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IBM South Africa recently hosted its Bluemix Girls Night at Workshop 17, a vibey new co-working space at Cape Town’s V & A Waterfront.
A global initiative to engage and empower women through technology, the events are themed around entrepreneurship, networking opportunities, connecting women with mentors, driving interest in long-term careers in IT and providing education on the new Bluemix cloud platform.
“By targeting a female audience, we hope to create a more comfortable and nurturing environment to reach women interested in technology,” said Michelle Kennedy, Senior Business Development Manager at IBM South Africa.
Keynote speaker, entrepreneur Carmen Dell, co-founder and director of About Finance, addressed an enthusiastic audience of female coders and entrepreneurs. After a successful career in finance and banking, Dell made the move out of corporate and into the world of entrepreneurship.
Her keynote speech, “Can you unlearn how to ride a bike?” resonated well with the audience, as she described her entrepreneurial journey of having to unlearn and re-learn new ways of doing things.
“Don’t be afraid to unlearn what you know to learn something new. Let go of the fear and take the leap. It’s not as scary as you think it’s going to be. Somehow things always do work out.
You might have to change your game plan. And you do need to re-evaluate as you go along. But the upside is always worth the risk,” said Dell.
Gerard Dumont, Enterprise Architect at IBM SA, gave an overview of the Bluemix platform and the advantages it offers to developers and entrepreneurs. Bluemix is an open standards, cloud platform for building, running, and managing apps and services.
“Innovation is the new currency,” said Dumont. “And Bluemix is a platform anyone can use for quick innovation and disruption. It mitigates local risk and challenges that are typically thrown at startups and entrepreneurs. The platform quickly and easily facilitates prototyping and proof of concept, by lowering the cost of tech development and offering rapid and low cost deployment and speed to market.”
The platform is accessible and affordable for startups and small business owners, lowering the barrier to entry for entrepreneurs and helping to level the playing field between developed and developing countries, while enabling reach into new markets.
There’s a 30 day free trial – startups, entrepreneurs and small business owners can register online for a free trial account. After 30 days, it offers 375 GB-hours per unique runtime for free every month (up to three runtimes). You are able to build a pay-as-you-go estimate and the Bluemix website also offers a useful “down-to-the-penny” calculator making it easy for users to determine their costs.
Dumont also gave a hands-on, interactive workshop on the platform, showing the audience how quickly and easily applications can be developed and deployed.
This was followed by a panel discussion, led by IBM’s René Basson, Programme Lead for MEA Cloud Ecosystem. The panel included Elizabeth Gould, Co-Founder & CEO, CodeX; Nandipha Solomon, Marketing Strategist, Saatchi & Saatchi Brandsrock; Lynette van Zijl, Professor of Computer Science, University of Stellenbosch and Carmen Dell, Co-Founder & Director, About Finance.
Image: Silicon Cape
The discussion focused on the global concern of what can be done to attract more women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and IT careers. According to IBM, a mere 3% of tech companies are founded by women. When it comes to venture-backed startups, 6.5% have a female CEO, while 1.3% have a female founder. In the 1980s, 37% of computer science majors were women, but those numbers have dropped significantly to 18% today.
“Girls are put off by IT. They think it’s all about guys playing computer games. They don’t realise that it’s about problem-solving and not about the tech per se,” said Stellenbosch University’s Professor van Zijl.
CodeX founder Gould agrees that there’s too much focus on the tech, which is often unappealing to women. “Women are very good problem solvers. And technology is a toolkit that allows them to solve problems in any field – whether it’s in agriculture, or healthcare or education,” she said.
The panel and the audience were in agreement that technology is a key enabler for women’s empowerment and that education and information around STEM careers needs to be more prevalent at school level.
Baratang Miya, founder of GirlHype, an organisation she set up to empower young girls and women with digital and media education skills, attended the event with her group of girls, all of whom are now advanced coders.
“Most people have a stereotypical image of geeks who work in IT. This Bluemix Girls Night was a great opportunity for our Girl Hype girls to network and meet other women who are just the same type of people who they would meet anywhere, “said Miya. “It provided them with great exposure to mentors and the fun vibe at Workshop 17 showed them that technology can be fun and enjoyable in a fun environment.”
Future Bluemix Girls Night events are set to take place in other African countries, including Kenya, Egypt and Morocco.
Feature image: Silicon Cape