Stop Dancing around the Periphery

It’s Women’s day in South Africa on the 9th August.

For those who don’t know the history, this is the day in 1956 that approximately 20 000 women marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to throw their weight behind the abolishing of the pass laws attached to the apartheid era. They claimed their power as citizens of this country and made their stance.  It is during this demonstration that the phrase “You Strike a woman you Strike a Rock” became a part of the history of our country.

Today we as women of this now liberated and democratic country still need to demonstrate our strength by standing up for equality.  Worldwide and in many democracies, we as women still only have equal rights on paper.  This reality has not yet carried through to our every day lives and life as a woman in South Africa is a far cry from where it should be according to our constitution.

Did you Know?

South Africa has various pieces of legislation aimed at preventing gender discrimination in the workplace. Yet, the country has an unchangint median gender pay gap of between 23% and 35%!

What this means is that for an equal job, a woman is paid 23 to 35 % less than her male colleague.  But this is only one part of the story.

Women often hold down more of the nurturing and caring type jobs where there is no historical “male benchmark” for the paygrade and somehow these jobs are considered lesser than those that men traditionally perform and therefore also remain lowly paid.

For example:

Domestic workers and child minders – nearly fully staffed by women

91% of nurses worldwide are women

Approximately 85% of social workers are women

Teachers tend to be mostly women and in addition, only about 7% of CEO positions in the top 500 companies are held by women.

Is it not time for us to stand up and claim our space? We need to shift our conversations and actions to creating environments that make it easier for us to earn equal salaries and to claim the top positions by creating environments that allow for women to thrive in the workplace.

One of the most under used solutions available to us is the concept of job sharing.  It is a win-win when implemented correctly but in South Africa it is a virtually untouched concept. Job sharing enables 2 people to share 1 job, allowing for crucial time to be spent at home with their young children without 1 person having to exit the market to be a designated stay at home parent. This one simple approach cuts in half the re-entry time into the job market for a female employee should she be the one who chose to stay at home.

Further simple examples are ensuring that we make ourselves heard through creating and offering the solutions to our companies that take into account our need for child friendly work spaces, safe transport to and from work when working overtime, home support friendly initiatives such as provision of canteens and the easiest of all is the ability to work from home where possible. 

With nearly 45% of the entire SA Workforce being female, and women spending nearly 90% of their salaries on their families as opposed to men who spend approximately 40%, it is also a no brainer that when women do indeed get equal opportunity and remuneration South Africa will be a big step closer to a solution in closing our overall income gap between the poor and the wealthy, which is the largest in the world!

This women’s day we urge you to consider the importance of the day, to recognize the power you have and to use it fully to contribute to the upliftment and true emancipation of all women. 

We simply do not see how it is possible in a country that needs to rebuild to the extent that we do, to NOT have these conversations. We urge you therefore, no matter what position you hold in business or in society to take up this cause with us. Is it not time to step fully into your life and stop dancing around the periphery? And in doing so, you will no doubt be part of #Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future.

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