International Women’s Day – Celebrating Female Leadership and the women behind Legal Interact
Despite much needed positive strides made in advancing female representation in the technology industry, much more work is necessary to push towards impactful female representation.
According to PwC South Africa’s summary of their Economics team report titled 16 nudges for more #WomeninTech , one of the ways which can support an increase in female workplace equality is through what they call nudges, and one of these nudges focuses on career development and progression of female talent within the tech industry.
Therefore, it becomes imperative to ensure that through hiring and intentional corporate strategy, tech companies work towards developing and providing opportunities for underrepresented women.
In this same breath, we would like to highlight and, most importantly, celebrate some of our incredible female leaders at Legal Interact on this International Women’s Day. We delve into what they do, and, in this article, they share their thoughts on what it means to be a woman in the Legal Tech industry.
And, in no particular order, these incredible women are:
What follows are snippets from interviews we conducted on the importance of female representation in the technology industry:
Staff retention is a good indicator of a company’s ability to develop its staff and the type of environment it creates. At Legal Interact, some of our female leaders have been with us for what seems like a lifetime; one such is Mariette Van Wyk, who started in 1989 in a DebtCol Support Role and worked her way up within the company to managing our Cape Town Branch. “Through the years, I developed the skill of being able to deal with professional people, Business ethics, Right and Wrong, Customer relationships the list is endless. This is something I have taken back to my children, and I see how they apply it in their working lives every day.
How to conduct business and how to behave towards your peers.” says Mariette about her biggest professional lesson gained during her years with us.
Finding the work and life balance:
Whether we like it or not, women remain straddled between their work obligations and other vital roles they need to fulfil in their lives, such as being a mom, amongst others. One of our Product Owners, Jolene Coertse, shares her secret when it comes to maintaining a work-life balance: “At the office, my work takes priority. When I get home, I put on my “mom” cap and give my family 100% of my attention until 21:00/22:00 then I can focus again on work that I want to finish or prepare for the next day.”
Career advancement into leadership for women, particularly in the technology space, is essential, and companies have an inherent obligation to provide a conducive and enabling environment for this. Our Business Development Consultant Ane Morgan briefly shared with us why this is important: “Employers need to understand that women ARE moving into the tech industry (previously male-dominated field) and that woman WILL be claiming their space. There needs to be a safe environment for women to raise their voices without the fear of being discriminated against or told to pipe down. There needs to be equal opportunities for everyone to grow.”
Female Technology Talent:
Before anything as Legal Interact, we are a legal tech company. As a female leader in this industry, it is crucial to understand what it means to be a female leader. Anna-Marie McBurney shared her thoughts on where she sees herself in this industry: “We are building software for the legal community, for all sizes of practices, small to the large practice. The varying businesses have different needs, and we need to decide on which features to develop to support each of them. Having an in-depth understanding of how legal firms operate is imperative. The only way to achieve this is to listen to the community and put time into understanding their challenges when looking to solve these for them. Being part of a team, building a very complex accounting and practice management system, you must be on top of your game all the time. As the accounting expert on the team, you have to know your stuff and be an expert not only in accounting but legal accounting.”
Filling technical roles with female talent can sometimes be difficult for companies, but Legal Interact has a knack for discovering such talent; one such technical talent is our Actuarial Scientist Data Analyst, Ricci Wapnick, who started working at Legal Interact as of January this year: “I am slowly discovering and developing my confidence. The warm and friendly environment at Legal Interact makes it much easier to ask questions and even feel comfortable to make mistakes from which I can grow.”
Speaking of technical talent Ronelle Nagel, our Document Developer, talks about how her work environment has helped her develop: “I think the most important thing for me was the company’s belief in me and my abilities. I feel needed and appreciated, and I believe that if one is happy in your role, you want to excel and perform so that the level of trust that your company puts into you are returned by hard work and doing everything to the best of your abilities. At Legal Interact and especially under our Director, Raphael Segal’s guidance, I have become a stronger and more confident Document Developer by opening up my mind as to how the coding of templates can benefit our clients.”
One of the most effective ways to increase female representation in Tech is education and exposure from a young age. Product Owner Melanie Vosloo shared how her background inspired her to settle on a career in Tech ultimately: “Growing up, when I wanted to play games instead of giving me toys my father would give me tools and encourage me to program my games, I grew up in a family of developers. Having software drilled into me from a young age helped me understand the ins and out of Tech and gave me the validation I needed to realize what I too can become.”
Studies show that only 34% of students who go to university and study STEM-related subjects are women in Africa. Women fill only around 27% of entry-level STEM jobs, and when you look at C- level, Board or executive posts, only 5 % are women. The gender gap in STEM is widening, and it’s our duty to ensure a diverse future is being developed now. We need to give access, inspire, empower and support young children (especially girls) from primary school age to embrace technology now, as the future of work looks different and depends on them having the basic digital skills to navigate the new paradigms of work. Technology is the gateway that will ensure our children are successful, financially independent and uplifted out of poverty.-
By highlighting our female leaders’ stories, we hope that women interested in Legal Technology recognize that they know it’s possible. You can find out more about what we do by visiting us at www.legalinteract.com.