Men continue to dominate upper management positions and it needs to change

Women’s Day and Women’s Month were recognised in August. We stop short of using the word “celebrated” as gender based violence, gender inequality and femicide continue to dominate headlines.

And in the boardrooms of companies, things aren’t much better.

Last year, PWC published a report titled “Women in the boardroom” and that report is rather concerning.

“Our report analyses gender representation in listed companies across all sectors. It is notable that 96.6% of all CEOs on the JSE are male, 87.2% of CFOs are male, and 91% of executive directors are male. Women continue to remain under-represented in leadership positions,” wrote PWC.

With less than a year having passed since that report, the need for change is still very much apparent and one person trying to address that change is director of Executive Education at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, Kumeshnee West.

Kumeshnee West, Director, Executive Education at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.

Together with Sue von Hirschfeld, leadership development expert and co-convenor of the Developing Women Leaders programme at the UCT Graduate School of Business, the school created the UCT GSB Developing Women in Leadership course.

Now, we are aware that the problem in this equation is centuries of gender bias that must largely be addressed by men. This course is not meant to tackle that problem but rather empower women to have those conversations about gender inequality in the work place.

“What’s happening right now in organisations is second-generation gender bias. It isn’t necessarily overt sexism, but more subtle forms of discrimination,” explains von Hirschfeld.

“Many women are aware that they face discrimination, but not that it’s targeted and systemic. It can be quite revelatory when they realise it’s happening to a lot of people and not just them,” von Hirschfeld adds.

So what will the Developing Women in Leadership course entail?

Firstly, the course is aimed at women on the management trajectory which seems broad but then again, who doesn’t want to ultimately be a part of high-earning management?

The course will cover topics such as personal mastery, leadership presence, building relationships for impact, navigating office politics as well as understanding and managing the imposter phenomenon.

But more than that, this course aims to help women build a strong, supportive network and that’s rather important. We say this because, as outlined above, imposter syndrome can kneecap a person’s confidence and having other women that support you can help address that problem, and many others that may pop-up during a person’s career.

The Developing Women in Leadership course will take place online so as to make it more accessible according to West.

“Traditional leadership courses require face-to-face interaction, which is still very relevant,” explains West. “However for a woman facing competing demands, such as having to juggle caring for children or elderly parents, being away for a week for a residential course can be incredibly taxing.”

“By shifting the content of this course to an online platform, it becomes a lot more accessible and requires fewer sacrifices of the women taking it. This might be a small step in levelling the playing fields when it comes to women in leadership, but it is an important one nonetheless,” adds West.

Applications for the Developing Women in Leadership course for 2021 are now open but pricing and date of commencement are not currently available.

“It’s about being audacious and walking through that door and ensuring it stays open,” says course co-convenor Makghati Mokwena.

“The course reminds women that no space belongs to any one gender. We want women to come out of it feeling like they can step into any world, even when it’s male-dominated,” Mokwena concludes.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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