CAPITEC CHAMPIONS WOMEN ON THE FOREFRONT OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Getting more young women into science and tech starts with painting a picture of what that career looks like – and that’s exactly what Capitec is doing.
With women in every kind of management position across South African society, it’s easy to forget how different the landscape was not so long ago.
Join two of Capitec’s foremost leaders who highlight that the new frontier is to get more women into the tech space.
Michelle Gritsch, Support Systems Head, provides us with some context to what she does.
“Support systems in Capitec relate to everything that we use internally within the bank with support functions such as finance, HR, procurement, logistics, data and even facilities management.”
Judy Smit is the Product Line Head of Electronic Payment Systems at Capitec. “In our context that refers to any payment that’s not a card payment. So, if you go onto your app and want to pay a beneficiary, have a salary paid into your account or a debit order going off from your account, it’s all seen as electronic payments.”
Both have been in the industry long enough to have witnessed the transformation.
“I started working at a bank back in 1999 so that’s a long time ago. Back then there were very few women in any kind of leadership or managerial positions, and these days it’s not like that at all any more,” shared Judy.
Michelle’s journey was a little different as she started out in finance and then moved into technology.
“I do think that we have to internally look at young people and young females, and how we can introduce them to what we have within the organisation, and move them between different departments – to give them the exposure to what we do and in that way maybe entice them into technology,” said Michelle.
One such field seeing more women behind the controls is aviation, which the tech duo were all too keen to look into at the Flight Academy of Francois Stols.
“Females in aviation are becoming more and more commonplace. We even see at our flying school and our flying club that more and more ladies are coming through training to be pilots,” shared Francois who is the owner and flight instructor at Stellenbosch Flight Academy. A flight training institution that focuses on advanced flight and ground training for general aviation professionals and private pilots.
Michelle and Judy got the rare opportunity to try their modern Flight Simulation Training Device that’s typically reserved for advanced training to learn how to fly in bad weather, clouds etc.
Getting airborne proved easier than setting their wheels safely down again.
“Keeping the plane steady and straight proved far more difficult than it seems to be. I will definitely have new respect for pilots next time we come in for a landing,” said Judy.
That said, instructor Jonathen’s feedback proved why it’s wise not to underestimate a lady.
“I think Michelle and Judy did a fine job… The simulator is not an easy thing to wrap your head around, even for the most seasoned airline captains that come in here. You have no sense of motion and try to fly the simulator just on what your eyes and instruments are telling you” commented Jonathen Stols, general manager at the academy.
With that virtual glass ceiling broken, it was off to meet Tania Kleintjes who’s breaking new ground as a woman organic winemaker.
Tania shares that her passion for science and biology attracted her to what has historically been a male-dominated industry because the field enables her to merge the two disciplines.
“I would definitely encourage ladies to do it [winemaking] as ladies have a certain je ne sais quoi as they say, because we have a certain attention to detail that men just don’t have. So, if you want to do it, please do,” says Tania, Organic Winemaker at Spier wine farm.
With the number of our nation’s young women growing up in and around farming, they need to see how studying the science of viticulture can open up opportunities for them.
Tania is a wellspring of knowledge on this subject. She expanded on the difference of organic and conventional wines – which she shared, “starts in the vineyard.”
“There are two aspects to organic winemaking,” Tania explains, “The first is using grapes that were grown organically – that means without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Secondly, there are special rules to adhere to in the cellar. In organic winemaking there are fewer additives permitted compared to conventional winemaking.”
As established role models for a new generation, we had to ask what they see as key qualities for young women to aspire to?
“For me a female role model has the qualities of kindness, resilience, is able to balance work-life while looking after others. But most important is that they look after themselves,” states Michelle.
“There are so many females in South Africa that make it against all odds. They have so little but bring up their families in a way that makes them proud. They do everything they can to make their environment better and they are what makes our country something to be proud of. So, for me, the role models are really the everyday people that work hard and make this country the wonderful country that it is,” shared Judy.
With half of our nation’s talent being women, our future depends on letting their flair, skill and insight rise to the top. May we each find it within ourselves to champion that and empower our tribe through sisterhood.