Women too deserve to have their cake and eat it

AUGUST 22, 2016

According to a recent McKinsey survey, women account for a miniscule 5% of c-suit level positions in the private sector in Africa. The survey further indicates that globally, only 4% of women are CEOs.

Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions, says, “Gender diversity is not only a social issue, but also a pressing business challenge. In South Africa, the battle to combat gender inequality has been making little impact – something which is rather obvious given the fact that very few women are leading JSE-listed companies.”

Vittee notes that diversity in business cannot be stressed enough. In fact, promoting women into positions for which they qualify makes business sense.

“The promotion of women as business leaders, which includes female entrepreneurs, needs to be at the top of the agenda,” she says.

On the other hand, one has to question why female leaders are in short supply in business. Why are women executives still under-represented in boardrooms? Will the glass ceiling in work environments ever break open? Will the progress of women in a corporate context ever be smooth?

“The corporate landscape is never consistent, and change is inevitable. As a result, there is a dire need for leaders, especially those who wish to consider themselves effective to deal with these day-to-day and future business challenges,” Vittee explains.

The current and future business challenges include:

  • The intensifying competition for talent, which is becoming global.
  • The increasing need for gender diversity in the workplace.
  • More demand for corporate social responsibility, businesses products and services will come under more scrutiny.
  • Accelerating pace of innovation.
  • Rapidly growing organisations.

"The reality remains that gender diversity is the ideal in the above scenarios. Women are better candidates to deal with these challenges than men – this is mainly due to the fact that men and women differ in how they apply themselves and the behaviours the display when given the opportunity to lead,” she says.

Without unnecessary comparison to our male counterparts, it is important to mention that what makes women especially formidable in the workplace, is the challenges that they face in most spheres of their lives.

“Other than being employees within various organisations, we are also wives, daughters, aunts, and most of all – we are mothers (nurturers). We worry about the growth of our own children and loved ones, and in turn, we then take this innate skill of nurturing to the workplace,” Vittee concludes.

In order to bridge the gender diversity gap in the workplace, companies need to start doing the following:

  • Allow flexible working hours for the staff, and career flexibility to support their work-life balance.
  • Be proactive and promote your female employees before they put themselves up for a promotion.
  • Establish a policy which ensures that both men and women are compensated equally for performing the same work.
  • Acknowledge your company's successful women - whether they hold management positions or are rank-and-file employees.

Kay Vittee’s tips to women:

  • Women must not be afraid to take on male-dominated careers and roles.
  • Be tenacious and accept roles which are bigger than you are – worry about being “ready enough” later.
  • Take the pressure off yourself, but never – and I mean never – stop learning. Remain true to who you are, be politically savvy, do good for others, be the nurturing self which God designed you to be.
  • Don’t feed the stereotype of what a woman’s role should look like. Ladies, remember to breathe and have fun.
  • Put your family first, adopt an attitude of fearing failure and above all – never forget where you came from, and the lessons you learned, as this will be your springboard into a life of infinite possibilities.