodiment of South Africa’s youthful brilliance. From the heart of Krugersdorp to the bustling streets of Pretoria, these young professionals brandish their academic credentials with pride—degrees in electrical engineering, business information technology, and information systems technology from respected South African universities. They already serve in key roles at Huawei, driven by an ambition to leave a mark in the tech world.

These graduates share pearls of wisdom they’d impart to their younger selves: seize the chance to explore, stand strong against adversity, reject the constraints of stereotypes, and embrace the rhythm of life’s unfolding path. Their initial forays into ICT were lessons in technology and life—discovering passion in their high school classrooms, refining it through university lecture halls, and fully embracing it within Huawei’s innovative environment. This narrative is more than a story of technology; it’s where bytes meet bravery, and circuits connect with courage. Their paths were not laid out; they were carved with curiosity and the audacity to dream big, often in the face of bewildered families and traditional career expectations.

Cultivating an Inclusive Sector

Inclusivity remains a cornerstone of industry discussions. Huawei’s strategic commitment to nurturing women in ICT, highlighted by HR specialist Lindiwe Udzembwe, includes a Graduate Programme aimed at employment equity and equal salaries for all graduates. This ethos continues with the Huawei ICT Academy, preparing students for the tech industry’s evolving demands, and the ‘Seeds for the Future’ initiative, offering insights into global tech trends. Huawei’s approach addresses the gaps in representation and pay within tech and fosters a sustainable and equitable tech landscape, setting the stage for a diverse and resilient ICT future.

Such efforts resonate deeply within the broader context of corporate ethos and public perception, areas in which my own experience has shown that genuine commitment to inclusivity and equality can significantly enhance a company’s stature and brand equity. 

By actively addressing the underrepresentation and wage gaps in tech, Huawei not only champions the cause of gender diversity but also positions itself as a leader in cultivating a sustainable and equitable tech landscape. Ensuring equal compensation and advancement opportunities, responds to immediate needs, and lays the groundwork for a more diverse and resilient ICT future.

Young Women Supporting Each Other 

It is also important to highlight that these young women are not solitary geniuses; their strength lies in reliance on each other. They’ve formed groups throughout their studies, leaning on one another and blurring the lines between classmates and allies. Their stories reject the notion that intellect is gendered and conveys shared success.

Leadership, as they define it, is multifaceted: Reliable, nurturing, disciplined, and communicative. They aspire to lead not with a rigid hand but with empathy and humanity, embracing the technical alongside the emotional. Their voices are a chorus calling for a workplace where people are valued, where being human isn’t an afterthought but a prerequisite for innovation. 

Innovating the Future – A Blueprint for Technological Progress

Graduates within Huawei’s ecosystem benefit from direct exposure to the company’s trailblazing innovations and technological advancements. Vanashree Govender, Media and Communications Manager at Huawei South Africa, highlighted that innovation guides Huawei’s journey, positioning both the company and its graduates at the cutting edge of the tech industry. This environment, rich with emerging technologies, forms the backdrop against which graduates shape their professional growth.

By channeling 23.3% of its annual revenue back into research and development, the company is not just partaking in the global tech race but is actively shaping its trajectory. This investment goes beyond creating cutting-edge products and technologies; it fosters a fertile ground for these young professionals to be empowered with knowledge and tools at the cusp of technology. In this environment, they are prepared to not only meet the demands of the present but also anticipate and innovate for the future of South Africa and beyond. 

Envisioning a Future of Equal Opportunity in ICT

The modern tech era’s clarion call advocates for accessible paths to technology careers, particularly for women in STEM. The young women of Huawei’s programme discovered their entry through various means—active bursary searches, mentors’ guidance, and career expos—each story reinforcing that opportunity must be visible and attainable.

Navigating ICT’s male-dominated fields, these women have fortified their knowledge and confidence. Asanda’s assertiveness and Tina’s vocal advocacy champion the belief that intellect transcends gender. Amogelang, Nozipho, and their peers highlight the importance of assertiveness and vocal presence in commanding respect and breaking down dated stereotypes.

Their diverse journeys—from unexpected revelations to calculated career transitions—exemplify Huawei’s dedication to expanding the ICT horizon. Puseletso’s insights on leadership encapsulate the goal: to empower young women to see themselves as active participants and leaders in technology.

The vision is clear: a future where young girls across South Africa, from Mpumalanga to Soweto, can aspire to the leadership exemplified by Saduah and Nozipho. These graduates are charting a course not just through the world of ICT. Still, they are actively shaping it, driving inclusivity, and positioning South Africa as a formidable force in the global tech economy.

Lebo is an expert in corporate communications and reputation management with an interest in technology and qualified in digital transformation. She recently attended a celebration of International Girls in ICT Day. This year’s theme was “Leadership“, to underscore the critical need for strong female role models in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. DM

By Lebo Madiba, Managing Director PR Powerhouse

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