Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

Women in Tech: Spotlight on inclusivity with Digital Council Africa's Juanita Clark

Article Image
Show up. Take your seat. Speak up. That's the advice that Juanita Clark would give to young women wanting to enter the tech and telecoms sectors.

With almost 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, Clark is the CEO of Digital Council Africa, whose mission is to support the public and private sectors to work together to deliver on the expectations of a gigabit society.

Through developing the digital transformation stack, the council hopes to educate and guide all involved in the framework and infrastructure for the next generation of Internet applications and platforms and ultimately remove the boundaries of technological inclusion.

"Inclusivity is a decision; and one we make every day. We have to choose to take others on a journey with us, we don't wait for them to try and catch up. It is not someone else's problem; it is each one of ours," Clark added.

As part of Women's Month in South Africa and ahead of Africa Tech Festival 2022, Celen Ebru Paytoncular caught up with her to find out more about her career and what needs to be done to make the tech industry intentionally inclusive.

Celen Ebru Paytoncular (CEP): How did you get started in your career?

Juanita Clark (JC) : I ended up in the technology sector by accident. A colleague that I had worked with for a few years in an unrelated field left to join a technology company.

A short while after she joined, they had an opening. She put my name forward and I was offered a position and joined them a few months later. I never left the sector.

CEP: You began working in the industry around 25 years ago. How much do you think the industry has changed over that time?

JC: I often wonder if it is the sector that has changed, or if I have changed? When you are younger, you do not question things, maybe because you are inexperienced and uncertain.

Having said that, I do believe that there is more awareness for the rights of women, and I certainly do not just accept the status quo.

I am less afraid to challenge a viewpoint, and more free to make a statement.

CEP: Why do you think it's important for more women to join the tech industry?

JC: There are more than a few reasons why the ICT sector needs women, and especially in key roles. Mainly because technology should always serve humanity, and women can bring a nurturing side to its development and conscience and ensure that products are human-centric.

Also, I think that there is an opportunity for more female-centric products to be developed, products that specifically serve the "other 50%."

Of course, we also know that diversity increases creativity, we should harness its power.

CEP: What is the one thing you would change to encourage more women to join the sector?

JC: Without a doubt the gender pay-gap. I find it exasperating that women work as hard, in some cases harder, than their male counterparts yet still earn 25 - 30% less.

I am hoping that the day will come that we seriously consider the fairness of this. It is not just about financial compensation.

Companies that continue to pay their female workforce less send a strong message that they do not regard women equal in value compared to their male peers.

CEP: What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career so far, and how did you overcome it?

JC: There are many challenges women face, including overcoming stereotyping, building a supportive network in a space that is male dominated, to name but two.

For me, the greatest challenge has been that often, and unfortunately so, gender bias is unconscious, which makes it difficult to address. When someone does not recognize or is unwilling to self-inspect that they may be biased, you cannot address it and then in turn, it will never change.

The same is true for racism. There are a lot of sub-conscious biases that we may not even know we carry. I question whether we simply, over time, have become desensitized to some of the issues?

CEP: What do you think can be done to increase the numbers of women working in tech?

JC: One day while on a call with [Microsoft South Africa CEO] Lillian Barnard, (but one name of thousands of women I admire), she mentioned a quote by Ekaterina Walter which says: "If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude."

It made a profound impact on me and changed the way I viewed inclusivity in all its forms. I wrote it in big bold letters where I can see it all the time.

Inclusivity is a decision; and one we make every day. We have to choose to take others on a journey with us, we don't wait for them to try and catch up.

It is not someone else's problem; it is each one of ours. We must continually look for ways to include.

CEP: What advice would you give those wanting to follow in your footsteps and break into the industry?

JC: Show up. Take your seat. Speak up.

— This article is taken from the 'Closing the Gap: Accelerating Women in STEM' eBook. For more insights from over 15 leading women in STEM, download your free copy today.

Juanita Clark will be one of the speakers at Africa Tech Festival taking place from November 7 – 11, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Register here for free.

Related posts:

*Top image is of Juanita Clark, founder and CEO at Digital Council Africa. (Source: Digital Council Africa website).

— Celen Ebru Paytoncular, Associate Marketing Manager, Africa Tech Festival

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: South Africa's Zoie Health

This month's hot startup is South African digital women's health clinic Zoie Health – a digital app that focuses on family planning, fertility and maternity care.


Orange Côte d'Ivoire launches 5G lab in Abidjan

Pan-African telecoms operator, Orange, has launched a 5G lab in Côte d'Ivoire in anticipation of its 5G network rollout in 2023.

More Innovation hub

Partner perspectives

5G is lighting up the future of North Africa
By Chris Meng, VP of Huawei Northern Africa Carrier Business Department

The moving target that is telecoms fraud
By Clémentine Fournier, Regional VP Sales, Africa, BICS

How mobile operators in Africa can address signalling threats and secure the network
By Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud and Security at BICS

All Partner Perspectives

Africa Tech Perspectives


Women in Tech: Spotlight on inclusivity with Digital Council Africa's Juanita Clark

Digital Council Africa founder and CEO, Juanita Clark, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and what needs to be done to make the tech industry intentionally inclusive.


Women in Tech: Spotlight on legal tech with Life.file's Sinal Govender

Life.file co-founder, Sinal Govender, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and how we can encourage more young girls to enter the legal tech field.


Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Latest video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: June 2022

By Omdia Analysts

5G was the major news trend across Africa in June, as Orange became the first operator to launch 5G in Réunion and operators in Senegal accelerated their 5G plans despite spectrum delays.

More Guest Perspectives

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival
November 7-11, 2022
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Archived webinars

Africa Green ICT: Lighting Up a Sustainable Continent

The ICT industry is the leading industry in the commitment to carbon neutrality, whose focus has shifted from setting ambitious targets to taking initiatives. The push for zero-carbon and for green energy development, it isn't just about CSR – it's also good for sustainable business.

The path to sustainable development requires green energy. Governments are looking at potential policy approaches to make green energy more widely available and affordable. Without sustainable energy, there will be no digital transformation and no chance of making Africa more economically competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Africa Green ICT Webinar 2022 will bring together ICT industry leaders and senior industrial analysts to provide insight, best practices and key learnings on how to achieve zero-carbon targets and practice green development in Africa.

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Flash poll

All polls

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up