It was Circa 1997 when the Fourth Conference on Women delivered the Beijing Declaration http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm , where there was a mass exodus that resulted in a paradigm shift regarding how women viewed themselves at home, at work and in business. This was a step in the right direction for the protection and empowerment of women and them forming part of the cornerstone of our global society.
Four years later in 2001, the Commission Report under the government of the African National Congress (during the transition from apartheid) resolved in favour of a direct intervention that would redress the redistribution of assets and opportunities created by the disparities of Apartheid policies.
BEE was defined in the 2001 Commission Report as follows:
“It is an integrated and coherent socio-economic process. It is located within the context of the country’s national transformation programme, namely the RDP. It is aimed at redressing the imbalances of the past by seeking to substantially and equitably transfer and confer the ownership, management and control of South Africa’s financial and economic resources to the majority of its citizens. It seeks to ensure broader and meaningful participation in the economy by black people to achieve sustainable development and prosperity.”
— BEE Commission Report, pg. 2
That would be the beginning of an ingenuous journey that also sought to define how women would find expression in this said economic transformation. In 2017, the advancement of women in our economy still remains inverted if the statistics are anything to go by. The Grant Thornton report on “Women in Business” underlines a decrease of women in senior management positions. It was reputed that leadership roles by women dropped from 27% in 2015 to 23% in 2016.
Some of the challenges that women face even against the scenery of legislative pivots like the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice, still seem to be rooted in the circumstances that brought about the Beijing Declaration two decades ago. Below are four inherent obstacles that face women participants in economic development:
- The burden of social expectations
Women by their very nature are nurturers and home-makers. It is because of this role that there’s an underlying expectation to bring the same timidity to the boardroom. Usually outnumbered by male counterparts, some female executives and business owners have adopted a competitive and aggressive edge in order to stay relevant and command the same respect as their male counterparts. The only solution to this is to be yourself, everything else is none of your business.
- Narrow opportunities for access to funding
The South African gender pay gap is estimated, on average, to be between 15%-17%. This implies that a South African woman would need to work two months more than a man to earn the equivalent salary that he would earn in a year. Employers may therefore perceive the long-term value that a woman would add to an organisation as lower than that of a man who does not have care obligations outside the workplace. This stigma affects women in business seeking to access funding for their businesses as well. The likelihood is that there are more male venture capitalists than there are female.
“Another way to overcome this issue is by working to get more female investors involved in supporting one another, said Felena Hanson, founder of Hera Fund, a female angel investor group. According to Hanson, groups like hers are “looking to not only inspire and encourage female investors, but to grow and support other female entrepreneurs through both funding and strategic educational workshops.”
- Limited woman-to-woman mentorship
It is an open secret that women behave differently to the ‘not-so-fairer-sex’ and this is no different in business and leadership. More reason why women would be better equipped and understood when it is another woman who affirms and supports them in the economic landscape. Finding a female mentor can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, therefore it is important to highlight some of the organisations that pioneer this culture in South Africa.
a) The Johannesburg Business Women’s Association’s Succeed Campaign ( www.bwasa.co.za )
b) Women in IT ( womeninit.org.za/ )
c) Technology for Women in Business ( www.twib.co.za/ )
d) Women in Finance ( www.womeninfinance.co.za/ )
e) Business Partners ( www.businesspartners.co.za/ )
- Coping with the fear of failure
With the inherent struggle of juggling the dual roles of family and business or careers, women are more likely to be dissuaded from persisting in advancing their career and entrepreneurial objectives than men are. They are more influenced by negative feedback and hold themselves to high standards, incidentally finding it difficult to bounce back from failure. The way that women are raised makes them more likely to think that being afraid to fail is their innate quality, the social narrative can only be changed by women for women. Persist! Persist! Persist!
There is no doubt that women have shown their capabilities in business and leadership. This International Women’s Day is but a reminder that the advancement of women in society remains an unfinished proposition for our country and the world over.
It is incumbent on all women to hold each other accountable in business and economic advancement. Creating work and learning environments that support and grow a stronger pipeline of future women entrepreneurs and leaders, through education, mentorship and the flexibility women require to both nurture families as well as avail themselves for economic advancement.
NPI Governance Consulting is a 100% black owned and 55% black female owned business. We wish all women an International Women’s Day that is entrenched in “Pioneering Equitable Growth FOR WOMEN in Africa and beyond. Wathint’ abafazi wathint’ imbokodo!
For further information, contact:
Thato Malebane, Marketing & Communications Manager
Tel: (+27) 011 259 4018