We should use the women month to affirm women of the country and reflect on the success that the country has made in ensuring that women play the rightful role in the society. Women can draw strength from the courageous 1957 generation. We should appreciate various transformation policies and legislation that our country has promulgated in the quest to redress the gender disparities. I guess it’s time to start thinking beyond numbers and the redressing phase. There are legislative provisions and institutional mechanism to address the issue parity, equity and societal attitude on gender and women issue
Despite existing intervention women are still confronted with enormous challenges and they continue to become victims of social ills. In practice economic participation of women is at a slow pace. In the employment front women are still lagging behind, in terms of executive and senior position. It is reported that only 17% of executive board members at JSE-listed companies are women. There are salary disparities in the workplace and reports shows that women earn on average 34% less than their male counterparts. Males taking the majority (85%) of the share in earnings (Executive Directors’ Remuneration report: 2016).
Companies that embrace women in leadership positions must be commended; only if it is done in good faith because in most cases it disempowers women. Mainstreaming women to tick the box for the purpose of complying with employment equity and BBBEE requirement must not be tolerated. The society still need some level of consciousness about genuine women empowerment and mainstreaming. Because of the stereotypes, most women in leadership spent more time trying to impress and justifying that they earned the position on merit. Consequently, they end up not commanding a balanced life, they lose marriage and they become absent mothers and wives. In this situation women become victims of what is supposed to be their personal growth and empowerment.
Redressing the gender disparities must not be equated with a process of moving from Patriarchy to Matriarchy, but it’s a developmental phase that we should endure now. We need to envision a trajectory where women are empowered and the redress objective is achieved; Increased number of women occupying senior corporate and senior political positions. Men being contend to be led by women and are also willing to be mentored by successful women. To achieve this dream, anyone in a position of influence must start now to plan for such as phase.
There is need for inter-generational engagement between women and young women and girls across all spheres. There must be more young women mentorship particularly in the business and academic front. We must name and shame companies that do not promote women empowerment and EE. Non-compliance must be enforceable and there must be hefty punitive measures. As part of the corporate social responsibility, established business women must mentor aspiring and emerging young women entrepreneurs.
More scholarship for young women must be made available. Women in the business and academic space must be lobbied within the political and civil society sector in the quest to share practice and develop other women. Most importantly is to develop and mentor young women and girl with the purpose of investing for the future. Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown: Chinese Proverb. The current generation of women are therefore encouraged to build the legacy of the future generation of women, which are current young women generation. Progressive men will certainly embrace interventions that are geared towards total emancipation of women.
- This article was written by Billy Nthelebovu.
Photo courtesy: GenderLinks