Q&A: Helping Women to Take the Lead
Buti Maseko, head of human resources at DHL Express South Africa, speaks to Margaret Harris
- Why are there still so few women in leadership positions?
There are obviously historic issues in terms of gender inequality, because women were discouraged from completing their education and occupying certain positions. This has undoubtedly evolved over time, but the inequalities still exist.
We know that women occupy only 28% of senior level positions in South Africa and this is something that needs to be addressed in business and government frameworks.
There are government frameworks in place, such as the Employment Equity Act as well as the broad-based BEE initiatives, aimed at promoting the employment of women in leadership positions. But we are still experiencing slow progress in this regard.
There are numerous reasons for the lack of female leadership, but we need to consider that more and more women are choosing to stay at home with their families, working part time, acting as a full-time mother or opening small businesses from home.
As we continue to move towards real gender equality, this also means that the choice of occupation – whether juggling work and family, full-time employment or stay-at-home motherhood – is up to women.
- What can companies do?
Companies need to support and encourage women in leadership. I don’t believe in quotas, but the lack of progress makes quotas seem preferable to what is prescribed in the broad-based BEE code.
Nevertheless, the success of any initiative hinges more on the willingness of the parties than legislative prescriptions.
There are many inspirational female leaders in our business who act as role models for all employees and we need to showcase them more so as to encourage the promotion of women in sectors that are still indecisive about this approach.
- Do companies benefit from having more women in leadership positions?
Absolutely, the benefits are countless. According to a recent study by consultants McKinsey, when business executives were asked what they believed the most important leadership attributes for success were, each of the top four – intellectual stimulation, inspiration, participatory decision-making and setting expectations and rewards – were more commonly found among female leaders.
Women are generally more empathetic, supportive and better at multitasking, which makes them effective leaders and great managers. There is also more harmony and better decision-making in a board with a mix of genders.
- Is it feasible for women to lead organisations while balancing their role as a mother?
It’s feasible but, understandably, difficult. However, organisations should not use that as a reason to prevent women from occupying leadership positions. As technology improves, we are all increasingly connected.
Gone are the days when you leave the office, switch off your cellphone and ignore your e-mail.
This adds a challenge for women in terms of devoting their full attention to their family after hours because, increasingly, they are answering e-mails, writing briefs and conducting business after working hours.
But this is also true of men in modern society – fathers are playing a more active role and business has a part to play in ensuring a good work-life balance.
Author: Margaret Harris
Source: BD Live