Working women – The rocky road to gender equality
Working women – The rocky road to gender equality
Post written by Paragon Interiors   September 17, 2018

Stereotyping has to be the ultimate obstacle to positive change.

Ask any ambitious, competent woman about her career path and it’s likely to be littered with many more deviations than any faced by her male counterparts. Research reveals that most women in senior posts have had to claw their way up the corporate ladder and on arrival, fight for equity in terms of remuneration and benefits.

However, the new breed of female executives is gutsy and won’t stand for it. Why should they? They’ll tell you straight – never confuse anatomy with intellect because cup size and cap size are completely unrelated.

These women are not challenging male leadership per se, they’re challenging male leadership that excludes opportunities for women to compete at the same level. Professional women are striving for legitimacy in the workplace at top management level and wanting to claim their share of the action in rank, decision-making, responsibility, accountability, rewards and recognition. Not because they’re women but because they’re up to the task.

But, old habits and perceptions are not easily overcome. The traditional precept of male dominated leadership appears to be a conditioned response, thanks to centuries of practice. If one checks the statistics of South African women who hold senior positions in South African corporates, you’ll find it currently sits at a grim 29% and 20% of South African businesses have no female executives at all. ¹

This demonstrates that egalitarian ideals are not close to every man’s heart! Many continue to choose resistance over progress – unlike Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and CEO of L’Oréal, who says, “Our company, has had for many years, a strong commitment to gender balance at all levels as well as to pay equity because we know that it is both good for society and good for business”.¹ Their track record has earned them a place in the top 100 of the Bloomberg 2018 Gender Equality Index.

Fighting for inclusion is like peeling away layers of historical prejudice. Women still have to hack their way past outdated hierarchical structures as well as societal and cultural limitations. For example, strong and assertive men are considered good leaders but equally strong women are labelled ‘aggressive’ or ‘bossy’. It’s 2018 and here’s the thing, they’re so over it. In fact, some male colleagues of equal rank may want to keep a bottle of Prozac handy for their own use.

The revised trajectory for professional women is all about adaptation and shifting obsolete paradigms.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, says that women face harder career choices because their absence has a greater impact on family dynamics. Apparently, full-time working women still do twice as much housework and three times more child caring than their partners.

First, Sandberg tells female executives to “sit at the table” and unashamedly claim their presence, place and voice. To exude confidence and stop underestimating the value of their experience, abilities and contribution. Contrary to men, women have yet to master the directness necessary to negotiating for themselves. Men, apparently, never hold back and attribute their success to their awesomeness. Modesty not withstanding! Women, on the other hand, ascribe their success to external factors – like hard work, having received help or just plain luck.

Second, “make your partner a real partner”. Sandberg says that equal earnings and equal responsibilities halve the divorce rate. Mutual respect helps inspire men to become more involved in household affairs.

Thirdly, “don’t leave before you leave”. Keep working to capacity even if you’re taking a leave of absence for a while – like maternity leave. Continue to pursue new opportunities and stay in the game right up until you leave. Who knows what post may be available when you return?

In conclusion, we acknowledge that not all women want demanding, highly paid careers and there’s no judgement directed at them. These women derive a sense of achievement and success based on entirely different criteria. We applaud all hard working women, regardless of their choices.

¹ Mediaroom.loreal.com

Other sources: Economictimes.indiatimes.com / Huffington post