Girl Geeks: Tech-savy sisters are doing IT for themselves
Suhaifa Naidoo and her tech-savvy sisters got so sick of women being overlooked in the IT industry that they have set up their own "social network" - a hugely popular dinner club that caters exclusively to girl geeks.
Cape Town is an IT hotspot, one that is buzzing with start-ups, programmers and multinationals shopping for cheap developers.
But the industry has largely been a boys-only playground. According to researcher Adrian Schofield of Wits University, industry experts estimate that only 20% of jobs in IT are occupied by women.
Now Girl Geek Dinners, a non-profit networking organisation, is providing an "in" for women who might otherwise have remained on the fringe of tech.
The bimonthly event in Cape Town has grown from hosting 40 women to more than 100 , with many having to be turned away. The Johannesburg dinners are similarly popular, with the year's final soiree earlier this week fully booked.
The Cape Town dinners started in 2010 and spread to Johannesburg the following year. All women are welcome.
''It's not unusual to have a digital media strategist sitting between a beauty blogger and a head of communications," said Johannesburg tech journalist and regular dinner guest, Stacey Vee.
With the help of sponsors, Naidoo is drawing high school and university students into the circle too.
An aspiring computer scientist and matric pupil from Langa, Simbulele Lobese, said: "[Men] think women can't do IT. When I started doing IT at school the boys told me, 'You are going to drop out,' but we're showing them we can do it."
Students who attend the dinners are often hired as interns after networking with successful women in the industry.
Next year, Naidoo plans to go to schools in the Cape and teach female pupils how to create LinkedIn and Twitter accounts that boost their career prospects.
- See girlgeeksofjhb.co.za or ggdcpt.com