by Usha Maharaj
Following decades of research and spend on women empowerment, women still hold fewer leadership positions and earn less than their male counterparts. In keeping with the reflective theme of International Women’s Day which took place on 8 March 2021 #IWD2021, let us #ChooseToChallenge the key to women’s success.
While companies invest billions of US dollars annually in women empowerment initiatives, only 36% of senior private sector managers and public sector officials are women. And it will take approximately 99,5 years to close the overall global gender pay gap (World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2020). Turmoil and change resulting from the Covid-19 global pandemic served to highlight the unique leadership qualities of women in government and business while simultaneously intensifying gross levels of gender inequality.
Is it not wasteful and unsustainable for organisations to do what has always been done and to continue to accept the unsatisfactory results therefrom?
Research suggests that employers should seek to understand the distinct workplace challenges of women and implement strategies to overcome them. Companies thus invest in forums, committees and surveys from which they create universal solutions. These solutions cannot take into account the uniqueness of each individual and often deliver weak results. Unless companies are showing good improvements in gender equality stats, they should #choosetochallenge how better to utilise these funds.
Various research reports assess problems faced by women: women lack confidence, are afraid to voice their opinions, shy away from the spotlight, are afraid of taking risks, and struggle to balance their work and family responsibilities. Well intended companies believe this to be true of their female workforce and rather than investing in the success of women, invest in solving the problems of women. These companies should #choosetochallenge their beliefs about women.
Reward matters in the success journey of any employee, male or female. It is not surprising then that women are not enjoying the success of their male counterparts when they are rewarded differently. Gender pay gap is a reality. Organisations should #choosetochallenge their remuneration strategies and aim for equitable pay.
As an organisation that is truly vested in women empowerment, take the opportunity this International Women’s Day to #Choosetochallenge how you are leading your company toward gender equality. If you are serious about women’s success, then consider how to hand back control of that success to the women in your organisation. Stop investing in generic programs and recognise that each woman is unique in her own right. Start investing in empowering women to take up the charge for themselves. The key to women’s success is not in controlling women on their journey to success, but in relinquishing control from organisations, committees and forums to the women themselves.
#Choosetochallenge your beliefs and acknowledge that, not only do women want to be successful but that, they can achieve the success they desire. If controlling the success of women in the workplace has not yielded positive results, then it is time to hand back control to the women in your company. The key to women’s success is promoting a mindset of personal development and self-belief, providing fair access to opportunities, encouraging women to aim high in their careers, equipping them with skills and expertise, paying them fairly and providing relevant and personalised mentorship and coaching along their journey.
This article was first published in ASA, The Accountancy SA Magazine.