by Valerie Naidoo
As we enter the 21st century, the dynamics of the workplace are changing. Leading women from the ballroom to the boardroom and empowering them professionally, personally, financially and socially brings about a paradigm shift by, hopefully, breaking down the glass ceiling.
Encouraging women to strengthen, explore, express and embrace their self-image and presence in the workplace, gears up towards breaking the gender biases by offering women a greater platform to excel in personal, professional and social domains. Women are models for raising their kids (some do so singlehandedly), they face their fears, live alone in foreign countries, run their homes, are there for their families and friends, are bona fide domestic goddesses, they host great parties; are the givers of life and strength; these women should be celebrated both on the personal and professional platform.
These are woman who are on-the-edge-of-their-seats ready to make things happen and initiate a culture of difference. Women are co-creators of their futures while positively impacting others within their circle, so why do these same women doubt themselves in the workplace, and shrink in the face of success?
Some women become doormats in the workplace; they overlook their talents and tend to dish out praise easily! I support women who use their femininity to create collaboration in the workplace but I don’t endorse the belief of giving in to the status quo out of fear of upsetting the apple cart. From a human resource perspective, no organisation desires a troublemaker with hormones all over the place but by choosing your battles wisely, finding your voice appropriately and handling situations with finesse; results can be delivered while earning the respect of your superiors.
I have interviewed hundreds of female candidates and have always been amazed at how different women interview when compared to men. Women tend to shy away from salary negotiations, whereas their male counterparts would not think twice about negotiation – if they thought that the proposed remuneration was not reflecting their value. Women tend not to negotiate their salaries because they feel that they should be grateful for being offered a job or maybe they feel that negotiation would cut their chances of getting the job or they might be branded as bossy and less feminine. The shrinking workforce does not do much to deter women from this way of thinking and behaving.
Women face many hurdles in receiving credit for their ideas within and outside the workplace. For example, in the early 1900s when Sybilla Masters went to England to obtain a patent for her work, she was made aware that the law stipulated a woman couldn’t own property, which included intellectual property like a patent. Such property was considered to be owned by either the woman’s father or husband, in this case the name on the document was that of her husband.
Women are playing a significant role in today’s economy with regard to salaries, increasing the household income and spending capacity yet they make up a growing portion of the long-term unemployed and low-income bracket. Low salary, especially in countries such as the Middle East, is one of the many factors that keep women at home and out of the workplace. At the 2013 London conference, Lord Green, UK minister for Trade and Investment, urged international and regional employers to hire women and provide them with better prospects. “A huge, untapped reservoir of talent and energy lies in women, and we can’t afford to ignore it any longer,” he told participants.
Gender equality was also included as one of the main goals in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), unfortunately there still remains a huge gap in gender parity, women empowerment and opportunities for females. Women are no strangers to navigating competitive work environments and are scaling the peaks of professional stature but achieving complete status of gender equality, economic opportunities and women empowerment would require woman and men to operate from a platform of superior structure, confidence and boldness. Harnessing the strength and support from both genders will grow, develop and sustain our global economies, create an expanded global mind-set and provide more opportunities for men and women to break gender stereotypes and traditional moulds in all domains.
Valerie Naidoo is a Managing Director of WallStreet Coaching Foundation & the Founder of WomenaireSociety – non-profit networking platform for women. Valerie has lived in the UAE, South Africa, India and the UK where she has practised in the field of Human resources, social integration, personal development, leadership & business coaching and worked globally with non – profit organizations to empower women at grass root level. Valerie is a writer and author. She has written two books including “From the Ballroom to the Boardroom” (which includes contributions by Astute Radio Founder, Sepi Roshan).
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