Full Potential’s women’s event unpacked how African women can future-proof their career in a digital age
Science, technology, engineering should not be the only skills in demand.
Women in Africa are primed to benefit from the increasing digitisation of the global work culture, and should ensure that they embrace a habit of lifelong learning and upskilling to remain relevant in their industry and career.
This was the consensus from a recent online seminar titled “The Future is Female”, organised by Full Potential Consulting to commemorate Women’s Month in August.
Hosted by Mabore Sithole, founder and MD of Full Potential Consulting, the conversation centred around where the world is headed in terms of digital transformation and how the roles African women can play in this evolution is today more relevant than ever.
“We need to keep the emancipation of women on the radar and discuss how we, as women in Africa, can start to engage beyond borders and lift one another up,” said Mabore.
The future of work is digital – and African
As Roze Phillips, executive director of Value Creation at GIBS Business School explained during her keynote address, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of global work culture and requires women to adapt to this new normal.
“The future is digital, as technology is uncoupling work from finite hours and locations. Work used to be a place we go, and now it is a place in which we connect virtually and in which our co-workers are freelancers and robots.
“We are also being required to work with people from different parts of the world in a multicultural and multi-geographic workplace,” she said.
According to Roze, Africa will hold 20 percent of the world’s population by 2030 and 2.5 billion people by 2050 – hosting the globe’s youngest population and the largest labour force in the world.
The continent’s rate of connectivity and digitalisation is also growing due to increased investment in communication technology, such as undersea cables, as well as pro-innovator regulation, such as supportive start-up acts and regional legislative harmonisation.
Venture capital investment in Africa is reaching all-time highs, with investments in the fintech and e-commerce industries leading the way.
“By 2019, Africa had over 40 percent mobile digital connectivity and over 700,000 technology developers. We are attracting venture capital because they believe in the future of innovation in Africa,” explained Roze.
“Importantly, with advancing digitalisation, women in Africa are now able to make a greater impact in the world of work without having to leave their countries of birth.
“You don’t have to forgo your status as an African to make a difference. When asked, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently said his next biggest competitor will be the product of two women currently coding in a garage in Africa. We have to believe that we are capable and can make it happen.”
How African women can evolve their careers in the digital age
Importantly, Roze emphasised that it is not only women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields whose skills would be in demand in the future of work.
Given the reality of work in an increasingly multicultural environment, there remained a need for broader, softer skills offered by the likes of female educators, social change agents and politicians, she added.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has, for example, made significant progress on improving women’s representation in government, with the share of women in parliament in the region having doubled since 2000.
“You don’t only need to be a techie to be successful in the digital future of work. We have lots of problems that can be solved by women in Africa digitally, including those related to technology, climate change, social issues, and politics,” she said.
Roze advocated for African women to cultivate a growth mindset in business by:
- Developing skills to interact, build relationships and show the self-awareness needed to work effectively with others in person and personally
- Building skills to approach problem-solving creatively, using empathy, logic and novel thinking
- Creating a solid knowledge of technologies and data in their field of expertise
- Embracing a culture of lifelong learning – including embracing experimentation
- Specialising for work by developing the relevant skills to address local market priorities and industry needs while remaining open to continuously learning, growing and adapting
“The most important thing is not whether you have all the answers, but whether you are asking the right questions,” she said.
Lindiwe Matlali, founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks and commissioner of 4IR, added during the seminar that women should consistently look for ways in which they can make themselves more competitive in their industry by following industry news and trends.
“Find a publication in your industry that covers trends and predictions and be willing to learn and adapt. You need to prepare for the opportunities you seek, so that when the opportunity presents itself, you are ready.”
In addition, take advantage of the myriad of free online courses available and seek out women mentors in your industry who are able to provide guidance and advice.
“Always be willing to learn. Be intentional and bold and don’t be shy to be ambitious and put yourself out there,” said Lindiwe.
Lift as you rise
During her address to attendees, founder and lead consultant of OutsideIn HR, Ngozi Adebiyi, reminded African women to support one another as they advanced in their careers, calling on them to:
- Ensure all women’s ideas are heard by setting a good example, speaking up in meetings, and encouraging other women to do the same
- Look for opportunities to celebrate women’s accomplishments, and point out when women are being blamed unfairly for mistakes
- Look for opportunities to boost other women’s confidence
- Look for opportunities to give the women you work with constructive input that can help them learn and grow
- Commit the time and energy to mentor other women
- Stay informed about the gender gap and work towards contributing to the correction of the disparity
“Other women are women’s greatest allies,” said Ngozi. “Together, women can level the playing field and go further faster. Competition among women has no place in the world we are building and the more we work together, the more we’ll be heard. There is always strength in unity.”