Gender balance hard but not complicated…

If you have attended as many women events as I have, you most probably familiar with phrases like ‘the glass ceiling, revolving door, climbing the corporate ladder’ etc. I did not expect anything different as I tip toed in at the Focus rooms last Thursday (November 27), where the Black Management Forum (National) hosted its launch of the Gender Desk quarterly debates. “I received a lot of push back from women, more than I did from men” continued Mrs. Mashile Nkosi as I made my way to the corner seat right at the back, trying hard not to disturb fellow attendees. When I finally settled I realized that the room was filled with as much men as it did with women. Thank goodness it’s not about to be one of those where women are preaching to the converted, yet again. The theme for the evening titled ‘Gender Balance hard but not complicated’ Anyone who has been alive at least nine months has “pictures” of how certain things look. For example, if I ask you to picture a CEO (close your eyes and do that), what images did you see? Chances are you will not have an image of a short, plump, and woman. Most people will imagine, in fact, a lean white male — because that is what we most commonly see, and he will be tall. Again try any search engine and look for images using the same acronym CEO, odds are you will not be surprised by what pops up on your screen. Gender stereotypes are hard to break like it or not, we are all prone to engaging in stereotyping at one time or the other. Proudly sponsored by Deloitte BMF Gender Desk invited panel To tackle the issue. Very interactive session with a very good turnout. I will not bore you with the statistics. The conversation started off by the Deputy Chairperson of the BMF, giving a rationale of what the Gender Desk is about and the importance of these debates (Gender Gap/Equality).As you already know I caught in a bit late (I need to be freed from this, One of the things that are holding me back as a women, I need prayers)  ‘Is South Africa truly ready for the implementation of the Gender Equality Bill?’ South Africa has the best policies in the World, the problem is implementation ,the role of the department of women is to monitor and push for those to be achieved.Mrs Nkosi added and emphasized that Africa as a continent  has always been ready.’ Africa is well endowed with resources and one of the biggest resources it has is women, with 521 million women in the continent alone. A question emanated from the floor ‘how do we then encourage ourselves and others as women, in making sure that we take advantage of these policies? Again touching on personal experience Mrs Nkosi mentioned that, one of the things that works to her advantage is the fact that she was raised by her grandmother in a house full of kids and she learned early on to fend for herself. From a very young age she learned that the world did not owe her anything, if she wanted anything she had to work hard for it , it was never easy however her grandmother always reminded her that she was brought here (on earth) to make a difference, and she needed to be fearless and stay focused. “I am of the view that women do not get into leadership positions by chance,” former Malawi president Joyce Banda said at the BBC 100Women conference. “Therefore deliberate policies and conducive environments need to be created to allow women to participate in public life. Quotas over Potential? The idea is not to push the numbers, however given our history it’s only but fair that woman should be freely exposed to leadership opportunities as much as man are. Gender equality means employees can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man. The goal is to achieve equal results for woman and man, not exactly the same result for all employees. Women don’t have the equivalence of what would be referred to as ‘The boys club’ hence the need for robust conversations as these, said Mrs Khumalo (Deputy President of the Black Management Forum ) ‘I attend a lot of conferences and being one of the few women at the table more often than not ,when you go back to your community the conversation differs, you get home women are talking about ‘shoes’.You have no one to bounce ideas off, we need more network support structures where woman can learn from those who have been before them’. Businesses can only benefit by successfully attracting both men and women to their workforce. It’s now an established fact that organizations with the most gender diversity outperform those with the least. Managing the Revolving door We can’t have equality in the workplace until we have equality at home. Businesses should adopt more innovative models that encourage active fathering and tackle the stigma of parental leave, to support both men and women to care for children. And encourage women to actively participate in leadership roles. There is what McKinsey & Co. calls invisible “mind-sets.” These mind-sets give rise to obstacles – for women and gender diversity. One such obstacle is what I call “unconscious images.” Like the other mind-sets (the double bind and the comfort principle), this cause is neither malicious nor intentional. Consciousness of its existence, and its impact in the workplace, can lead to inclusive behaviors and cultures. If business leaders share a “tall white male” image of power and success, but are unconscious of it, there are advantages for people who fit this image. If someone “looks the part,” he may be more likely to get to try out for the role. When thinking about whom to consider for an important project or promotion, someone who “looks the part” is more likely to come to mind than someone who does not. We need to educate leaders on the case for greater female participation, and challenge gender bias, stereotypes and traditional views. We need more male champions. We need to reframe the way we think about women and working and stop placing limitations on their desires and abilities to pursue ambitious, successful careers. And we need new solutions. Diversity ‘I am often told that as a women I am too loud, and need to nip my personality a little or if I continue the way I am, I might be passed over for promotions. How do I deal with this? ‘One young lady asked the panelists. To which she received a few motivating views. Being the only woman in any space you will always be under a microscope and therefore you need to have a personal awareness. Be aware of your personal self, be consistent and manage your personality accordingly otherwise things won’t work for you. Do not intimidate the space. Me thinks organisation’s need to place greater value on soft skills and abilities in order to inspire diversity, and not only in terms of gender but different personalities to allow for more creative teams. I believe diversity brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues a company faces and stimulates greater effort, leading to improved decision-making. (Source) McKinsey&Company successfully showed that diverse teams are also top financial performers. Looking at the executive board composition, returns on equity (ROE), and margins on earnings before interest and taxes. Diversity in opinions and ways of thinking is essential to the success of a business venture. Good leaders know that and they use differences to foster growth, not to limit it. whenwomenlead What has contributed to your success and how do you maintain it? As long as I am the only one I am not successful, until I see a lot of women excelling only then would I say I have achieved something¬¬ Daphne Mashile -Nkosi Few take-away(s) Recognize your strength, focus on what you are trying to do, it will take time a lot of effort. Ignore the noise. It’s your dream, dream on and what you put in must show in what you get out. Life is about choices, choose your battles if you want to win the law. Not everything is going to fit everyone. Be visible make up your mind and follow through Work hard – Flexi time doesn’t mean less time. Have a clear plan. ladies All in all very insightful session, a lot to take in and process I could go on and on but for now, I need to go back to my coffee its getting cold…

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