In a rapidly changing economy and dynamic technology environment, it is critical for the women of the 21st century to understand the role of change in their lives. This is the opinion of Pamela Samuel, group executive: marketing and communication at Business Connexion.
“It’s time for women in South Africa to step out of their comfort zones – through change comes learning,” says Samuel. She believes that women have a tremendous amount of energy, knowledge and critical skill to offer the business environment, but that this can only be harnessed once women start embracing change. “If it (change) wasn’t a part of our daily lives, how would we learn and grow?” she asks.
Having been involved in a project mentoring thirty (30) previously disadvantaged women, Samuel understands the real issues holding women back. “One of our country’s biggest issues is the fact that we do not place enough emphasis on teaching our youth the life-skills they require to enter the business world,” she says.
This means that they are not equipped to plan their personal goals or interact with other individuals in a manner that benefits both parties. “Furthermore, I often see a lack of self-worth among women,” she adds.
Society’s perception of the role of women is changing, but there is further change required. “I believe firmly that this perception still stifles growth of women,” says Samuel. “While there has been a strong drive from the information and communications technology (ICT) sector to get young girls involved in Mathematics and Science, the perception out there is still very strong that women should focus on social sciences – and thought drives behaviour.”
Samuel believes that young girls should be encouraged to challenge this belief from a very young age – through the toys that they play with and the subjects they choose to study both at school and eventually at a tertiary level. “It is the responsibility of parents to ensure that they encourage their daughters to experiment with different subjects to find those that are best suited to their natures and career goals.”
According to Samuel, women bring a different dynamic to the corporate environment. “Most women have a very different leadership style to their male counterparts,” she says. In a world where there is increasing emphasis on emotionally intelligent leadership, the more compassionate and warmer approach is often seen as a winning formula. “Leaders need to understand the dynamics of the individual in order to lead them effectively,” she adds.
Samuel believes that there is a lot of room for more women in the ICT sector. “Attitude, passion, dedication and an open mind to learning is what it takes to succeed in this world,” she says. She encourages young women to dispel their fears of technology through experimenting and exploring.
“A lot of what is holding us back as women stems from fear – of technology and failure. We need to step out of our comfort zones and realise that while failure is not a pleasant experience, it is part of learning and ultimately leads to success,” she concludes.