The Youth Dividend – Showing Young Women a World of Opportunity


In 2016, academics from Boston University and Microsoft Research highlighted how machines are learning bias based on the data they are exposed to; including gender-based stereotypes.

Such studies highlight distinct challenges facing women as they enter a crowded, competitive workplace: the lack of work experience in traditionally male dominated careers and a widespread societal prejudice against women entering business.

Even before setting foot in the office, a young woman must prepare to fight for her own future and that of future generations. While every woman should have the choice to become a homemaker, it should not be the only choice.

Exposing young women to choice is essential if we are to break this cycle. A vital step in the process of preparing for the work environment is the establishment of learnerships/internships. These enable young people to gain invaluable work experience, develop networks, build self-confidence and hone relevant skills.

The confidence and ability which this work exposure brings helps to bridge the gap between education and employment. The average young person takes 4.7 years to find full-time employment after graduating, together with the emotional and financial stress this causes, it behoves corporate South Africa to provide practical ways of bringing young people – particularly young women – into the workplace.

Many are the first generation in their family to attend university and the first women in their families to enter the corporate world, so the nuances of business are unfamiliar. Careful guidance can lead them through this transition.

If women are to come through the ranks of business in meaningful numbers we need to work with them as they enter the workplace to bridge the gap between theory, expectation and practice.

If South Africa is serious about changing the way women are perceived, we have to start at the grassroots, partnering across business sectors and collaborating within industries, to give young people, young women, an opportunity to gain experience, fine-tune their skills and ultimately find a job.


By Cara Bouwer

Writer & Researcher