The rise of the career woman: reviewing workplace gender disparity


In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.  Eleanor Roosevelt

“These words contain an eternal truth and in the context of Women’s Month they inspire creating a proactive environment which addresses the stark reality of the glass ceiling for women in the South African workplace,” says Dr Linda Meyer, Dean: Institutional Advancement at Boston City Campus & Business College.

We take a look at proactive strategies to address gender disparity in the workplace.

1. Strategise 

While South Africa's ongoing push for gender transformation in senior positions has not yet seen major changes in business, women can start creating opportunities by proactively planning for success. As author of the Slight Edge, Jeff Olson says, “Luck is when that constancy of preparedness eventually creates opportunity.”

“This means actively focusing on continuous professional development and upgrading of skills so that women adopt an active position in seeking our opportunities,” says Meyer. “Another key initiative is volunteering to serve on groups or committees or high-profile tasks and then bring these achievements into relevant conversations to highlight your competencies,” she says.

2. Take responsibility

The lack of women in top management positions* illustrates the glass ceiling for women in the South African workplace, women can take charge of their career trajectory.
“Decide on the position you want and realistically work out the steps and the necessary skills needed to facilitate your own advancement,” says Meyer.

3. Role models

“By researching the careers of women with successful careers, you can discover the underlying strategies, steps and character traits necessary in achieving corporate success.
Ask yourself “How have these women moved through the glass ceiling?” Find out what skills or character traits you need to emulate and develop to make this possible for yourself. This can be facilitated through further studies such as Boston’s new Postgraduate Diploma in Management for those who have completed undergrad degrees and are looking to move into management positions with confidence and capacity.

4. Assertiveness

Being assertive means standing up for your rights in a calm, constructive way. Rather than adopting a passive attitude of waiting for the “right” moment and opportunity, you can create opportunities to promote your worth and competencies in a constructive manner.

“It’s a question of drawing attention to competencies or task achievements which allows you to promote yourself,” says Meyer. At Boston we recommend building your LinkedIn profile and building your social media presence in a professional way.

5. Know the law

Create a safe and protected environment in the workplace by aligning yourself with other women in senior positions. It is also imperative to know your legal rights so that you are able to voice any concerns which may arise within the relevant legislative parameters.

6. Start at the source

Women are involved in raising both our boy and girls. We play a strategic role in nurturing the mindset of our children.

Become conscious of the gender constructs we are enabling through our parenting. One of the key ways is by ensuring that we divide work and household chores equally between our children, regardless of gender. In this way we avoid entrenching the notion of gender prescribed roles which can often play out later on in the workplace environment.

“Mindset is an underlying key to gender disparity. And while government regulations and corporate culture play a significant role, women can take back their power,” says Meyer.

“Instead of waiting for someone to provide the ‘right’ conditions for empowerment, we can embrace the role of actively facilitating transformation, making the necessary changes on a personal and professional level and in the workplace, creating the relevant opportunities to facilitate breaking through the glass ceiling,” concludes Meyer.
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