A recent McKinsey Global report found that $12-trillion could be the tally added to the global GDP by 2025 if the gender equality agenda were advanced. It is one of many research papers that shows how female empowerment plays a fundamental role in supporting economic growth.
Gender inequality is both a critical economic challenge in consistently mercurial times, and a moral and social challenge that must be addressed to ignite change.
“More can be done, especially taking the inequalities that exist in this country into consideration,” says Ruby Moodley, founder of IT Network Recruitment and Consulting Services and a beneficiary of the Innovator Trust. “There is a need to provide more support for women using technology, and assisting women in upskilling in the digital space. The future will depend on women being educated in technology and mobile.”
Technology and connectivity are two of the greatest enablers of the modern age. Technology drives industry and economy, it transforms market and ideology, and it allows access to tools and information. Moodley believes that alongside access to resources that support women in developing their technical skills, there is a need to nurture future generations and future thinking. There has been a global shift towards empowerment and the inclusion of women in the workplace, and this needs to retain its impetus.
“We must recognise the importance of a woman’s role as part of the economy, as the backbone of the nation,” adds Moodley. “Our government reflects the changing role of women in politics and business, and this should reflect in the private sector as well.”
In addition to adding value on an economic level, the way a woman works and thinks has inordinate value. There are significant bodies of research that point towards how a woman’s style of working provides balance and brings profit. So, on the flip side, there is a need to make the working environment more amenable to the feminine, not only driven by the masculine.
“In most organisations, there is a need to facilitate work from home environments and to sensitise the workplace with regards to quality of life and work,” says Moodley. “South African company culture is lagging behind. Many women currently are prepared to work for less money, but more flexibility. This should not be a trade-off. They should be measured by delivery and productivity.”
“There are other challenges that impact on the growth of women in business”, says Tashline Jooste, CEO at the Innovator Trust. Lack of capital for those looking to start their own businesses as well as stringent regulations. Jooste points out that holistically the government has done much to deter discrimination in the workplace, but it is still a hurdle in practice thanks to many male-dominated areas of business. To overcome these issues and to empower women to take the right steps and follow their own career goals, education is key.
“A more open-minded and creative curriculum will engage learners from a young age, encouraging them to think out of the box,” concludes Jooste. “Girls are more likely to enter traditionally male-dominated industries if they are guided towards creative thinking from a young age.”
Jooste advises women to learn from one another, find relevant mentoring programmes, use online learning tools to expand their body of knowledge and to create a support system that gives them greater flexibility.
The growing conscience is to accept women as individuals capable of achieving agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for their families and communities.