Belgium Campus Initiates Collaboration Across Africa to Encourage Women in IT

Belgium Campus iTversity has taken the lead in several initiatives in recent years to spur the number of women in the information technology (IT) sector.

Jannie Zaaiman, CEO for Education and Academic Collaboration at Belgium Campus iTversity, explains that it has a multifaceted approach with several initiatives, but its central initiative is TICON Africa, which stands as a testament to their commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity in the tech sector. The inaugural TICON Africa Conference 2023, held in Uganda in September 2023, proved to be a groundbreaking event dedicated to that central idea and has drawn significant interest and collaboration.

One of the first initiatives of this organisation – which includes Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana – was to launch a Women in ICT chapter, with representatives from Uganda, Botswana and Zimbabwe leading the charge. Subsequent conferences, such as the upcoming one in Mombasa, Kenya, aim to continue fostering partnerships between academia, government and industry stakeholders.

Zaaiman explains the underlying rationale for its Women in IT focus: “Despite encouraging statistics showing a growing female presence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields, particularly in natural sciences, there remains a concerning disparity specific to the IT sector. While women now constitute a majority in STEM graduates, their representation in IT remains notably lower.

“Recognising this gap as a pressing issue, Belgium Campus iTversity aims to prioritise efforts to promote STEM subjects among young learners, even at the pre-tertiary level. Our initiatives therefore include integrating discussions on the importance of STEM subjects into career counselling sessions particularly for high school female learners pre-Grade 9, before they have committed to alternative subjects, so as to raise awareness of the considerable career potential of IT.”

When it comes to reaching girls at the pre-matric level, Belgium Campus iTversity actively engages with schools and encourages sponsors to support female students. It does so while prioritising applicants’ ability to study, ensuring equal opportunities for all aspiring IT professionals.

Moreover, Zaaiman emphasises the considerable importance of gender visibility in the tech industry. Belgium Campus iTversity, through its affiliation with organisations like the South African ICT Association, seeks to showcase female role models to inspire and empower aspiring women in IT.

Zaaiman acknowledges the presence of inspiring female role models, but underscores the need for greater representation, especially in areas like tech entrepreneurship. While many tech companies led by women exist, efforts to promote gender diversity and inclusion in events and conferences are ongoing, reflecting Belgium Campus’s commitment to fostering a more equitable and inclusive tech ecosystem.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only accelerated the adoption of flexible work arrangements. Such work environments are not just beneficial for women, but are also key for them to deliver their best work. The contributions they make are invaluable, and by bridging the gap between academia and industry, Belgium Campus iTversity aims to ensure female IT students are equipped with the skills and experiences needed to thrive in the evolving tech landscape.

Belgium Campus iTversity recognises the significance of providing opportunities for education and skill development, particularly in ICT. “Coding clubs and workshops are among our various initiatives aimed at nurturing interests and talents in the field, ensuring young learners have access to resources and support to pursue their passions,” he adds.

Addressing the looming skills gap in the IT industry is crucial, particularly in areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and data science. With the skills gap widening each day, it’s imperative to bridge it to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers for the digital economy. “With this in mind, our planning takes into account future trends and the evolving needs of the workforce, to ensure we suitably prepare the next generation of tech professionals.”

Zaaiman says Belgium Campus iTversity plays a key role in the organisation of these initiatives: “For instance, we initiated the formation of TICON Africa. Additionally, we take the lead in facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration through various platforms including Digital Dawn breakfast sessions that stimulate discussion advancing ICT development, based on the insights of expert speakers within the South African ICT industry. Other sector conferences bring together industry experts and academics to discuss emerging technologies and best practices, ensuring the institution remains at the forefront of innovation and education in IT.”

He emphasises the need for diverse perspectives and experiences to drive innovation and inclusivity. Encouraging women’s participation in the tech sector not only benefits the economy but also enhances productivity and fosters a more rewarding work environment.

“Mentoring programmes play a vital role in empowering women in ICT, providing guidance and support as they navigate their careers. Breaking stereotypes and celebrating the achievements of women in technology are also essential in inspiring the next generation of female tech leaders.”

Zaaiman acknowledges the multifaceted nature of the gender gap in the tech industry, which includes social stereotypes and unconscious biases. By advancing initiatives that promote gender diversity and inclusion, Belgium Campus iTversity is committed to closing this gap and empowering women in technology at every level. 

Would you like to Study Cyber Security?

With a Belgium Campus iTversity IT qualification, you will be well-prepared to go into the cyber security field after you study. You could even join the Cyber Security Club if you would like to learn more about the field with like-minded peers. If thwarting cyberattacks is your passion, study an IT degree at Belgium Campus iTversity and take advantage of the current skills gap.