VUT Women’s Month Seminar champions gender equality through technology and innovation
By: Qhawekazi Memani – 25 August 2023
As Women’s Month draws to an end, the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) has once again showed its dedication to, and also added its voice to the chorus calling for the advancement of women empowerment.
This, by hosting a Women’s Day Seminar themed: “Digiz 4all: Innovation & technology for gender equality” on 23 August at the University’s Desmond Tutu Great Hall. Organized by the Research Directorate in collaboration with the Social Justice and Transformation Office, Advancement Department and Student Life Department, the purpose of the seminar was to shed some light on the pressing issue of gender equality in the digital realm – a topic that has gained momentum considering today’s technology-driven world.
Over the years, VUT has had a strong tradition of participating in national celebrations, and this year was no exception as women from across all levels of its diverse community united through a seminar to commemorate and take a stand to empower one another. The seminar provided an opportunity for deep, meaningful and intentional conversations – and of course with festivities alongside.
At baseline, the primary goal of the seminar was to create awareness about the urgent need to bridge the digital gender divide and provide a platform for meaningful dialogue on practical approaches to achieving this, alongside gender equality. The event also sought to amplify the voices of women who shared their experiences, perspectives, and actionable suggestions to translate the theme into tangible outcomes within the VUT context. Furthermore, the seminar aimed to highlight the necessity for sustained actions and changes in social institutions, such as universities, to ensure that gender equality is not just a rhetorical ideal but a practical reality.
One of the highlights of the seminar was the guest speaker, Buli Ndlovu. With a career spanning over 17 years across FMCG, telecommunications, and financial services industries, Buli is a seasoned marketing professional. Her achievements include holding the dual positions of Executive Head of Marketing for Retail and Business Banking, as well as Executive Head of Marketing for Private Wealth at a prominent South African commercial bank. Beyond her professional persona, Buli is a multifaceted individual with a geeky side. She masters the art of balancing her career while also nurturing her roles as a wife, mother, and a God’s follower.
Before the keynote speaker could take to the podium, Mr. George Mvalo, the Director of the Social Justice and Transformation Department, aptly set the tone for the theme. He underscored the principles of access, equity, and redress as the foundation of social justice. “Access, in the context of digital technologies, is a fundamental right for everyone, particularly women who often found themselves at the periphery of innovation and human development. Equity on the other hand, is the need to level the digital playing field, while redress aims to rectify historical imbalances by ensuring women’s inclusion in digital innovation,” clarified Mr Mvalo.
In her address, Ndlovu took the audience on a reflective journey through her life experiences, and reminded attendees that women have been uplifting each other across generations. She spoke of the new era of sisterhoods she encountered in her career, where women support one another. Her message resonated with the essence of the seminar’s theme where she shared her personal experiences of navigating digital trends, underscoring how challenges often brought unexpected opportunities. She recalled a pivotal moment when maternity leave and a work promotion coincided with pandemic lockdowns. What initially seemed like adversity turned into a transformative period of growth. During that time, she drew inspiration from Eminem’s lyrics, “the moment, you own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow because opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
The event also featured speakers such as Ms Busisiwe Ramabodu, the Executive Director: Human Resources (HR) Department, Prof Anneke Harmse, Head of Department of Information and Communication’s Technology (ICT) Department, Professor Nobukhosi Dlodlo, the Head of Department: Marketing, Retail and Sports Management, as well as Dr Catherine Kifworo, a Postdoctoral fellow based at the VUT faculty Human Sciences. These women shared their insights, experiences, and advice in line with the theme. A thought-provoking question was raised by Ms Ramabodu: How much exposure to technology is required to create value for women? She suggested that involving men in addressing this question was crucial. The discussion also delved into workplace dynamics where women often must struggle to have their ideas recognized.
A unanimous message that reverberated throughout the event was that technology transcended gender biases. It stands as a powerful equalizer, providing an opportunity for women to become change agents. It furthermore, encouraged women to actively contribute to VUT’s mission, embrace technology, and participate in online forums to empower themselves.
As the seminar ended, Dr Burger, the Acting Director for Research, expressed her deep appreciation for all women, including those who couldn’t attend. She commended their strength and resilience. Dr. Burger expressed her optimism for a future where each woman’s potential would be nurtured and uplifted, aligning perfectly with VUT’s ongoing commitment to women’s empowerment.
In summary, the VUT Women’s Day empowerment seminar of 2023 marked a pivotal moment in the institution’s journey toward promoting gender equality through technology and innovation. The event served as a platform for women from diverse backgrounds to unite, share insights, and inspire one another. With a compelling theme, impactful speakers, and meaningful discussions, the seminar encapsulated the spirit of progress and change that VUT stands for.