As the world celebrated Girls in ICT Day on April 25, Huawei South Africa said it was taking practical steps to encourage more young women into the telecoms-engineering space.

“We have set a quota for 50% female intake in three of our key youth intake/training programs,” says Huawei COO Christina Naidoo. “Our bursary programme, our graduate programme and our Seeds for the Future study trip to China will all benefit from greater representation of women and girls.”

“While our current projects support students at tertiary level, we are planning a bring-a-girl-child-to-work project, where we will invite girls from high schools around our businesses to visit our campus to view our latest technologies and hopefully inspire more women to join the sector,” added Naidoo.

International Girls in ICT Day, is an ITU/United Nations initiative aimed at encouraging and empowering girls and young women to consider studies and car​eers in the growing field of ICTs. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April.

Huawei’s drive to empower women through the Huawei Graduate Programme is already bearing fruit, as women graduates emerge from the programme well equipped for a bright future in ICT (Information and Communications Technology).

The Huawei Graduate Programme broadens and deepens skills among young professionals starting out in the industry. Two young women who distinguished themselves on the programme are Kutloano Dipela and Marguerite Strydom.

Huawei Graduates: Kutloano Dipela and Marguerite Strydom

“We were really impressed with the commitment shown by Kutloano and Marguerite,” said Naidoo. “They helped to demonstrate Huawei’s belief that women have so much more to contribute to ICT. All they need is better opportunities. One can only imagine what they will achieve for our company and our industry as their careers evolve.”

Network assistant engineer Dipela said that she found the Huawei Graduate Programme “intense”, but was inspired by the knowledge she had gained. “It brought home to me that to succeed, one needs to always be learning and to keep the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

Her colleague Marguerite Strydom works as an assistant logistic fulfillment engineer, and described how she found modules around company culture among the most rewarding. “I learned that if I keep pushing myself to achieve, that success will come.”

The Dipela and Strydom are in the vanguard of a new generation of young women ICT workers that will redefine that shape of the industry, which is coming to embrace the ability of women to a greater extent.

Dipela pointed out that ICT was a sector where women could make a significant impact on human development. “ICT serves the world,” she said. “It improves the quality of human life and acts as an enabler in businesses, schools and governments.”

Strydom said that the Huawei Graduate Programme had helped her to see the humanitarian benefits of the sector. “ICT can lift the spirit of a community,” she said. “It can help doctors and first responders save lives and aid in the development of a country. In ICT you can be at the forefront of development and directly see the impact of your work.”

Both women agreed that there was still room for improvement in gender representation within the industry, but were excited at the opportunities it offered.

“Certain ICT businesses are more accepting of women than others,” said Dipela. “But that is changing as more women pursue ICT careers. Greater flexibility and mobility in the workplace will help to eliminate gender discrimination and better unlock the productivity contributions women can make. Huawei is certainly embracing this.”