iOCO: Celebrating the Role of Women in Technology

Women are redefining the traditional models of leadership in technology by leveraging their unique strengths, and their inclusive and empowering leadership styles.

Fourteen leaders from the iOCO Midrand offices shared their career journeys, their management ethos, and some great stories along the way. These women, from just one office, represent the tip of the iceberg of female leadership within iOCO, which is proudly part of EOH.

Between them, this group has 17 children, 50-plus certifications and degrees, and after-work passions as diverse as scuba diving, marathon running, and mountain climbing.

Although these leaders are currently in a supportive environment, they shared that they have often felt alone in their journeys. At times, being a woman in technology has been a struggle. They share a passionate belief that a caring, collaborative, and empowering workplace is essential if women are to grow and thrive in their careers.

For a woman starting out in tech, guidance is crucial. Mary-Lyn Raath, Head of Digital SA, says her most important advice is to find an experienced woman to be your mentor. “Only another woman can understand what it’s like to juggle all the different roles. We stress about taking maternity leave, we strive to be all the different people we need to be while powering our career forward. Having a female mentor to guide you on this journey is invaluable. Reach out and get the help and advice you need, whether it is from someone in your own organisation, or elsewhere. My door is always open for any woman in the IT industry who needs support.”

Leela Putten, QA and DevSec Ops consultant, agrees that journeying on your own through the technology workspace is a lonely road. “In the early days of my career, I found it challenging to be the only female in a technically focused, all-male team I wrote articles to myself and journalled to create an outlet for my thinking,” she says. She believes a collaborative culture must be instilled for a successful and happy environment where all employees, including women, can thrive.

Gontse Kekana, Business Unit Manager, started her career 24 years ago. “Over the years, I have seen women in leadership roles who wanted to be like men. I decided that instead, I wanted to be true to myself, as I felt that my nurturing capability added more value to the team,” she explains.

Relationships need to be prioritised in the workplace, agrees Ulrike Coetzee, Head of Design Advisory. “We should use emotion intelligently to foster trust, understanding and acceptance in the workplace.”

Alexia Sideris, Head of Strategic Partnerships, believes that feeling like part of a family makes a workplace into a positive, constructive environment. This is essential in an industry where skills are scarce, and staff retention is so critical.

Hailing from the recruitment field, Sonette Nel, Business Unit Head: Talent Acquisition, has some stories to tell. “Years ago, it was not uncommon, in male-dominated workspaces, for managers to include physical descriptions of what they would like their new female employee to look like! But when you know better, you must do better. My aim is to make the workspace more tolerant and accepting for all women, and especially new mothers.”

Nancy Govender, Business Unit Head, agrees that at iOCO, the diverse environment and the sense of inclusiveness contributes to a family atmosphere where every employee feels valued. “There is a culture of working together and uplifting others in the team,” she says. “Out of the six Cs of leadership and inclusivity, the one that is often overlooked is cultural management. Every organisation should strive to create an environment where people listen, communicate, collaborate, and move away from any biases they may have.”

With skills being scarce in the technology sector, Bronwyn Plantinga, Senior Financial Manager, believes that a supportive and flexible environment is a hugely important factor in retaining female staff.

This is especially important when it comes to childcare and maternity leave, says Anoesjka Malherbe, Commercial Manager. “Being in an inclusive and empowering environment not only makes you a happier worker, but also a more productive one. I have been on remote calls with my daughter sleeping on my lap because she was sick. All the heads of cloud understand employees’ circumstances, and I have always felt treated equally,” she says.

Hlekani Maluleke, Solution Delivery Manager, who has been in IT for 23 years and began her career as a computer operator, joining iOCO in 2020, emphasises the same. “For women, having the right support, and the encouragement to grow on your career journey, builds huge loyalty as well as valuable skills.”

Technology was a completely different and new field for Ashona Kooblall, Finance Director, who moved to iOCO from a Multinational, FMCG and retail environment. “It has been a great experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. If an organisation wants to attract female talent, we need to embrace inclusion and respect, while continuing to deliver on our fair and equitable practices,” she emphasises.

Luyanda Matobo, BI Consultant at iOCO from 2018, agrees that women bring a different kind of emotional intelligence to the tech workspace, that it needs to be a place that is free from ego, and where listening is prioritised.

“iOCO sets an example to other organisations of resilience and leadership for the future. I would like my daughter to be able to enter the workplace one day, and be whoever she wants to be,” says Malisha Awunor, Group Head, People and Culture.

The positive energy and productive ideas about the future of women in tech and how they can flourish came alive during this meeting. It is clear that these leaders are striving to inspire and empower women to excel in this ever-evolving field, paving the way for future generations.

EOH is proud to be recognized for its commitment to gender mainstreaming. Its shortlisting in every category of the 2023 Gender Mainstreaming Awards reflects the company's dedication to creating an inclusive and empowering work environment for all.