Powerhouse with African technology vision

India Martin says South Africa has a robust enough infrastructure to rival India's technology outsourcing.
India Martin says South Africa has a robust enough infrastructure to rival India's technology outsourcing.
Image: SUPPLIED

India Martin is a powerful woman, who believes in empowering women. She's pioneered many movements pertaining to women.

A Forbes Coaches Council member with 25 years of financial experience behind her, Martin is a powerhouse. She was in the country in July to celebrate Mandela's centenary and hosted a delegation of women at the Leadership for Life Business Summit. She led a delegation of American senior executive women to share thoughts on leadership, and dispel perceptions of South Africa.

"Given the way the world is moving, and all that kind of craziness, women will be the ones to resolve a lot of the issues that happen but we have got to have an authentic dialogue about the relationship between black women and white women, " Martin says during our meeting at an upmarket bakery and cafe in Sandton.

She's perfectly poised and means business.

"For me, given that I'm also a black woman, it's also about ethnic representation and so whilst I think gender has always been comfortable for people to talk about, race is not."

Martin is the founder of the Leadership for Life Foundation, the company that hosted the summit and expressed her gratitude to her sponsors Thompson Reuters and Absa.

We delve into the topic of being a woman and succeeding in the workplace. Are there even enough women in corporate, I ask.

"The issue is visibility," she answers and another factor is the responsibilities of family.

Martin believes that young girls should be engaged early when it comes to technology as they are just as keen as boys to get involved.
Martin believes that young girls should be engaged early when it comes to technology as they are just as keen as boys to get involved.
Image: 123RF

The mother of three says women sometimes have to choose family or getting ahead.

"There were times in my career where I had to step out; women struggle with that. We can get help but that is one of the biggest factors."

These familial responsibilities sometimes make women opt out of leadership positions.

Martin sits on the board of South African tech company Khonology Global. She's excited about where tech in Africa is going and the involvement of women.

Martin believes there's a great opportunity for the continent to play a huge role in the technology sector.

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"My vision for Africa is that it rivals India in regards to technology outsourcing, because there are a number of countries with robust enough infrastructures, South Africa being one, Ghana being another, Rwanda being another."

Continuing with our theme of women empowerment, I ask what is needed to get more girls and women involved and to be heard in the technology sector.

"We can't afford for women to be left behind and we have to figure out ways of engaging young girls in a way that speaks to them." She says her solution is to start engaging girls early. She says young girls are just as eager as boys to get involved; the issue is engagement. But the world is working on that, with programmes like Black Girls Code in the US and similar initiatives on this continent.

Martin is a well of information. Her extensive experience is enviable and immeasurable. She's also an aficionado when it comes to start-ups.

She advises that if you're going to go the start-up route, you'd better be prepared to work beyond 9-5. She also says you should know when to let something go if it's not working for you.

Her other piece of advice is that your start-up should have an element of social good.

"Businesses that are purpose driven in the first instance also tend to do much better. You have to know who you are, what your mission is without question to ensure that you're successful."

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