Even as we celebrate Women’s Day (9 August 2013), women still face a number of challenges and disparities in the workplace.
“Though the workforce and perceptions have changed dramatically over the years and many employers prefer female superiors, there are still a few disparities that remain,” says Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of Manpower Group South Africa.
“We still find certain corporate cultures and structures pose barriers to the advancement of women in the form of outdated policies regarding part time work, flexi-work and job sharing,” she says.
“The idea is still common that a woman’s personal life and family, in terms of having children, will affect her work performance. The reverse is also true, where it is perceived that the demands of work will affect a woman’s family life.
“It is true that it’s often harder for women and especially single mothers to have these two ‘jobs’ but there’s no reason for it to detract from her performance in either,” Van den Barselaar adds.
“It may mean harder work and higher demands, but any driven individual regardless of gender will rise to these occasions and aspire to the success of all aspects of their life. In fact, this duality in their lives can be an advantage that makes women more suitable for certain leadership roles.”
Van den Barselaar explains that in order for women to be able to balance their work and family lives, it is important for them to have the right support structure in place.
“This may mean relatives, friends, or spouses helping with the kids, or employing people to assist. This can give the woman peace of mind, as well as lift the worry of having too much to do in too little time.”
Van den Barselaar adds that only a decentralised organisation, characterised by a culture that supports women’s leadership positions, along with women’s own efforts to grow, develop, and empower themselves through academic and career development.
“Another common perception we come across in the workplace is the assumption that women are not able to handle stress as well as their male counterparts or that women are not educated enough in order to climb the corporate ladder.
“Furthermore, when women temporarily leave the workforce to have children they are often not provided with the same opportunity when they return, as it is now assumed that their family will take top priority.”
Today we are seeing a lot more woman reaching top leadership positions but this also, to a large extent, depends on the particular industry, she explains.
“In the recruitment industry for example, many top positions are held by women, as the industry itself tends to be more female dominated. In addition women are taking it upon themselves to further educate and up-skill themselves in order to be able to fill those leadership roles.
“Women are able to put in place support systems to allow them to be able to meet their work commitments as well as ensure that the family is taken care of.”
In conclusion, she says that as long as women have the right support and are given equal opportunities, then their family life should have no negative implications on their careers.