Charmaine Houvet, 50, is a director at Cisco, a world leader in information technology. She was raised in the Barracks opposite the Engen Oil Refinery in Wentworth, Durban, which was used to house families forcibly removed from Cato Manor.
When the Barracks was demolished, her family moved to council flats in Newlands East, northwest of the city. Charmaine also serves on the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. She is on the advisory board of the Global Broadband Plan for Refugees Project, whose objective is to meet the United Nations High Commission on Refugees’ broadband connectivity goal.
And she is on the advisory board of ZASpace, a platform to bolster the competitiveness of South Africa’s space industry. Charmaine was nominated by the department of development, planning and evaluation in 2017 to design and implement the National Development Plan Youth Brand Ambassadors programme.
In 2018, she was nominated by the department as a Woman of Fortitude, an award that honours the legacy of Albertina Sisulu. Charmaine is the recipient of several business awards in the ICT sector.
In 2016, she was named South Africa’s Top Woman in ICT and in 2017 received the MTN Ministerial Recognition Award for her contribution to the ICT industry.
She says her greatest achievement is being acknowledged by people in government, academia, private and public sector for advocating for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
To always fill my cup so that I can take care of others, to live in a spirit of gratitude and to reflect on and give thanks for whoever supported me.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
I champion, support and lead initiatives that provide education and training opportunities for women in tech. I sponsor and raise funds for coding workshops in partnership with nonprofits and tech associations.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
I would include unpaid care work in the GDP of our country so that women can benefit from being part of the economy, education and public life.