Sponsored: Making gender diversity in tech

A realisable goal.
Achieving true gender diversity might seem like constantly aiming at a moving target, but some businesses are getting it right.

01 September 2023

Lihle Nkomo, Paris School of Business

Two companies that have come a long way in the right direction are Axiz and VMware. They continue being leading industry proponents and examples of effective gender diversity and, today, help other organisations reach gender diversity ideals by sharing what they have done. They also reap the benefits of having workforces that extract the most from both genders for success.

Phila Malunga, Imperial Logistics

Both companies walk the talk and expose women to technology across all stacks, including cybersecurity, information management and hybrid cloud. They have been steadily changing the narrative that technology is a male-only domain and are demonstrating how women bring creativity, innovation and differences in thinking and leadership to every organisation that wants to increase and maintain competitive advantage.

Avhatendi Zwane, Liberty

This is achievable by every organisation, regardless of where they sit presently with their gender goals.

Kulani Likotsi, ABSA

Axiz, for example, has a 50% female staff complement, fulfilling its internal objectives set five years ago. VMware is well-known for gender parity across its staff, with equal pay scales and setting specific and measurable annual goals at management levels to increase the representation of women in the company on a global basis. Representatives of both companies spoke at a roundtable on 19 July, 2023, sharing with a large group of women leaders how they achieved their objectives and what experiences they have had along their respective journeys.

While an event targeted at change and team leadership in the technology sector, participants who joined included technology leaders in multiple vertical sectors, from financial to healthcare, logistics to utilities.

Mirelle Vallie, Asafo & Co

Moderated and hosted by MC, Jeniffer Ramnath, managing director for Technology Strategy and Advisory at Accenture South Africa, she opened the event by saying: “We can make diversity a tangible and achievable goal in the technology and other industries.

Sonja Sarjoo, Axiz

“Today, we have a shared vision – to create environments within the spectrum of vertical sector industries, environments that focus on hiring and nurturing women developing STEM careers, bridging the gap, fostering a culture that embraces diversity and ensuring everyone’s voice can be heard, respected, and celebrated. We believe that the power of diversity is a driving force behind technological advancements and remarkable ideas.

“The top 30 most in-demand job positions in South Africa in 2023 are in ICT. As an individual working in the technology industry, this makes me incredibly proud. However, we still have the challenge of dwindling skills and skills gaps to address to meet the country’s technology needs.

Jeniffer Ramnath, Accenture

“As influential leaders in our organisations, we also need to unpack and understand what some of the practical steps are that we can take as corporate South Africa to support and empower women from all walks of life as they break into the IT industry.”

Traci Maynard, Axiz

Ramnath handed over to Lorna Hardie, senior director for Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware, who shared some key takeaway messages, starting with addressing the common thread on how to develop new and young talent and the role of the CEO and executive leadership to take gender diversity forward and make it a tangible asset.


“Leaders need to find the time to connect with those climbing up their career ladders. While there are formal mentorship programmes, uptake of programmes is slow and we need to ask how to drive participation. There are some inspirational mentors around who act in a more informal role, but more needs to be done. As women, we take on a lot too quickly in order to climb the corporate ladder; we then run the risk that by the time mentorship becomes an option, we don’t have the capacity to take it on.

“Another challenge is that legacy infrastructure is still around, which forces us to hire older people. This leads to the assumption that the younger generation is more engaged by new technology and begs the question of how we, as organisations, can attract the younger generation to learn about old technologies while driving through the new – without falling into the trap of taking on every new technology that comes in our industry.

Keneiloe Selamolela, Outsurance

“We have to drive a proactive knowledge transfer plan to get the younger workforce to understand legacy systems and how to fix issues, breaking the cycle of dependency on an older generation. We need to show the new generation that there is value with older systems.”


Hardie added that how an individual sets themselves up as a leader has to be balanced between being a success without over-achieving, and creating the right leadership value. She adds that leaders need be able to say ‘no’ when required, such as if overloaded and undermining a work-life balance, and that ‘no’ is a full answer.

Lorna Hardie, VMware

“You also need partnerships. Find and choose the right support structure that works for you and don’t neglect the role the CEO and human resources play in getting the support you need to drive your diversity goals – seek this support out.

Venisha Nayagar, Life Healthcare

“Diversity and effective women leadership boils down to knowledge, wisdom, insight, mentorship, talent investment and management buy-in. Senior leadership absolutely has to buy into the value of diverse talent, before the rest of the organisation will follow.”

Keynote speaker Traci Maynard, executive, Axiz, took to the podium to narrate how the company achieved its diversity and inclusion KPIs – beyond its objectives – and the key lessons they realised along the way.

Birgit Smythe, Axiz

“We made the change with deliberate intent, starting five years ago when our CEO, Craig Brunsden, together with our directors, put together an employment profile plan – or a golden thread – which included how to reach our internal targets while on our transformation journey,” said Maynard.

Matlhodi Ncwane, ABSA

“Movement is common and generally high in the technology industry, and people, especially young people, leave very quickly because they seek instant recognition and growth. We have overcome this by utilising the opportunities that presented themselves, including addressing staff movements via promotion, business growth with new vendors requiring more product experts to sell, careful consideration on replacing people leaving and conducting training within the business.

Dudu Tshabalala, Nampak

“All too often in organisations, there is little to no culture of teaching. In order to find talent, you will need to dig deeper into your organisation and by doing so, you can realise the particular value of promotion and training.

Kgaogelo Mangwale, SARS

“We recommend that companies initiate programmes for internships within their business, offer their organisation as an incubation hub for new talent to foster and grow, and be sure to dedicate a team of success managers within HR to drive, grow and report back to the business. Companies need to emphasise the importance of building inclusive workplaces and driving meaningful change.

Refiloe Ramaphakela, SARS

“At the foundation of diversity is goal-setting, empowerment, investment, learnerships and the conversion to hire appropriately, with the link and aim being achieving diversity goals. I also stress the importance for women to use partnerships to strengthen their roles and actively seek and nurture relationships with allies who will support you. Partnership is what makes this business work.”


Summing up the session, Ramnath said that delegates should reflect on the key points raised and think about their own respective organisations in relation to Axiz’ journey. Her first question posed to delegates was that considering their organisation’s strategic objectives, does its talent retention strategy apply the same weight as that of Axiz and what innovative KPIs are they applying to measure that success?

Veronica Sebona, ATNS

They need to evaluate what experiences with initiatives or programmes implemented have successfully improved diversity results.

Bongiwe Nhlabathi, VMware

She also asked why it is often seen that the talent pool, from junior to managerial roles, is aligned to the organisation’s inclusion and diversity objectives, yet a truly diverse and inclusive executive team is seldom seen? She stressed the importance of examining and encouraging more diversity in executive positions.

Queen Ndlovu, QP Drone Tech

“When we think about inclusion and diversity, we know that there will be under-represented groups. Ask questions around what specific actions your organisation has taken to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. Also ask and learn from the challenges you have faced or observed regarding diversity in the workplace, and what measures were put in place to overcome them.

Emeldah Lingwati, Discovery

“There is a reality about what is being done, what has been done, how it’s being done and what still needs doing, both locally and internationally. However, for all of us, it should be an honour to be a part of something that forges a path towards populating a technology industry that reflects the rich tapestry of our country and its people,” concluded Ramnath.