Women must #PRESSFORPROGRESS this International Women’s Day

This year, International Women's Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women's rights, equality and justice. Now is the time to accelerate change. #InternationalWomensDay
By Child Magazine

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This year, International Women's Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women's rights, equality and justice. Now is the time to accelerate change.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of revolution! All over the world, groups of people are rallying together and creating modern-day movements towards real change. In the past year, we’ve seen a cultural shift. Individuals (men and women) who refuse to tolerate any form of gender inequality, with campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp dominating news and social media cycles.

Driven by outrage and a resolve to correct a power imbalance that seemed intractable just a few months ago, 300 prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives have formed a sprawling initiative to fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood.

Awareness of these issues has accelerated. Famous, public figures have been being prodded with pitchforks and tied to the proverbial ‘stake’ to answer for their behaviour and crimes against women. The truth is, there’s still much work to be done, and albeit slowly, progress is being made.

But it’s a real necessity. If you look at the latest statistics, we’re still got a long ways to go. Luckily, there are tons of amazing organisations and individuals advocating for gender equality.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace highlighted by these movements is just one example of the discrimination women face in this environment. Khulu Mabaso, director for corporate communications at Procter & Gamble (P&G) says that in South Africa, gender parity in terms of salary and pay, promotion and opportunity is severely lacking.

Statistics South Africa reported a gender pay gap of 23% in 2015, meaning that women generally earn 23% less than men in our country. This fact is underlined when you compare the net worth between South Africa’s highest earning men and women.

According to Forbes’ 2018 annual billionaire’s list, South Africa’s wealthiest man, (according to net worth) is diamond-magnate Nicky Oppenheimer (R91.5 billion), followed by Johann Rupert (R83.2 billion), Koos Bekker (R30 billion) and Patrice Motsepe (R28.5 billion) – forming a combined total wealth of R233.2 billion.

In comparison, South Africa’s wealthiest women (according to net worth) is: entrepreneur and philanthropist Wendy Appelbaum (R2.6 billion), Wendy Ackerman (R1.9 billion), Irene Charnely (R1.5 billion) and Bridgette Radebe (R1 billion) – totaling a mere R7 billion.

A 2017 study by Bain & Company reveals that only 28% of women are in senior leadership roles – even though they make up 51% of the South African population and 53% of tertiary educated South Africans. Worse still, this percentage plummets further to a shocking 3% when it comes to the number of female CEOs at JSE-listed companies.

Mabaso says: “In the face of these obstacles, I think it’s important, then, that we mark this International Women’s Day by starting to accelerate change in South Africa – in our communities, in the workplace, and in our broader society.” She highlights three ways South African women can #PressForProgress:

1. Start with you

Unfortunately, lack of confidence is a trait that is observed in more girls than boys from a young age; this is evident in the results of the many studies Always has conducted into girls’ confidence over the past two or three decades. Therefore, a strong emphasis of P&G’s Always Keeping Girls in School Programme, which has so far reached 60 000 girls in SA, is on instilling confidence. In addition to providing girls with sanitary towels so they don’t miss school, we also focus on empowering them through knowledge. Also, our Always #LikeAGirl campaigns promote improving confidence in girls by ensuring that doing something ‘like a girl’ means doing something well, and not inferior to boys.

2. Include the men

True transformation cannot happen without the cooperation of the opposite gender. This is not just a women’s struggle. To achieve real societal change, men need to be made aware of and understand the whole notion of privilege and bias. Some men are simply oblivious to the extent of the discrimination women can face. For example, in the Bain & Company study on gender disparity, 58% of men – against 38% of women –  believe that gender equity is a visible priority at work.

3. Support other women

Often we regard other women as competition or see them as threats, but in reality we are all fighting the same battle. We should therefore focus more on building an army to be reckoned with, rather than devoting our time to small skirmishes. Supporting other women starts with small actions – even simply refraining from negative comments on social media or gossip in the office – and can extend to actions that leave a lasting impression, like mentoring.

 

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