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The women debate

01 Oct 2013

Sanelle HobbsMore than 50 percent of the South African population are female... and consumers. But does that change the way you do business?

“Seven years ago, we know Deloitte was losing opportunities because we treated buyers with a one-size-fits-all approach. Today our male and female partners alike tell us that our women-as-buyers tool kit has helped them work better with female decision-makers. That’s good for our clients and for us.” (From The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work, Harvard Business Review Press, 2010.)

August was Women’s Month. Inspirational women in every sector were in the spotlight, including the five women featured on the cover of SAICA magazine. We read how they had helped transform the industry.

What is the debate about? Have we not moved on from women’s lib and gender issues? The answer is no. Globally, only 21 percent of senior management positions are filled by women. In South Africa the average is somewhat higher at 28 percent. So, can we accept the status quo? No again.

In its 2011 report, the South African Board of People Practices stated, “Organisations need to assist the advancement of women and the development of their work identities by providing education and management skills to women and shifting from a predominantly male-managed organisation to one in which both men and women influence the culture of the organisation. These steps should contribute towards the removal of the glass ceiling that is still evident in many organisations.”

The Women Empowerment and Gender Equity (WEGE) bill is on its way. It will force management to look at female representation in senior roles, as it calls for 50 percent of the decision-making roles in companies to be filled by women. Is South Africa ready for that? I believe so.

Mr Nelson Mandela said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In her book published earlier this year, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, encouraged women to “lean in”. “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

My hope is that we’ll encourage women in the workplace to perform to the best of their abilities, and without fear – for the betterment of the South African economy and humankind.


Sanelle Hobbs, a chartered accountant, is a Director of Exceed Human Resource Consultants. She also works as a Recruiter and Life Coach.  Sanelle can be contacted on 021 808 7222 / sanelle@exceed.co.za

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