A+ A A-

Empowering women through the Internet

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Empowering women through the Internet

Women have been left behind on the technology ladder. Particularly in developing economies, they are trailing men, creating a digital gender gap. However, wired women, with access to the Internet have a powerful tool for empowerment.


This is the view of Sandra Burmeister, CEO of Amrop Landelahni. “The United Nations has deemed high-speed Internet access to be a basic human right. South African policymakers would do well to take note,” she says. “Without widely-available, cheap Internet access, SA will drop out of the knowledge economy, and women will remain the worst off.

“Research shows that, for every 10% increase in broadband penetration, a country achieves a 1% growth in GDP and a 1% drop in unemployment. That is strong motivation for getting more women – and men – on to the web.


“As SA’s gender statistics show, entrenched cultural norms mean that the balance remains tilted in favour of men. Women are worse off in key areas like education and literacy, employment and income. And there are fewer digitally-savvy women.


Intel’s recent global survey, Women and the Web, found that, across the developing world, close to 25% fewer women and girls are online than men and boys. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of females online is almost half the number of males.


The Intel report shows that access to the Internet empowers women by boosting income potential. Some 80% of women used the Internet to improve their education. And 45% used the Internet to search and apply for a job online. One-third used the Internet to earn additional income.


“Access to the Internet increases women’s sense of empowerment,” says Burmeister. “More than 70% of women considered the Internet liberating and 85% said it provided more freedom, through bringing an understanding of cultures beyond their own and exposing them to role models outside their community.


“An understanding of information technology has led to entrepreneurial ventures, with women starting their own businesses, using communications centred on their cellphone. This has catapulted women from the ranks of the unemployed to those running small businesses, or growing to employ staff, thereby empowering themselves and their communities.”


There are some compelling success stories. Across the African continent, achievements abound. Chikondi Chabvuta was recently selected by the Mail & Guardian as one if its top 10 talented Africans. A 25 year-old woman in Malawi, Chikondi is passionate about empowering women farmers and educating young women. She uses digital technology – webcasts – to put young girls in her community in touch with inspiring role models in Malawi and across the world.


Closer to home, in Bushbuckridge, Mmpumalanga, Diana Mashudu Khumalo – an 80% aggregate Grade 12 student – uses her Blackberry to access research on the Internet, something that was otherwise impossible in a rural school, lacking library facilities.


Then there’s Dr Zama Katamzi, an astro-scientist, carrying out research in the rarified field of radio astronomy. She was quoted by Mail & Guardian as saying: “I am driven by challenges. Men should not feel they’re entitled to certain disciplines. I love to prove that I can also do it!”


“There are some encouraging trends,” says Burmeister. “Broadband access in South Africa has more than doubled in the past two years, with most new users accessing the Internet via mobile devices. But this still represents a low 11% of the population.


“The importance of exposure to technology, along with maths and science, at school level as foundation skills has been long appreciated. Education is the key. Education, work opportunity and pay equity are inherently linked.


“Delegates at the recent World Economic Forum gathering in Cape Town argued that SA needs to improve its information and communications infrastructure and increase the level of ICT education. SA’s lack of ICT readiness means the economy is not benefitting as much as it should from technology on the socio-economic or skills front. And it is losing out because it is tapping the resources of less than half of its potential workforce.”


“Lack of education limits opportunities for women in the workplace, relegating them to lower paid jobs. In Nordic countries where 100% literacy for both sexes was reached several decades ago, gender parity in education follows. The gender gap has been reversed and women make up the majority of skilled workforce.


“To catapult South African women into the ICT forefront and reap the benefit for women and for the country demands a concerted effort from everyone – from government, business, universities and schools through to families and individuals. Encouraging girls and women to become  Internet-savvy and make the most of their online research, education and networking opportunities is a great place to start.”

Last modified on Monday, 29 July 2013 12:47
Sandra Burmeister

Sandra Burmeister

Sandra Burmeister is the CEO of Landelahni, established in 1997, Landelahni was the country's first black-owned and women-owned executive search company. Today, the Landelahni Recruitment Group consists of a number of companies offering recruitment, assessment and coaching services in both the public and private sectors.

The group consists of:

  • Landelahni Business Leaders (Amrop SA) – Executive and non-executive director search
  • Landelahni Leadership Development – Board and executive coaching and mentoring
  • Landelahni Assessments – Executive and management assessments to identify leadership potential
  • Landelahni Professional and Technical Appointments – Large project professional and technical recruitment
  • Landelahni Workforce Management – On-site managed staffing.

Since inception, Landelahni has built a substantial track record in the appointment of black executives, and more than 40% of the executive appointments made by Landelahni are black women.

Website: www.landelahni.co.za

Latest from Sandra Burmeister

  • Smart ways to identify next generation leaders
  • New BEE regulations could hit SMEs
  • Are we paying executives too much?
  • Killer career tips for women
  • Women still not fully on board
Login to post comments
Copyright © 2013 gdmc (Geoffrey Dean Marketing Corporation cc). All rights reserved. Material may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. External links are provided for reference purposes. SALeader.co.za is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

Login or Subscribe