While there are still a lot of preconceived notions about women in our society, some might still believe the myth that women cannot possibility give their all to their careers, or to the same extent that men do, because women have children. However, this is not true because most females have learned over the years how to successfully balance their work and personal life schedules.
Since the mid-90s the female labour-force participation has seen an increase of 38%, which has also boosted overall employment levels, according to statistics from the 2016 PwC Executive Directors’ Practices and Remuneration Trends Reports. While about 45% of the members of parliament are female, women remain underrepresented in senior management in the private sector, with an average of only 18% of women serving on boards of the JSE listed companies.
When it comes to female representation, the financial services industry is very male dominated at an executive management level. The PwC report states that there is only 17% female director representation in this industry, which is definitely concerning. There certainly are a number of very capable women within senior positions in the industry and we have experienced gender transformation to an extent, however there has to be an increased effort to ensure fair gender representation in financial services.
Even though we are living in a modern society, many people still continue to bring gender stereotypes into the workplace. While some do this unconsciously, we need to dispel this mind-set if we are to achieve gender parity in the workplace. Businesses should not tolerate any gender discrimination and ensure that all employees are treated as equals.
Achieving career growth and recognition is no easy task and in some industries it is even harder for females with families to care for. Women must be able to mould the time commitment their jobs require around the needs of their families – Sheryl Sandberg is a good example of a woman who does this well and advocates it to other women.
I therefore urge all career-driven women to go out into the workplace and find, chase and embrace any opportunity for growth in the business environment. It is also very important to be confident in the skills, competencies and unique qualities that you can bring to the table. When you make an effort to get noticed and show your worth, you will certainly be able to achieve your career goals and objectives. If you are a leader or are striving to become one, you have to liberate yourself and allow your voice to be heard above the din.
New experiences are key to providing opportunities to showcase your abilities and to foster personal and professional growth. You have to break through your comfort zone in order to reach a new level in your professional capacity. Whether you are starting out your career, in an entry-level position or a middle-manager, be sure to take all the opportunities that come your way and make the best of them.
In my role, I meet many young women starting their careers and I am very excited about the new generation of women entering the South African workplace. This generation is unapologetic and confident about their careers, they know who they are and what they are about. The personal mastery I see in these young women is something to admire and it is clear that our new generation of women are open to mentorship and learning opportunities and I am very confident that they will change our business environment for the better. After all, we are in an era in which the UK has just appointed a female Prime Minister and in the US, we have the first female presidential nominee from a major party.
As Oprah Winfrey recently Tweeted about these developments, “Glass ceiling Cracked Wide Open!”