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Women in ICT Feature: Charmaine Houvet

“We have embraced the importance of women to our enterprise…”

”As we are aware of the unique attributes they offer. For example, women make for good negotiators, as they are always willing to reach out. Their collaborative nature means that instead of ‘winner takes all’, they ensure they get the best fit for both parties.“ - Charmaine Houvet, Senior Director: Cisco Public Policy Africa

It’s time to balance the gender scales

Despite pockets of excellence and a range of initiatives, there still remains much work to do to increase female representation in the ICT industry. A concerted effort is required to ensure more women are given the opportunity in this sector, and more technology organisations must put additional effort into finding women to fulfil key positions.

This is the view of Charmaine Houvet, Senior Director for Cisco Public Policy Africa, who says IT businesses must also focus on nurturing and enabling growth paths for those women who do join. After all, retention is just as critical as hiring, and placing women in competitive roles with clear trajectories is more likely to keep them loyal to the company.

”As far as female representation goes, you could almost say the ICT industry has been something of a best kept secret. However, the importance of technology in keeping everyone connected during the lockdown has helped to raise its profile, hopefully pushing the needle further in the direction of gender equality.“

Houvet points out that although the gender scales are imbalanced more broadly across the IT sector, Cisco has taken the bull by the horns in driving forward an agenda of equal representation.

”Cisco is an organisation that already has 50% female representation in its executive, including women in the roles of CIO and CFO, as well as a majority of its sales people and the head of people culture within the business.

She adds that one of Cisco’s key Tier One partners, MTN, is also closely focused on gender equality, to the extent that it has launched the annual MTN Women Awards. Cisco is a business that is partner- and channel-led, but, more critically, is about people as well as technology.

To this end, continues Houvet, the company works closely with MTN to recognise the achievement of women in this industry.

So what would she say to a young woman considering a career in the information technology space? “When you join a company, always be clear about your own goals. That way, if the organisation isn’t helping you to achieve these within a certain period, you will know it’s time to move on. Furthermore, I would reach out to other women who already work in this arena and ask them questions – I know I am always happy to connect with and provide advice to such knowledge seekers.

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