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THE

BEECHAMBER

Women... IN NUMBERS TOO LARGE TO IGNORE

2022

Human Capital

General

Women...

IN NUMBERS TOO LARGE TO IGNORE

By: Stella Nolan

Our Constitution is the cornerstone of South Africa’s democracy. It sets out the values,

the rights of the people, how Parliament and the other legislatures work, the selection

of the national & provincial executives, including how the court system works.

The South African Constitution is one of the most progressive

globally and enjoys high acclaim internationally. It is the supreme

law of the land. No other law or government action can

supersede the provisions of the Constitution.

Chapter 9 of the Constitution establishes state institutions to

support our constitutional democracy. The objective of these

institutions is to promote and protect people’s rights in line

with the Bill of Rights. These bodies are autonomous and state

departments must assist and protect them to ensure their

independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness. Enter the

Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), whose mandate is to

monitor gender equality with a focus on women’s rights.

The CGE investigates and challenges laws, practices and

customs that discriminate against people due to their gender. It

monitors government, the private sector and other organisations

to ensure that they promote and protect gender equality.

Focus areas include the representation of women in public life,

employment equity, as well as violence and abuse

against women.

Thanks to our Constitution, all South Africans are given equal

footing in society with no legislation deterring women’s rights.

Women can drive a car, wear what they choose to, decide to be

a homemaker or gain employment, leave that employment, and

have access to finance. Although the foundation offers equality,

barriers linked to socio-economic circumstances, particularly for

women, more so ‘Black’ women, impede their emancipation.

Therefore, in theory, in South Africa, no legislation stops women

from gaining an education, buying, selling or inheriting property,

marrying or divorcing; it is all done on equal footing.

Globally, however, it is not the same for all women and girls

whose rights to be educated, drive a car, wear what they want

or vote, to name but a few, are not intrinsic rights.

Gender Stereotypes

The global women’s movement began in 1911. Although there

has been steady and significant progress in society and the

workplace alike, barriers specific to women remain in place. Firstly

there are the gender stereotypes held by many men. Essentially,

they are generalisations about typical traits of men and women

where there is consensus. Accordingly, gender stereotypes

originate from local culture and traditions. Children learn what

constitutes behaviour between men and women from their family

and friends, the media and institutions, including schools and

religious bodies. The result is a gender division of labour that

exists in all societies; however, it is more prevalent in socio economically complex ones.

The contrasting historic roles of men and women in social

positions have given rise to gender-stereotypical perceptions.

In the domestic sphere, women have performed the majority

of routine domestic work and played a significant caretaker

role in the home. In the workplace, women historically gained

employment in people-oriented service occupations rather than

things-oriented, competitive positions traditionally occupied by

men.

Accordingly, men are characterised as more agentic than women,

taking charge and being in control. On the other hand, women

are portrayed as more communal than men, attuning to others

with the capacity to build relationships. These two contrasting

characterisations are essentially the fundamental motivators for

gender stereotypes.

More women in the workplace

The answer to removing stereotyping is not straightforward,

as the social role of women tends to be additional to their

professional one. There are more women in the workplace now

than ever before, yet, more often than not they are fulfilling both

the workplace and social obligations. In 1967, 36% of households

in the United States were married couples, otherwise referred to as a nuclear family, a partnership and parenthood consisting of a

pair of adults and their socially recognised children. Essentially, the

husband was the provider working outside the home and the wife

tended to the family’s needs. However, today the same statistic

reveals that only 19% of households represent a male provider and a

woman tending the home.

In modern households, women are taking on positions that

were traditional professions reserved for men. Hence women

in the workplace are taking on roles with power and authority.

Notwithstanding, in many instances, they remain in the social

context of a family, the primary caretakers.

Today, a nuclear family with only a woman working is rare. Although,

according to research from Pew Research Centre in 2018, the

scenario has increased over the last four decades from 2% in 1970

to 5% in 2016, respectively. However, over the past four decades,

women-only led households by either choice or circumstance are

a reality. In 2019, women-led households represented 41.8%.

Therefore, the resulting barriers for a woman in a nuclear family or

the one independently leading a household, that include gaps in

organisational policies, pay and opportunities, are detrimental.

Policies supporting women

Although legislation puts men and women on equal footing socially,

professionally women often face a setback as they choose to start

a family. Maternity and family policies should recognise that, if an

organisation employs a woman that is 20 years old and remains

employed for 15 years, there will more than likely be one or more

interruptions in employment due to maternity leave. Furthermore,

women should not be financially penalised due to social

responsibilities, whereby they are taken out of the workplace due to

the medical needs of a child. Although legislation addresses these

matters, internal politics more often than not result in consequences

such as pay deductions, a deterrent for promotion or lack of

recognition.

Many do not realise that it is at all occupational levels that

women face such discrimination. Therefore, policies explicitly

accommodating the unique requirements of women at all

occupational levels and professions should be in place. Such

support is an investment in the human and productive capital of

women, resulting in higher efficiency and productivity.

In 1955, there were no women in the highest positions of state

globally. By 2021, 26 women globally held the highest position

of state. Women represent 47.29% of the global workforce and

49.59% of the South African one, having grown substantially from

the 22.83% recorded in 1980.

To conclude on a personal note, I have been part of the national

workforce for more than three decades, with only two extended

leave periods due to having my children. In this time I have

witnessed the very best in human empathy and the worst. Over

the years, I have seen brilliant, talented and determined women

achieving extraordinary things. Many of these women have sacrificed

their personal lives and, in many cases, chose their careers over starting a family, which is precisely the intention of women’s

rights. However, at all occupational levels, women do not

necessarily support other women based on their choices and

circumstances.

In my time in the national workforce, I have witnessed women

bullying women until it was so unbearable to the victim that

she resigned, where the perpetrator had no thought for that

woman’s personal circumstances. In another instance, an Exco

Team was suddenly concerned about the future capability of

a woman due to return from maternity leave. It turns out that

another woman raised the concern with them in the first place.

Then a woman in a senior role purposefully scheduled meetings

after hours so women would have to choose between attending

the meeting and picking up their children from school or child

care. The ones that either chose or had no choice but to miss

the after-hours meeting were frowned upon.

When I was heavily pregnant with my second child, I had my

scheduled annual review and salary increase by my boss, who

was a woman. I will never forget how I felt when she said, “You

see, Stella, I was going to promote you, but that cannot happen

now in your condition. As you are going off on maternity leave,

we will have to leave your salary review for next year”. Similarly,

she said in the following review, “Why do I never see you in the

corridors after hours?” I should mention here that I always got

to work at least an hour before the official starting time and two

hours before she got to the office daily. Essentially, why was it

necessary to her that I was seen in the office after hours when

I finished my work? Why did she want me to palm off collecting

my children in order to stay at work when it was unnecessary?

The core of what I am trying to get across is that life is difficult

enough for women generally, whether they head a household,

form part of a nuclear family, or have chosen a career-only

lifestyle, so why purposefully make life more complicated.

In a previous women’s segment, one of the profiles was a

high-powered woman working in the financial sector. In her

profile, she apologised to women she had worked with along

the way. Only when she married and had children later in life did

she realise what a tyrant she had been. She would schedule

meetings according to her diary and availability only. Hence

there were many meetings scheduled in the later afternoon and

early evening. Lo and behold, if one of the women on her team

wanted to excuse herself to collect her children, feed them or

put them to bed. The reality is that she returned to work after

having her children, and another person scheduled a meeting

after working hours. She tried to excuse herself to collect her

children. She was facing the reality of a situation into which she

had placed others as she was asked, “Why can’t your children

just get a taxi home?”

Circumstances change and are different for everyone, so be

kind and empathetic. But most importantly, women must

understand the implications and consequences of throwing

another woman under the bus. To highlight the emancipation of women over the past 100 years, TFM Magazine has profiled

18 women. The segment ‘Women … in Numbers too Large to Ignore’ pays tribute to the

diversity of women playing a role in our national workforce. The profiles are taken from a

diverse and unique group of women born over a span of 30 years , the youngest being 17.

The aim of the profiles is to provide insight into gender equality and equal opportunity from

various professions, occupational levels and sectors at different stages of their lives. Each

of the women showcased received identical questions, with their answers reflecting their

circumstances and life journey. Arlene Wilson-Max

An Associate Membership Executive at the BEE Chamber.

Passionate about sustainable economic empowerment, she has

dedicated almost two decades to business development. Her

focus is on bringing like-minded captains of industry, government

representatives and civil society together to promote growth in the

socio-economic empowerment sphere.

There is never a dull moment as Arlene juggles her career, family

and volunteer work.

The causes she is passionate about are:

> Protecting the conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands

that provides all humans with water. Remember, no wetlands

equals no water, resulting in no life.

> Creating awareness in the male child about how the choices

he makes in the future can impact the life of a girl child.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

It is a human rights issue if a woman does

the same job as a man to the same

degree, but earns less money. It

is time for men and women to

come together to address any

existing inequalities to equalise

the playing field for the next

generation of our workforce. In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

There is no difference in the terminology when applying them to

the expectations of women in the workplace. Empowerment,

Equity and Gender Equality make for interesting debate, however,

are addressed on the B-BBEE Scorecard. The Ownership

element addresses equity, Management Control, empowerment,

and Preferential Procurement, equality. Therefore, the B-BBEE

Scorecard will measure and showcase how an organisation

applies the principles of B-BBEE to empower, distribute equity

and address gender equality.

Do you think that young women entering the

workplace today have more access to opportunities?

Yes, without a doubt, in my mind young women today have

access to more opportunities. The question is more a case of

whether they are ready to take up the available opportunities.

South Africa has a vast skills gap due to young women not

having sufficient experience, qualifications and the mindset to

seize opportunities. Again, I return to the B-BBEE Scorecard that

provides for skills interventions and rewards organisations for

employing within their Skills Development pool. Essentially, the

foundation is set, the incentives are in place and the vast pool of

young women are ready to join our national workforce.

Today, is there an area that needs more

attention to protect or empower women, either

socially or professionally?

I do not think there is enough space in this issue of TFM

Magazine to answer this question in totality. Issues around

early childhood, pregnancy, a male child’s perception of the girl

child, women not supporting the development of other women

in the workplace, stereotyping, lack of stringent punishments

for offenders who abuse women, more affordable healthcare

for women’s and related ailments, religious restrictions limiting

women empowerment, social grants versus motivation or

inspiration to develop professionally; the list goes on.

Women

are

making

their

mark ...

Globally, women’s history is full

of trailblazers fighting for equality.

While some glass ceilings have been

shattered, others remain steadfastly in

place. This segment follows the journey

of the emancipation of women from

1792 to today. 1792 | Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Women's participation in society is essential to any nation's

well-being. The English writer and philosopher Mary

Wollstonecraft penned a widely-distributed treatise entitled

“A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”. She argues that

women are not naturally inferior to men, but lack education.

The essay suggests that women should have equal access

to co-educational schooling.

Dante Wilson-Max

A 17-year-old student at Curro Edenvale currently finishing her

fourth year of high school. She hails from a long line of strong,

ambitious women who have taught her to speak her mind

and fight for what she believes in. Strong amongst her belief

system is gender and race equality, including sexual identities.

She believes she lives in an era where many still believe that a

girl child is inferior or incapable compared to a boy child. Her

passion for gender equality stems from the fact that she had

already experienced minor bigotry at a young age. However,

representing the next generation of women entering the national

workforce, she does so with an open mind and a readiness to

stand up for what she believes.

How would you describe gender equality today?

I’d say that it is pretty stagnant. We live in a patriarchal

environment where it seems women must work twice as hard

for something that women are equally entitled to. It may not

seem such in some of society, but in others there is ingrained

misogyny that taints the emancipation of women.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

In my opinion, all these concepts work towards the same thing,

a future where men and women everywhere are seen as equals.

The words freedom and fairness describe all three of these

concepts. Freedom is to decide what we do with our time and

bodies; fairness is equal treatment and opportunities.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Yes, of course, I do; when we look at the work dynamic that

women had previously, opportunities are boundless. At least

now, when I enter the workforce, I can choose to enter a career

traditionally for men or decide to become a homemaker if I

so wish. As my generation of women enters the workforce, I

believe we take up opportunities paved by women who have

come before us. One message – the next generation of women

entering the national workforce expect equality, understand the

concept and will work hard, which will afford the next generation

of women more opportunities. Today, is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

There needs to be a more appropriate punishment for abusers

and sufficient resources to identify and prosecute them, as

justice at the moment is not on the side of women. Girl children

must know how to identify and address abuse in every area

of their lives and the importance of ‘girl-on-girl support’. On

the other hand, the boy child must be educated about abuse,

assault, internalised misogyny and sexism and not buy into the

‘boys will be boys’ mentality as these are learned behaviours.

Perpetrators must be accountable for their actions and

reactions, whether socially or in the workspace.

Finally, the workplace is very much like the school ground, where

women often take each other down. As a collective, women

should stand in solidarity and support one another in every

aspect of life.

Dimpho Sepeng

She is the Social Media Manager at the BEE Chamber.

Although she schooled in Johannesburg, she proudly hails from

Rustenburg in North West Province, famous for its platinum

mines and game parks. Dimpho grew up in a home with both

her parents and four older siblings. As the years went by,

the family extended and so did the household, as the family

welcomed her nieces, nephew and brother-in-law into the home.

Subsequently, it was a household with little privacy and she

craved her own space, but she is thankful for such a close-knit

family.

Following her matric year at Fields College, she enrolled in

a three-year course at IIE Rosebank College in marketing

management. She graduated with distinction and bagged the

top achiever accolade for the course.

1911 | International Women’s Day:

A day for women

Marked annually on 8th March, the first International

Women's Day in 1911 amassed more than one million

people across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland

for women's suffrage and labour rights. The day became a

mechanism to protest World War I in its early years. Most

notably, in Russia, a sizeable women-led demonstration

broke out demanding "bread and peace!" Four days later,

the Czar abdicated. Now a Russian national holiday, the

day is what some historians believe ignited the Russian

Revolution.

The attendees of a 1910 meeting in Copenhagen proposed

that one day each year be set aside to honour the women’s

rights movement. The aim was to build support for universal

suffrage. The proposal marked International Women’s

Day for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and

Switzerland in March of 1911. More than one million women

and men attended rallies supporting women’s right to vote,

hold public office, access vocational training, enter the

labour force and participate without discrimination. 1915 | International Congress of Women

In the spring of 1915, over one thousand female delegates

from the US and eleven European nations gathered in The

Hague for the first International Congress of Women, later

known as the Women’s International League for Peace and

Freedom.

1914-1945 | The changing world of work

World War I and II drove women to take on “untraditional”

jobs as men headed to war. A Western cultural icon of

women war workers, Rosie the Riveter has since been re interpreted globally as a symbol of women’s empowerment. How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

Based on my observations, I would argue that there is not a

lot of gender equality in the workplace. Unfortunately, many

organisations have not mastered how to unlearn behaviours

that promote inequality. Until organisations recognise and

address the issue, there will not be equality, especially in the

area of the gender pay gap.

There are women in leadership positions, but it does not

happen as often as it should. Women breaking through the

glass ceiling are incredible to watch and provide young girls with

role models.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Although the words can arguably mean the same thing,

they mean different things. For me, empowerment means

giving tools to someone so they have access to better work

opportunities, with the prospect of upskilling, and resources to

improve one’s life and self-worth.

Equity is about fairness, being treated fairly in every area of

society and the workplace.

Gender equality speaks to equal opportunities for women

and men, from education to the workplace, irrespective of a

person’s occupation or the sector they represent. It provides

professional and personal growth, no matter what part of

the national workforce one represents. The reality is that

women, like their male counterparts, are looking to succeed

professionally and strive for financial independence to contribute

meaningfully to society.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Young women today do have better opportunities than were

previously available. More male-dominant sectors are opening

up for women and women are proudly taking their rightful

place. However, young women must then take opportunities

when they present themselves, whether as an employee or an

entrepreneur. Young women must take the initiative to market

themselves and be ready to accept any challenge.

Opportunities present themselves in different ways. For

example, a young woman may accept a promotion knowing

it was to fill a gender diversity quota, which would present her

with an opportunity to shine and demonstrate the inherent

abilities of women, which will then, by default, provide

opportunities for others.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

Women have experienced enough hardships to last a lifetime,

personally and professionally. On a personal level, women need

protection from violence. Women and children in this country are falling in their numbers at the hands of men, and nothing

concrete is in place to curb it.

Usually, after a tragedy, organisations will run campaigns

here and there without following through. Laws to protect

women against violence need to be more robust, with severe

consequences for those perpetrating violence. The mortality

rate of women and children is rising rapidly and, in a time where

technology is better than it has ever been, things have never

been worse for a woman or child in our country.

Core is acceptance that the well-being and lives of women are

equally important to those of men. We genuinely need to be more

proactive in our efforts to protect women and children, so we can

change the status quo, because it’s looking bleak right now.

Elinor Sisulu

A Zimbabwean-born South African writer, a children’s literature

specialist and social justice activist. Her career began in

1981 as a researcher in the newly-independent Zimbabwean

government’s Ministry of Labour. She participated in writing the

first major study on women’s employment in Zimbabwe; then

she worked for the International Labour Organisation from 1987

to 1990. Elinor moved to South Africa with her family in 1991,

where she worked for the feminist magazine SPEAK. Apart from

publishing numerous articles, she has authored an award winning children’s book, ‘The Day Gogo Went to Vote’ and the

biography of ‘Walter and Albertina Sisulu’. As the Executive

Director of the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, she

promotes children’s books in indigenous languages.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

Since the management and staff of the non-profit organisation

that I run are 90% female, gender equality is not an issue for

us. The sector in which we work is also predominantly female.

I believe that generally, there have been enormous strides

in workplace equality, enabled by a progressive legislative

framework. Our experience of inequality is in the lack of sufficient corporate and government investment in the sectors

in which women dominate, especially in the early childhood

education sector.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

I have not put too much thought into this. I am just too busy

struggling to secure the resources for the work that we need to

do.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Yes and no. We have the legislation to support women’s

participation in the workplace and many precedents have

been set for women to enter previously male-dominated fields.

However, changing technologies and economic contraction have

led to declining employment opportunities for young people in

general.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

Developing digital skills and competencies that will enable

women to compete in the knowledge economy is an absolute

requirement.

Isabel Joubert

A sub-editor at the Law Society of South Africa. She sees herself

as a ‘worker ant’ and does her job and everything in life to the

best of her ability. As a child, she had the advantage of visiting

many countries and experiencing the world’s different cultures,

which is where the travel bug bit her. Now and again, a change

of scenery is necessary, so weekends away during the busy

work year are crucial. Isabel loves to travel, new foods and

enjoys engaging with people from different cultures. She believes

the best things in life are not material or even the places she

visits on her travels, as the memories are always more significant

when you make them with others. How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

I think there have been huge strides, especially when looking

at posters from the 1950s when women were only ‘allowed’ to

study certain degrees, if any degree at all. Women are now taking

the professional world by storm. Not everything is equal as yet,

but many things still have to happen to improve on the past. We

will achieve complete equality when hiring people is done without

the employee needing to know the gender of the person, as no

one gender is better or more important than the other.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

There is a difference because empowerment and equity are

needed to make gender equality a reality. Empowerment is about

giving someone the tools to achieve something and equity is the

process used to reach the equality goal.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Young women of today do have more access to opportunities.

They are walking on the roads paved by the women who have

struggled and worked tirelessly to achieve the opportunities the

women of today have. However, this does not mean that today’s

women can sit idly by and expect the change to be complete;

they must push in all ways possible to ensure that the next

generation is even better off than they are.

Today is there an area that needs more attention to protect

or empower women, either socially or professionally?

In my opinion, highly specified and high-paced jobs need to be

looked at because there is a perception that men can do the job

better and faster. Socially, the gender based violence issue should be

addressed more intensely; there

needs to be more support given

to those in dire situations.

Janet Landey

She wears two caps as the Founder of the Skills Village 2030

and representing the Institute of Event Management. As one

of eight children living on a small holding in North Riding, she

was privileged to have completed her education at St Teresa’s

Convent in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Privileged because her dad

worked at a Building Society by day, was a choirmaster at their

catholic church, and played the trumpet at events like weddings

and park concerts on weekends and at night. He worked hard to support his family. When Janet was twelve years old, she came

home from school to find her mum had had a heart attack and

died – it was devastating. The support the family received from

the school, the church, friends and family was amazing.

She played school provincial hockey, which meant money for

equipment, uniforms etc., which fell outside the household

budget, but miraculously support and funds always found their

way to her for everything she needed. It is precisely that support

which had a significant influence on her life. In Janet’s words,

“Many folks moved the rock out the road for us as children”.

As she ventured into business, that support became her

benchmark. At times, others perceived her as ‘weak’ and ‘soft’,

with folk struggling to get on their feet, but through her personal

experiences, she understands how important it is to lend a

helping hand. She believes that everyone deserves support with

access to opportunities.

Forty years ago, Janet and her sister Angie started a florist,

‘Frogs, Flowers and Things’, and then an Event Décor and Design

company – the whole family got roped in. They were privileged to

have been the event decorators for many extraordinary events,

like the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, his 80th Birthday,

Thabo Mbeki’s inauguration, the 2010 FIFA World Cup and many

other iconic events that contributed towards the tremendous

changes that we see in our country today.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

In 2021, globally, 80% of the workforce in the events

industry were women. The number of women leading event

management companies has increased by 40% over the past

three years. The same survey revealed that amongst the over

50 surveyed women managers in the industry, at least 98%

confirmed that they have never felt disadvantaged as women in

the industry.

Diversity and gender equality are a given in the creative industry.

It has been refreshing to work with a new generation of young

interns, where the ratio is one guy to four ladies– we didn’t

go out looking specifically for this ratio; this was the ratio that

applied for the positions... no bias. Having said that, in an

industry where we are doing sets and creating experiences for

our clients, there are tasks where it is great to have men on

the team who step up to the plate when it comes to lifting and

hauling … so for women in the industry, the natural ratio works

well.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Empowerment for us, in the industry we are privileged to be

working in, is a natural progression. This is particularly the case

in this new generation, where men and women are confidently,

creatively and equally filling different roles in the industry,

whether it is as event planners, designers, light/sound

technicians, in marketing, administration, operations or risk

– there is no discrimination. The event industry supports gender equity by providing equal

opportunities without discrimination.

From a gender equity perspective, the industry must provide

whatever is required to do the job, irrespective of gender and

without discrimination.

Our experience, particularly in the décor side of events, is that

everyone pulls together as a team. Timelines and design are

critical elements to a successful event that must come together

seamlessly. From a gender equality perspective in the sector,

it is not an issue – everyone has equal opportunities across all

disciplines in the industry.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

The event industry globally is a natural gender equality

opportunity space without discrimination – you need to be

willing, able and capable to do the job. Timelines are tight, fine

attention to detail is a given, and team trust is critical, but the

rewards are great.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention to protect

or empower women, socially or professionally?

The new generation of young women we work with leads the way

with regard to confident equality. Although we are not experts

in the field, our experience in the local community, working with

youth and elders, is that the youth benefit from equal education

and opportunities. They have the confidence to belong to

themselves working at an event management level – irrespective

of gender. Youth who may not have studied for or worked on

event elements like event set-up can learn through participation as

equals in this great industry that I am privileged to be a part of.

Kathleen Kriel

A Production Editor at the Law Society of South Africa, she

is a 38-year-old single bilingual woman hailing from Pretoria.

Following matric, she won a bursary to study journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology. The bursary allowed her

to further her studies. Her parents could not afford to pay her

tuition, as her father was retrenched in her matric year. In her

third year at university, she accepted an internship as a student

assistant. After that, she was asked to stay as a Programme

Manager at the student radio station on campus. At that time, it

was known as TUT Top Stereo, but is known today as Tshwane

FM.

2008 was a year that marked change for Kathleen, following the

ill health and passing of her father. It was an event that inspired

her to complete her dissertation that allowed her to finish her

degree - the first in her family to achieve this accolade - and

follow the career path her studies prepared her for.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

Gender equality in the workplace would include a situation

where men and women receive the same remuneration for

their work. There would be equal opportunities for both sexes

and no barriers to equal participation in the workplace, even

when it comes to maternity leave. Equality is when there are

fair processes and transformation in place for all employees,

allowing for the building of an inclusive community.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Yes, there is a difference; as I am a Production Editor, each

word is unique to me.

> Empowerment: when a person has the power to enable

themselves and the community around them to represent

their interests.

> Gender equality: when people of all genders - men,

women and the LGBTQ Community - have equal rights

and opportunities.

> Equity: when you are free from bias and discrimination,

thus get the necessary support.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Yes, I would like to hope so. I want to think that women entering

their respective professions can voice their opinions and

express when they are happy or unhappy in their workplace.

Whether this is happening, though, is another story. There

are legal cases where you read about sexual harassment or

discrimination occurring in the workplace, where men take

advantage of women, and women cannot say anything for fear

of losing their jobs. That is very sad to me.

Today is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

There is always room for improvement when it comes to

protecting and empowering women, both socially and

professionally. As women, we sometimes forget how special

we are, especially with our everyday responsibilities, which

can make one feel unappreciated. A woman needs to feel appreciated. I think that is why I always compliment other

women on their shoes or outfits, especially when they are not

expecting it, and the smiles on their

faces say it all. My mom used

to say, “You never know

what another woman is

going through; you could

be standing next to

someone who is broken

physically, emotionally,

or spiritually. Even though

you cannot help them, your

kind word will mean the

world to them.” Now that is

something I strive for.

Kgomotso Ramotsho

At 31 years old, hailing from Mabopane, she is a News Reporter

at the Law Society of South Africa. She sees herself as a

downtown girl from one of the biggest townships in Pretoria

who had a dream of becoming a journalist. Whether it is current

or entertainment news, the news is her passion – local or

international. She comes from a family of strong and hard working women. Kgomotso’s grandmothers and mother are her

role models who believe in giving and helping others; something

ironically passed down from her late great-grandfather.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

For me, it is both genders having equal opportunities and

getting the same recognition for their hard work, regardless of

gender. The core is having a man and a woman working in the

same department, doing the same job, and getting the same

salary and benefits.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Yes, there is a difference; however, all three have to be in place

for everyone in the workplace. I do not think you can mention

one without the other two, as they go hand in hand, in one way

or the other Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

I think they do, even though it is not happening at scale that it

should.

Today is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

Socially, some women still believe it always has to be a man’s

way or things can only be done right by a man. Yet, many single

mothers are raising children alone and doing a fantastic job.

Such women need to be empowered and uplifted to make them

realise that one does not need to stay in a loveless or abusive

relationship. Women must not be afraid that a man, who might

be the breadwinner, will not support them anymore or that they

are not good enough to be a community leader in their village or

township because we have always had men in that role.

At work, women need to be empowered to grasp opportunities

in leading roles, grow

organisations and be

a part of building

wealth and a

legacy.

Linda Sewnarain

She is the Managing Director and a Technical Signatory at 5

Star BEE Compliance, a SANAS accredited B-BBEE Rating

Agency. She was born and grew up during the Apartheid era.

Consequently, her family struggled to make ends meet, which

led to difficult times. It was not long before Linda realised that

education was her ticket out of poverty. She was fortunate to

have older siblings who supported and uplifted her. Her greatest

strength was and remains her five brothers, who inspired

and motivated her throughout her education. Her brothers

succeeded in the medical and business fields. Witnessing them

succeed drove her to work hard and persevere in the B-BBEE

space. Entering the B-BBEE sphere came with challenges, as she was

initially turned down for a position that she firmly believed was

because of her gender. But that was merely a stumbling block. A

while later, she was called and offered the job. 2011 was a turning

point for Linda, as she ventured into the world of business and

entrepreneurship with the support of her husband. She proudly

controls and manages an organisation that has 100% ‘Black’

Ownership and is 51% is ‘Black’ Woman-owned.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

In our line of work, gender inequality still exists. There is a far

greater tendency and eagerness for management, at every level,

to be male-dominant. However, organisations are embracing

transformation, which encourages gender equality and

empowerment. Employers are making more of an effort to employ

women, then earmark them for management and senior roles.

The role of women in the workplace has significantly evolved

over the years. Many have taken on more complex and high-level

positions, such as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive

Officer. The consistent evolution continually creates opportunities

for women, hence better representation in our national workforce.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

There are distinct differences between empowerment, equity and

gender equality, particularly regarding implementing B-BBEE.

These concepts are stipulated clearly in the Codes of Good

Practice, The Employment Equity Act and our Constitution. All

these pieces of legislation strive to close the deficit of wealth and

access challenges facing our country.

Empowerment constitutes many of the objectives held in the

Codes of Good Practice, whilst equity and gender equality are the

focus of the Employment Equity Act and our Constitution.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Indeed, the situation has significantly changed over the last 20

years. Women now have access to many opportunities, which

they were denied merely two decades ago. They can work in any

industry, irrespective of the type of role they undertake. Over two

decades, many industries, like the construction and engineering

fields, have substantially increased women’s representation.

Women in the national workforce have revolutionised the space,

as well as the perceptions and role women play in a household.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention to protect

or empower women, either socially or professionally?

Yes, the role of women in both professional and social spaces

needs to be protected and empowered. From a social perspective,

cultural differences where women typically take up stereotypical

roles, contribute to the primitive mindsets of others. These opinions

have shaped how society treats women and, unfortunately, primitive

mindsets still exist.

Women are embracing dual roles as they juggle motherhood, the

home and work-life balance. In the professional world, women take up the challenge to compete in previously male-dominated

positions. Organisations are encouraged to support the needs

of women in the workplace by coaching and mentoring them to

reach better and more challenging roles. I believe that women can

conquer great things when given the same opportunities as their

male counterparts.

Mapula Oliphant

She is Editor/Acting Communications Manager at The Law

Society of South Africa, as well as a daughter, sister and wife,

but most importantly, a mother of three boys. She prides herself

on knowing who she is to understand herself better and how she

reacts to situations that life throws at her. Some may consider her

an introvert because she relishes some alone time to process the

world and how she fits in it.

She has lived through hardship, but sees it as what has

allowed her to grow as a person and become stronger, never

questioning “why me”. Mapula is a perfectionist in everything

she does, therefore putting 100% effort into all her endeavours.

A near-death experience has taught her to participate fully in life

and to live in the present.

She always spreads joy among the people with whom she

interacts. If she can help someone, she will do all she can for

them. However, Mapula wanting to help must not be confused

with her being a people pleaser. This lady is no pushover. Her

message in life is, “Always try to be nice to one another, as

there is so much negativity in the world.”

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

There is still much work to be done on this issue of gender

equality. In theory, it is working. Yes, more women get

opportunities to be leaders in the workplace. However, there

are still notions that women are just handed these positions and

are not necessarily worthy of them. The negative is an apparent

perception problem, not factual. We still have a few obstacles

that oppose women in leadership in the workplace because of

a perception that women cannot cope in top positions. As time

goes by, the negative perception will waiver, when women prove

they are just as competent to do any job In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Yes, there is a difference between these terms, even though

the concepts are often confused. Empowerment is when

someone has the tools to improve their situation, like education

or equipment. Equity is when someone is not judged because of

a preconceived bias. Gender equality refers to having access to

resources and opportunities regardless of a person’s gender.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Yes, I believe young women today have access to more

opportunities. All the years spent fighting for equal rights for

women are paying off and change is coming.

Today is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

One area that needs attention is the expectations society places

on women to be the ones who do all the house chores, even

with a full-time job. Men are not expected to go to work, get

home and cook, whereas women are expected to do that. I

am very fortunate to have a very hands-on partner who helps

around the house, especially now that I am busy studying in

addition to my two job titles. I know I would not cope with all

my work commitments and the household if my partner was not

helpful and empowered himself.

Nadiya Hattia

A Senior Consultant at the BEE Chamber.

Who are you, what is your

back story?

That is a loaded question. Often

who we are is defined by our

qualifications, working experience

and obstacles. There is no doubt

that the aforementioned are part

of who I am, but, like everyone

else, I am so much more than

that. I am Nadiya; I love pizza and

burgers. I am sensitive, but have

a level head on my shoulders. I

consider myself kind and sincere,

and I believe in love no matter one’s

ethnicity, religion, culture or gender.

I love the sky, sun, sea and stars –

nature breathes life into me. Some do

not know that I am impatient, but

rather talented at disguising it. How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

I recently read an article about the 1913 Native Land Act, which

prohibited women from owning land. The core of the act is that

land could not be registered in the name of any woman. Any such

land had to be registered in a man’s name, for example a husband,

brother or father. Thankfully, this legislation was abolished 100 years

later and the amended Land Reform Act currently exists to address

the circumstances that the original legislation was responsible for.

We have come a long way with that context in mind, but we still

have a long way to go.

In your opinion, is there a difference between empowerment,

equity and gender equality?

The word ‘empowerment’ forms part of the B-BBEE acronym for

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. By its very definition,

B-BBEE encompasses equity and gender equality. Furthermore,

B-BBEE closely aligns with Employment Equity, promoting

empowerment, equity and gender equality. In saying this, perhaps

empowerment is an overarching principle which encompasses sub principles like equity and gender equality. For me, gender equality is

a topic that I am particularly passionate about.

Gender is not as simple as men and women, a social construct.

There is an inherent stereotyping in gender roles and a stigma for not

conforming to the perceived ‘norm’. There are so many more layers

to heteronormative ideologies than are currently applied to society.

For example, today, people embrace who they are by how they feel

rather than what they look like outwardly. My question on gender

equality in the workplace is: Despite legislation clearly stating no

discrimination based on race, gender, marital status etc, how many

organisations employ a man who is outwardly gay, potentially dressing

in a more feminine manner? The inverse applies to a woman who

is outwardly gay and comfortable in her skin. Is it a reality that,

potentially, a person not conforming to the perceived ‘norm’ may lose

professional opportunities? Will clients be offended? And if so, why?

Will such employees put the reputation of an organisation at stake?

And if so, why?

Although we can speak on this topic at length, my answer is yes;

there is a difference based on stereotypically perceived norms.

Essentially, if someone wears a mask of perceived normalcy that hides

who they are, they are more likely to reap the rewards of opportunity.

Hence, a tick in the empowerment box, but not the gender equality

one. Gender equality goes far beyond women being afforded the

same opportunities as men, as all people should be afforded the

same opportunities, providing they possess the necessary skills. More

vvimportantly, society should not exclude people based on a gender

construct.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention to protect or

empower women, either socially or professionally?

Women and some men still face binary roles, which they fulfil based

on what society expects. I think that in the workplace an employer

should afford men and women paid paternity and maternity leave

respectively. Women should have a platform where their voices are not only listened to, but heard. Women are often the second

choice, purely because they may get pregnant in the future. The

questions asked in interviews with women are:

> Are you in a relationship? If the answer is no, then why? Or

if yes, then are you planning on having, or already have, a

family?

> Are you married? If the answer is yes or no, then why?

> Do you want children?

> How old are you?

> Do you already have children; expecting any more?

More than policies and procedures, there needs to be a change

in mindset. More often than not, how a woman responds to

these questions either opens or closes doors, which is ridiculous

in this day and age, as well as being both unprofessional

and unethical, and going against the very legislation that we

endeavour to promote. Essentially such questions are personal

and there should be an entitlement of privacy; or at the very

least the answers to the above questions should not be a

disadvantage. Worse still is that such questions do not have

anything to do with a woman’s ability to do the job. Organisations

recruiting should concentrate on competency and output, rather

than harnessing concerns about the gender constructs.

Nicky Bezuidenhout

As the Marketing Manager at eDeaf, her career in the Deaf

Community began with a chance encounter with a Deaf woman

who became a friend whilst living in the UK. So she could better

communicate with her, Nicky enrolled in Sign Language evening

classes at a local college. At the time, Nicky’s deaf friend and

her husband were trying to have a baby. It took her three

years to become pregnant, enough time for Nicky to become

proficient enough in Sign Language to act as her interpreter

when she took antenatal classes. In Nicky’s words, “That

personally was very satisfying” How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

South Africa has significantly fewer women in executive

positions, according to www.accountancysa.org.za, even though

women make up 51% of the South African population. Although

I believe the country is making strides to close the gap, we

are still not quite there. According to Statistics SA, the South

African unemployment rate is higher among women than men.

Traditionally, men had more senior roles than women, hence

were more likely to be employed.

However, eDeaf’s statistics differ as we employ more women

than men. Of the 58 people employed, 40 are women, 46 are

Deaf, with six women leading the organisation. Our CEO is

a woman and “disabled” according to classification, but she

is undoubtedly very empowered and a person of significant

influence and authority.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Empowerment is about having the tools to succeed. When I

write this, I think of my son, who will soon turn 18! My husband

and I have effectively empowered him and set the platform for

him to launch. Empowerment is not a guarantee of success,

but we make every possible effort to mitigate the risk of him

falling. The “e” in “eDeaf” refers to ‘employ’ and ‘empower’. A

successful launch of a candidate into the world of work means

we first need to ensure the rocket structure is sound. The eDeaf

training centers provide this structure, incubation of practical

experience and theory training, as well as participating in

necessary simulations and role play. Our facilitators support the

rocket guidance system. The Learner’s emotional intelligence

can be likened to the nosecone, which minimises drag and

provides stability and control. The propulsion is their willingness

to succeed. Equality is essentially fairness, but since life has not

dealt the same hand to every individual, equity is not a given.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

It has been a while since I entered the national workforce, so

I cannot speak for women entering it today. However, in my

dealings with clients over the past eight years, I have seen many

women holding influential positions. On the other hand, I have

met dedicated men who are secretaries, nurses and working in

public relations – roles traditionally held by women.

I distinctly remember two previous positions I held

where I reported to men. Both were effectively corporate

communications positions. My boss first asked me what I

would like my job title to be, and then we agreed on the title

‘Communications Manager’. The role, and his belief in me,

allowed me to travel internationally, co-ordinate conferences

and lead the communication’s team. Conversely, when I left this

role to join a larger organisation, it quickly became clear that

my primary role would be to serve bacon sandwiches, tea and coffee to the boardroom. At the same time, the men went to work

on the organisation’s business strategy. Although I was well-liked,

I was not ‘seen’ and, given my work experience, this was very

disempowering, even though the pay was excellent.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention to protect

or empower women, socially or professionally?

If you type “How can a woman” into Google, the most frequently

searched phrase will reveal itself to be “How can a woman get out

of an unhealthy relationship”. I think that says it all.

Nkhensane Bridget Nthane

As the Human Resources Manager at the Law Society of South

Africa, she holds an Honours Degree in Industrial Psychology. She

is a proud African queen, born and raised in Pretoria. Passionate

about education, she is a daughter to a single parent and the

only child of a retired educator, who herself was passionate about

education. Her mother’s mission in life was to ensure Nkhensane

was equipped and sufficiently empowered to choose the life she

wanted to have and be self-reliant.

How would you describe gender equality in the workplace

today?

I think it’s important to note that we can never achieve gender

equality in the workplace if we have not achieved it in our

household. If we treat girl and boy children differently, social

inequality will continue. So, let’s not teach girl children to be

submissive and focus on needlework, or tell a boy child he does

not have to do dishes because that is women’s work. Rigid ideals

like this will follow the girl and boy child into adulthood.

Firstly, today gender extends beyond male and female or the

biological concept, as there are people who identify differently to

being either a man or a woman. I would love to include them in

gender identity. Gender equality in the workplace refers to ensuring that both

men and women enjoy the same workplace opportunities,

conditions of employment and fair pay scales. Core to this

corporate evolution is that those women with a certain level

of education, qualifications and experience are afforded the

same opportunities as their male counterparts. In today’s

environment, many organisations are slowly but consciously

taking steps towards making this a reality and are committed to

ensuring that women are empowered.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

There is no difference between empowerment, equity, and

gender equality as they are all concepts that allow opportunity

and access to women, the previously disadvantaged and

people with disabilities.

For me, empowerment and gender equality can be used

synonymously. Both concepts provide the opportunity to

upskill through mechanisms like experiential training, gaining

a qualification or specific knowledge in a particular field. An

example is taking someone through Adult Basic Education

and Training (ABET) to get a grade 12 certificate or providing

mentorship to a junior qualified professional.

On the other hand, equity refers to fairness and equality

in outcomes, allowing organisations to investigate and

then identify its specific shortfalls, so they can consider

demographics.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Yes, compared to 10 years ago, young women entering the

workplace today have a number of opportunities to access.

The world of work is changing. If anything, COVID19 has taught

us that work is no longer about how many boxes one can

pick up in a day, because technology has a solution for that

today. Organisations can no longer measure performance on

an individual’s physical strength, but the output from behind a

computer at home.

What drives performance is how performance is measured. If

organisations identify KPA or KPIs as a standard set to achieve

outcomes, it is simple to make the distinction. Yes, I know

we are not that far advanced, especially in South Africa, but

performance managing gender equality will make an impact,

but may take time to run like a well-oiled machine. Therefore,

work still needs to be done. However, there is evidence that

men and women can produce the same output at the same job

functions. Affording opportunities in an organisation must be

done on equal footing. Things are moving forward, as issues

like pay scales and promotions for women shift to being merit base Today is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

Socially, the government needs to put more effort into promoting

gender equality. Gender-based violence stems from men not

seeing women as equal partners who can compete on an equal

footing. It has to be more than a man’s brute force.

Professionally, one area that needs focus is preventing and

eliminating harassment in the workplace. The recently Amended

Code of Good Practice on the prevention and elimination of

harassment in the workplace put a spotlight on issues like

bullying and sexual harassment. Both are a form of oppression

and victimisation by those in a position of power.

Palesa Matlala

27 year old Palesa is the Receptionist at the BEE Chamber. She

is a journalism and media studies graduate and found her way

to the BEE Chamber through the YES Programme. Due to being

born in 1994, she is referred to as a child of democracy. She

grew up in Soweto Meadowlands zone 7, but now lives in the

southern suburbs of Johannesburg.

How would you describe gender equality in the workplace

today?

South African legislation and, more specifically, labour legislation

aims to eliminate unfair discrimination and promote equality.

Unlike various other nations, South Africa has dynamic

legislation in place that secures and advances women’s rights

in general and within the working environment. Therefore, the

key is the recognition of legislation and development for the

prevention of gender discrimination.

I would describe gender equality in the workplace as employees

of all genders having equal rights,

responsibilities and opportunities

to access the same rewards and

resources. Critical aspects

include equal pay benefits for

comparable roles with similar

responsibilities, and

equal opportunities for

promotion as well as

career progression In your opinion, is there a difference between empowerment,

equity and gender equality?

The basis of empowerment in the workplace is providing employees

with the resources, authority, opportunity and motivation to do their

work, which will make them happier and more proficient. One of the

most basic employee empowerment examples is giving employees a

voice in important decisions that affect them.

However, equity and gender equality are the same concepts that

provide fair opportunities for all employees. Thus, it ensures that

every employee has access to the same treatment, opportunities

and potential career progress.

Do you think young women entering the workplace today

have more access to opportunities?

I agree that young women entering the workplace today have

more access to opportunities because women are said to possess

qualities that make them more employable. Young women can relate

through empathy and appreciation of others, since they focus on

individuals and their needs.Women can multitask, as we are naturally

energetic and go-getters.

Here are some fast facts:

> For more than 30 years, women have been earning more

Bachelor’s degrees than men.

> The duration women remain employed at an organisation is the

same as for their male counterparts.

> 49% of the global workforce are women; however, they only

account for 10.9% of senior executives among the world’s

largest 500 companies.

Today is there an area that needs more attention to protect or

empower women, either socially or professionally?

Designing social protection programs that empower women is an area

that needs more attention in our country. Around the world, leaders

have pledged to build back better from the COVID 19 pandemic and

social protection programs have emerged as a core policy response.

Countering to the pandemic, one hundred and ninety-five countries

or territories have expanded or introduced social protection

measures globally.

Organisations can empower women in their workplace. The way we

work has changed dramatically due to the pandemic; record numbers

of women left the workforce to care for their families and manage

their children’s education from home. As these women re-enter

the workforce, flexibility will be more important to them than ever.

Organisations that support working moms create a more collaborative

and thriving environment.

The most effective way to empower women professionally is to

choose words wisely when communicating. How people choose

words goes a long way towards better performance and a positive

disposition towards an organisation. Critical is that organisations

should bear in mind that women respond positively to words like

committed, dependable, responsible, as opposed to terms like

analytical and adventurous, to name but a few. An organisation should

put faith in the women making up its workforce and have a deeper understanding of their needs, which will yield the best outcomes.

Implementing fair and inclusive policies will professionally

empower women in the work environment; organisations must

walk the walk. Standard policies and procedures promoting

fair treatment irrespective of gender, race or sexual orientation

should be the norm. Furthermore, policies should ensure

maternal health is recognised and accounted for with no

discrimination in pay or career progression.

Shannon Munnik

27-year-old Shannon hails from Johannesburg and is the

Member Experience Account Manager at the BEE Chamber.

She was raised by a single, strong and independent woman

who worked out of poverty to provide a better life for her two

daughters. Throughout Shannon’s childhood, education was

the priority that would open doors and provide her with the life

her mother worked so hard for her to achieve.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

Gender equality in the workplace means equal opportunities,

rights and responsibilities for everyone forming part of the

national workforce. In my opinion, absolute equality means

neutral job specifications with no additional criteria that

would create a barrier to entry and the eradication of the

gender pay gap.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Equity does not necessarily equate to empowerment without a

fair and equal starting point. As gender inequality is a learned

behaviour, programmes specifically in the workplace must

address two areas. Firstly, they must empower women to reach

their full potential and educate men on what gender equality is

and the benefits of embracing it in all spheres of their life.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Yes, I think many women have paved the way and shown the

next generation of women, specifically in the workplace, that

anything is possible. Whatever dreams young women have, especially professionally, are valid and are achievable through

hard work, having a strong character, being positive with a solid

work ethic. Although the next generation of women has access

to succeed, it is not merely given but must be earned. My advice

is always to apply faith in oneself and believe one’s goals are

attainable.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally?

Socially, gender-based violence is the root of inequality.

Awareness programmes through the workplace and community

alike should target both men and women. Women must have

the ability to realise when a circumstance no longer serves them

or builds them up, so that they can harness the power that

they inherently have and walk away. An imperative is a women’s

ability to know what they want and then go out

and get it.

Professionally, I think succession planning programmes

focussing on women should be the centre of attention.

Shireen Mahomed

She is the Editorial Secretary at the Law Society of South Africa.

She lives according to Islamic principles and cares about society.

She assists the elderly, children and the needy with no one else

to turn to. She has always been able to stand on her own and

treasures her family bond whilst focusing on her career.

How would you describe gender equality in the

workplace today?

Unfortunately, South Africa has a long way

to go to reach gender equality in the

workplace; the work environment is

still male-dominated, with most

decision-making positions held

by men.

In your opinion, is there

a difference between

empowerment, equity

and gender equality?

In my opinion, yes,

there is a difference

between the three.

Empowerment

provides sufficient

support to enable a

sense of authority

within another

individual’s scope.

Equity relates to

fair treatment,

equal access and

opportunity for all, as well as impartiality. Gender equality represents nondiscriminatory

roles within society as a whole. While all of these strive toward

one objective, which is to decrease or eliminate any biases or

discrimination against one or more groups of people, the focus or

process to achieve this differs vastly.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

Young women still have to work twice as hard as their male

counterparts to succeed in the workplace.

Today is there an area that needs more attention to protect

or empower women, either socially or professionally.

There is a definite need to break the domination of men in the

workplace, wherever men believe they have the right to determine

how successful women will be in a working environment. I think

the evil of sexual exploitation by men against women is under reported.

Stephne Pieterse

Hailing from Pretoria she is the Marketing Officer at the Law

Society of South Africa. After completing her matric, she studied

graphic design, web development and project management.

As in most cases, where one’s career is born from opportunity,

Stephne’s opportunity steered her towards an online e-learning

platform for Legal Education, specifically in developing the training

departments.

How would you describe gender equality in the workplace

today?

Gender equality in the workplace is when employees have free

access to the same rewards, resources and opportunities.

These equate to equal pay, benefits and career advancement

opportunities for all. In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

No, I see them as a collective; they improve and encourage

a woman’s decision-making power, self-worth and access

to resources and opportunities. The ripple effect empowers

women to take control and enjoy power inside and outside the

home, thus make change happen.

Do you think that young women entering the workplace

today have more access to opportunities?

No.

Today is there an area that needs more attention

to protect or empower women, either socially or

professionally.

Women need more protection from the cycle of poverty, which

government and society must break. As community caretakers,

women demonstrate that they can be the political and

economic power to evoke change. Importantly, women must be

encouraged to invest in education to strengthen our economy.

Yolanda du Plessis

She holds the position of Marketing and Finance Director at

Authentic Rating Solutions, a SANAS accredited B-BBEE

Agency. Besides being a woman with a solid career, Yolanda’s

pride is her son. She is married to a man who empowers her to

succeed. From humble beginnings with a solid family structure,

providing a good education for Yolanda and her siblings was a

non-negotiable for her parents. From an early age, success and

financial independence became her goal.

Her career path has had many exciting and sometimes

surprising opportunities with bumps in the road. However, to

overcome the challenges along the way, she had to put her

head down and roll with the punches. Working in a male dominated industry, she was inspired by both men and women in senior positions. Lessons she still takes forward are respect

and fairness for all ,as well as the confidence each instilled in

her. In Yolanda’s words “Perhaps I am lucky to have worked with

men who were empowered enough to see the value in all their

employees irrespective of gender”.

In the last decade, she has worked in the B-BBEE space and at

no time did she feel ‘less than’ due to being a woman. However,

she acknowledges she is in this position because of the women

in South Africa’s history who paved the way for all women. She

is thankful to them as their strides mean she can contribute to

her family’s income and secure the future of her child. Yolanda

is passionate about positively impacting the development of the

people she leads. She acknowledges “As a woman leading an

organisation, I am committed to continuing the path created by

other women. Essentially my goal is to inspire those working with

me to thrive and meet their full potential”.

How would you describe gender equality in

the workplace today?

South African businesses have come a long way in successfully

implementing gender equality in the workplace. It is refreshing

to see women in executive positions and taking up positions in

senior roles in traditionally male-dominated industries.

In your opinion, is there a difference between

empowerment, equity and gender equality?

Empowerment is an opportunity offered for growth, development

and upskilling. The core of empowerment is supporting equal

opportunity, thus ensuring fairness and impartiality for all.

Essentially, gender equality comes into play when the same

opportunities become available to both women and men.

However, one area that hampers equal opportunity is when a

candidate applying for a position indicates they are a man or a

woman, as, if such a position was previously male-dominated,

employers could be influenced on that basis.

Do you think that young women entering

the workplace today have more access to

opportunities?

I believe that young women have much better access to

opportunities than 30 to 50 years ago. Equal education

opportunities have enabled women to attain the relevant skills to

participate in every workplace rightfully.

Legislation has created awareness about gender equality to the

extent that it has forced businesses to consider and embrace it.

Essentially pieces of legislation have created opportunities and

addressed many historic shortfalls.

Today, is there an area that needs more attention to protect or

empower women, either socially or professionally?

I have always viewed South African women as extremely hard working, dedicated and nurturing. They work hard to provide for

their families A large portion of women are single mothers, with statistics of

around 42% of children who live only with their mother, which

puts a huge financial responsibility on them. Another social

matter that has an enormous impact on women in South Africa

is gender-based violence. Victims of gender-based violence

are most likely to be prohibited from being able to pursue

opportunities for development and empowerment, which must be

adequately addressed to protect future generations of women.

“In theory, in South Africa, no

legislation stops women from

gaining an education, buying, selling

or inheriting property, marrying or

divorcing; it is all done on equal

footing.”


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