“We’ve had enough!” This was the message by approximately 20 000 women in South Africa on 9 August 1956 when they marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the apartheid government’s pass laws. This was the start of a fight for a non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. As a nation we now celebrate this historical march in the form of Women’s Month in August.
At the advent of women’s rights, society has become more accepting of women, and although there is still much room for improvement, women all over the world have overcome the preclusion, been boxed in, restricted, not heard, and so many other discriminatory factors that hinder their success.
In today’s world we celebrate the freedom and advocacy women bring to the workplace, the community and the economy.
It’s 05:30 and Naomi’s alarm clock goes off. Naomi gets out of her bed to take a shower and get dressed for work. She wakes the kids, makes sure that they are dressed for school, (is it formal school wear today or sports wear?), makes breakfast and packs the backpacks for school. She hurries everyone because she is going to be late for work. Finally, everyone is in the car (and hopefully the backpacks as well). On their way to school she quickly goes over the schedules for each kid: “Remember you have to be at cricket practice this afternoon, and after that you have chess, and then choir practice. Tonight we need to prepare your speech and do some spelling practice.” All of this before she enters her workplace at 07:30. Although she will now be at work for the rest of the day, while teachers and other caregivers are taking care of her children, she still needs to follow up on their schedules and make sure that they are where they are supposed to be and that they are safe. It is now 16:00 and Naomi is still in a meeting. She needs to start thinking about fetching the kids from aftercare, preparing dinner (“What is left in the pantry? Did I remember to buy the bread and milk?”), and then find some time to start with the home/house work.
This has always been a dilemma for women: to work and give financial support for the family while balancing the act of a career and household, or to stay at home. Some women have asserted their rights for equality and proved themselves to not only be good housewives, but also bread winners. For some women, work is a devotion to their career. For others it is the only way to survive. The fact is that more and more women prefer to be workers rather than homemakers, and for many different reasons: gaining financial independence and self-esteem by means of the career development, being a role model to their kids, having their own identity and building social connections.
Women in South Africa have for decades, experienced discrimination in the workplace because certain positions such as top and senior management posts were predominately given to men. If women were employed, they were mostly offered positions at the lower levels of the organisation, or specific jobs such as secretaries or administrative jobs. To address such discrimination, to ensure gender equality is promoted and women are offered equal employment opportunities, the South African government has since 1994 adopted different anti- discriminatory laws to expedite equal employment and improve the position of women in the workplace. Despite South Africa’s commitment to eliminate gender discrimination in the workplace, and although progress has been made to promote women, there are still huge discrepancies between male and female employment in almost all sectors in the workplace, most occupational categories and most business types.
In fact, a draft version of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, which was published at the end of 2018, stated that transformation with regards to women in management positions continues to lag behind. Women in public sector top and senior management levels only accounted for 32.6% and 39% respectively, with representation dropping to 21.6% and 32.3% in the private sector.
There are many different barriers in the workplace which prevent women from enjoying equal employment. In order to eliminate inequality in the workplace it is important that the laws and policies in place be effectively implemented.
There have been many changes for women in terms of employment in the last two decades in South Africa, with more women moving into paid employment outside of their homes. With that in mind, it is imperative that more women are appointed in decision making positions as well as positions that were in the past, earmarked for men.
“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” — Diane Mariechild
I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint — and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” — Oprah Winfrey
Forbes Woman Africa Lifetime
Achievement Award – Wendy Luhabe
Constantly seeking to bridge the gap between women and the economy, this South African businesswoman, social entrepreneur and the author holds three honorary doctorates for her work with women and was awarded the Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (LVO) by the British Royal Family in 2014. In 1999, her business, Women Investment Portfolio Holdings, listed on the JSE and she was named one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World.
Forbes Woman Africa Public
Sector Award – Nosipho Mkhupheka
Starting out as a clerk typist in 1989, Mkhupheka has worked her way through numerous departments in the public sector. She is currently at the Scottburgh Department of Home Affairs where her dedication to efficient customer service practice and work ethic is praised by her fellow citizens.
Forbes Woman Africa Businesswoman
of the Year Award – Dr Divine Simbi-Ndhlukula
Zimbabwean entrepreneur and founder of Securico Security Services, Simbi-Ndhlukula has grown her business from just five employees in 1998 to more than 4,000 employees today. A locally and internationally-respected role-player in security, Simbi-Ndhlukula is also praised for her passion for female economic and social empowerment, founding the Mentorship in Practice programme and Woman-Owned Brand initiative.
Forbes Woman Africa Social
Influencer Award – Obiageli Ezekwesili
An anti-corruption activist, former vice-president of the World Bank and co-founder of Transparency International, Ezekwesili was instrumental in starting the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media. She was named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine and was shortlisted for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. She holds a Masters in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, as well as a Masters of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Forbes Woman Africa Technology
and Innovation Award – Arlene Mulder
A passion for finding innovative digital problem-solving capabilities in Africa saw Mulder establish WeThinkCode, a tech business that aims to democratise and revolutionise education in order to deliver Africa’s top tech talent. WeThinkCode believes that the African youth has the potential to re-code the continent’s future.
Forbes Woman Africa Gen
Y Award – Rachel Sibande
Founder of Malawi’s first technology hub, MHub, and an alumnus of President Obama’s Young African Leaders’ Initiative, Sibande nurtures young technology enthusiasts and is championing the development and deployment of innovative technology solutions in elections monitoring, citizen engagement and agriculture across Africa.
Research done by Jack Hammer revealed that the number of female leaders at South Africa’s top companies remains exactly the same as it was in 2015, and has even dropped since 2012. The research shows that there has been moderate progress in gender transformation at executive level. One good example of such progress is the appointment of Shirley Machaba as the new chief executive officer of PWC for Southern Africa on 1 July 2019. She is the first black African woman to be appointed in this role. Furthermore when we reflect on women who have made a difference we cannot exclude the likes of Mam Winnie Mandela
The list above could go on for days as is evident that women have not only changed today’s workplace, but are actively shaping tomorrow’s.
By. Christelle Taute (SABPP OD & Change Management Committee Member) and Dustin Hogg (SABPP OD & Change Management Committee Vice Chair).