Empowerment is business as usual, not a separate focus
As an organisation whose core focus has always been on using technology to enable its customers to continuously improve the way they do business, Britehouse sees the empowerment of women not as a specific focus but as integral to the way it operates.
Transformation of the lives of women inside and outside of the organisation is therefore a natural consequence of everything Britehouse does.
"When I applied for a job at Britehouse and somewhat hesitantly mentioned my passion for community involvement, thinking that it might be seen as a distraction from my ability to deliver professionally, I was told by the man who is now my manager that it would actually count in my favour," says Zimkhita Buwa, an account manager at Britehouse.
"Since then, Britehouse has been utterly supportive of my commitment to community initiatives."
As head of the Women Portfolio, Buwa serves on the board of Siliconcape, a volunteer run organisation that promotes technology entrepreneurship in the Western Cape. She also serves on the board of Innovate SA, a platform for igniting creative thinking, nurturing invention, and encouraging entrepreneurship among young people.
In 2013, Buwa was chosen as one of the Emerging Leaders in the Techwomen Programme, which arranged for 78 women to travel to Silicon Valley to be mentored by women from major technology companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Autodesk, and Symantec. This year, the mentors visited South Africa, with Britehouse sponsoring the Techwomen Networking Event in Cape Town.
For Emmeline Bester, Britehouse head of corporate social development, involvement by staffers like Buwa in socio-economic initiatives is important not only because they are women working to improve the lot of other women but because they make a contribution to society as a whole.
"Transformation has no boundaries. When you kick a transformation pebble in one area of society, you trigger an avalanche of positive outcomes throughout the country. So, whether your focus is on women, or children, or enterprise development, the impact you have will echo through many generations.
"What matters is doing the right thing for the right reasons. Because the Britehouse ethos is one of synergy, holism, and integration, all the positive actions of all our people inherently deliver transformation that ramifies from the workplace, through society, to the man, woman, and child in the street.
"For instance, the fact that Michelle Ramnath, head of the Britehouse Digital consulting division, recently won the Standard Bank IT Rising Star award means that she can carry Britehouse's emphasis on innovation out to the IT industry at large and, thereby, help to transform the industry and every life it touches. The fact that she's a woman is the cherry on the top. She will be a role model for other women. But, she didn't win the award because she is a woman. She won because her work is exceptional.
"Ultimately, achievement should be genderless. Until the world gets to that point, however, we will continue to ensure that women who need support get it."
Of the 70 Mentec interns working at Britehouse this year, 39 are women. They are acquiring end user computing level 3 and systems development level 3 skills.
In addition, three disabled women are acquiring administration and HR skills. Two young women have been awarded Britehouse bursaries for three years of tertiary study.
Externally, Britehouse has spent four years developing a close relationship with the Diepsloot community in Gauteng in order to provide assistance of direct relevance to the community. Through its support of the Diepsloot Pre-Schools Project, Britehouse has empowered eight women to become Grade R accredited teachers and, therefore, as owners of creches, to start their own micro enterprises.
Britehouse also supports the Sunrise Secondary School in Diepsloot, whose principal and deputy principal are women.
Through the Britehouse GOT GAME digital hub, four female senior secondary school teachers have been professionally developed on the Smart Tech Learner Management system, which functions as a teaching aid.
Britehouse recently launched the #67 Day Digital Activation campaign, a collaborative approach to corporate social investment that enables organisations to accelerate and exponentially expand sustainable grass roots development by outsourcing youth, enterprise, supplier, and community development to social entrepreneurs. Partners include Eliance, GOT GAME, City Parks, Vastfontein Community Transformation, Samsung, Mentec Foundation, the Bandwidth Barn, Wits University's Fak'ugesi Digital Africa Festival, Siliconcape, Healthy Living, Visual Artist (John Adams), Lego Foundation, and Diallo SK, a female duo.
As part of a 67 Day project focused on women and in support of Britehouse's commitment to women-led organisations, Diallo SK presented a career guidance workshop to 20 Grade 10 and 11 pupils in Diepsloot and will continue to monitor and guide them over a period of 67 days.
"Once you provide a platform that is obviously sustainable, momentum automatically gathers around it," Bester says.