SymantecWannabe girl coders in Cape Town got programming lessons straight out of Silicon Valley when they were visited by women from some of the world’s biggest technology companies yesterday.

The group of about 40 women, including professionals from companies Symantec, Juniper Networks and social media giant Twitter, are part of a touring US-based initiative called TechWomen, who visited Cape Town yesterday.

The initiative is a mentorship programme that supports women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem). TechWomen is in South Africa to discuss women’s roles in information, communications and technology with leaders in the sector.

“The idea is to bridge connections and encourage women and girls to pursue careers in Stem,” said TechWomen representative Kelsi Ward.

The delegation included Twitter’s vice-president for engineering, Nandini Ramani, who spoke to a group of hijab-clad Muslim girls on topics ranging from pregnancy to programming, and opportunities for women in technology.

“I’m here to learn and share some of my own experiences,” said Ramani. “I grew up in India where there are a lot of obstacles for women and I still persevered. I fully believe technology is as important as good clean water and housing.”

Yesterday, the girls were shown how to put together a motherboard, and discussed programming languages and how to turn technology into a business.

After successful outreach programmes in Johannesburg and Pretoria where TechWomen met African Development Bank staff, the women are due to meet a team from Silicon Cape.

“Cape Town is similar to Silicon Valley with the amount of start-ups it has,” said TechWomen mentor Diane Manning.

Written by: Farren Collins