August is synonymous with Women’s Month, in South Africa. Every year around this time we see an increase in the call for gender-based transformation in all facets of society and the recognition of the role that women play in shaping our world. It’s the time of year where we really look closely at how we, as a society, empower them.
We honour political giants such as the late Lindiswe Sisulu and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and we celebrate women, like those who took part in the women’s march earlier this month, which highlighted gender-based transformation in no uncertain terms.. We also inspire young girls through initiatives such as GirlCode, to take courage and be relentless in their fight for a seat at the table.
We do this for numerous reasons, one of which being, according to research like the 2018 Grant Thornton International Business Report, companies with a diverse workforce deliver better results . Yet, despite this fact, there are still too few women in leadership positions.
Transformation is a verb
It starts with the culture. Companies need to understand the importance and impact of diversity for their overall culture and business output. In the constantly-evolving digital landscape we find ourselves in, there is pressure on companies to find more agile methods of solving business challenges and it goes without saying that diversity, on either a race or gender scale allows businesses to discover new, collaborative ways of tackling challenges.
Culture needs to be sustained by transformation policies, and this means investing in research that allows organisations to conduct internal audits that help them gain an understanding what direction to take and draft the necessary steps toward actively transforming themselves.
Simply put, organisations need to be active in their pursuit of gender-based transformation.
This includes taking a rigorous look at areas such as HR, and the recruitment strategy in particular. There needs to be a consistent drive to hire women, who possess the correct skills and culture dynamics that will contribute to the transformation agenda.
Such processes are only effective when they are treated as verbs: something that is actively done.
Men need to embrace the ‘’pink’’ side of life
Our role as women in business has definitely evolved, as, according to the Thornton report, ‘’89% of businesses in Africa have at least one woman in senior management’’. If we extrapolate that particular point, however, that also means that if there were ten leaders in a company, nine of those would be men.
We need more men to embrace the ‘’pink’’ side of life.
As women, we have all that we need to make an impact in business but the reality is that it is still a man’s world, and we require their support to occupy more seats at the table.
This means in conjunction with policies and culture, there need to be male leaders driving the gender-based transformation agenda as well; helping to break down stereotypes about gender roles, canvasing for equal remuneration and reinforcing the importance of gender diversity in business.
Empowered women, empower women
On 9th August 1956, 20 000 women took a stand. A stand that has allowed women to be leaders in their own right. A stand that has and continues to empower generations of females. It is important for leaders to push the feminism narrative.
It is also important for women in senior/leadership positions to elevate those that aspire to be leaders.
Rapelang Rabana, Sheryl Sandberg, Khanyi Dlomo, and Bridgette Radebe; the one thing these women have in common is their passion to elevate the status of women in business and society. They are actively engaged in initiatives that foster the growth of women.
Mentorship programmes are one of the many ways in which businesses can allow their female leadership to empower others. These can form a part of the transformation strategy with a clear outline to track development from beginning to end. Furthermore, mentorship can form part of an employee’s career development goals, with an “each one teach one” concept at its core to ensure that women who benefit from being a part of the programme, mentor others.
Businesses should never stop advocating for women empowerment; it should be a part of their narrative.
Rositta Mbanze is the Communications Manager at Tarsus Distribution.