South Africa is seeing an increase in the number of women in technical roles in the data center industry, with the gender pay gap gradually narrowing.

This view is shared by female industry insiders, who told ITWeb that while South Africa’s technology industry is not even close to reaching a level close to gender parity, the local data center industry has seen improvement over the past few years.

While women remain grossly underrepresented in the data center industry, as in most technology industries, female leaders say transformation in the sector is underway.

This is especially true of local multinationals that are creating a “new dawn” and deliberately challenging the status quo in a male-dominated sector.

Gender bias continues to plague the industry as a result of societal influences, the small number of women pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, and workplace systems based on unconscious biases.

Still, the number of women entering the industry is growing and the gender pay gap is improving, they say.

Michelle McCann, head of interconnection and scaling at Teraco Data Environments, says the data center industry, which is plagued by a skills shortage, is seeing more women fill these roles, particularly cloud computing, technical and operations engineers.

“We are starting to see an increase in the number of women interested in technical roles in the data center. And that includes anything from cable engineers to mechanical engineers to electrical engineers.

Michelle McCann, Head of Interconnection and Analytics, Teraco Data Environments.

Michelle McCann, Head of Interconnection and Analytics, Teraco Data Environments.

“Across the industry, there is an increased focus on the employee’s skill set. The industry places a lot of emphasis on skills and salary is not necessarily determined by gender. At Teraco, we hire data center employees based on skill set and pay them accordingly,” explains McCann.

A recent survey by global staffing firm Hired found that men in technology around the world were paid more than their female counterparts 59% of the time for the same position. It is further noted that female candidates for technical vacancies received a salary 3% lower than their male colleagues.

Ahona Nkalitshane, cyber security product manager at Rectron, a distributor of Acronis data center solutions, adds that SA’s massive ICT skills gap has led to a shift in companies not including gender in the workforce they hire.

“The wage gap in the data entry industry is narrowing. Women now have the opportunity to advance their skills, and this is a completely different generation of women. This is a generation of women who are hungry for success and determined to break barriers.

“Companies are now moving closer to ensuring that both genders are rewarded according to their roles, especially when all skill requirements are met. The processes may already be taking place, but it will take time to fully close this gap,” Nkalitshane asserts.

Still, being a woman in a male-dominated industry comes with challenges, with women facing “issues with a lack of trust” from male colleagues, especially when it comes to performing technical duties, she adds.

In addition, women, being the primary caregivers of children, often have to sacrifice their careers to take care of their families, Nkalitshane continues.

Ahona Nkalitshane, Cyber ​​Security Product Manager, Rectron.

Ahona Nkalitshane, Cyber ​​Security Product Manager, Rectron.

“Women have to work 10 times harder to prove themselves. You could swear that women are not supposed to do anything a man can do by default. Issues of unequal pay continue to exist across the sector, even when women have equal responsibilities with men.’

Ashika Maken, Human Resources Manager at Africa Data Centers, says the increase in interest from international hyperscalers looking to invest in data centers in Africa has led to a direct increase in interest from more women applying for positions in the sector , especially in key account management, finance, health and safety.

“With the growing adoption of cloud and digital technologies, data centers have become a highly sought after and recognized industry for women both on the continent and beyond. With the growing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, equal pay for work of equal value is a fair and equitable approach being adopted across the industry,” she notes.

Despite a steady global increase in the number of women in leadership roles over time, the tech industry is falling short of achieving anything close to gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2022 report.

The report notes that the representation of women in leadership positions in the technology industry in 2022 was 24%, compared to 76% of men in these roles.

This is largely due to the small number of girls studying STEM-related subjects at school, which prevents them from pursuing ICT-related courses at higher-level institutions.

However, in recent years, many private and public organizations have stepped up efforts to support and encourage girls to pursue STEM careers.

“There are amazing initiatives in the industry that have been created around the world, where technology-driven educational initiatives are solving a number of problems around the world. Also, companies are saying that we shouldn’t necessarily focus on gender in the hiring process, but instead focus on skills, because that’s where the real gap is,” adds McCann.

Nkolitshane states, “We are past the era where women were not given the opportunity to go to school or go into STEM education. Eliminate gender bias and give women the same opportunities as men. It is understandable to take men only in those areas where physical strength is important.”

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