2009 will be the year for women in business

Date: January 1, 1970
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This article is an overview of what the business world might have in store for women in 2009. The article covers the general business climate, as well as what the elections and a new presidency may bring for women in business. It also covers fashion, giving women do’s and don’ts for business attire and etiquette.

This article may be used to:
  • provide an example of a media report that puts women on its agenda;
  • discuss how subtle stereotyping of women can affect the impact of an article;
  • illustrate how the media can promote role models for women in business; and
  • encourage discussion around how external factors can impact entrepreneurship among women.
 Trainer’s notes
The article focuses on women in business. Very few media reports ever do, and when they feature women articles tend to profile traditionally ‘female’ business endeavours like dress making, handicrafts, and the beauty industry. This article, however, celebrates businesswomen across the board.
The article is fairly well balanced; though its main focus is business it looks at other aspects that affect women, such as elections, women’s health, law, service delivery and grooming. Although these various issues are discussed, in some places the article misses the opportunity to explore how they impact on women in business. The author could have explained the ways that some of these external factors, such as income levels or sexual violence, affect women’s ability to access entrepreneurial opportunities. Without this context, the author’s discussion of poverty and services for rape survivors seem somewhat out of place.
Sourcing comes from various people who are experts in their respective fields, and who happen to be women. These sources provide role models for other women, who often do not see themselves on the business pages. The images are also encouraging, one showing the face of a prominent businesswoman, the other picturing a young, successful, happy woman sitting at an executive-style desk. Unfortunately, the caption underneath the image, “Armed and ready: Clothes will play a big part in women’s business this year”, severely detracts from the overall tone. Alone, the image speaks of success and accomplishment, with the caption the focus shifts to the suit the woman is wearing, indicating that her success stems from her outfit.
The one major setback of this article is the section on grooming and etiquette. While first impressions are important in the business world (indeed, in any sector of society), the amount of space given to grooming seems out of line with the rest of the article. This section, which takes up nearly a third of the content, would be more suited to a women’s fashion magazine than the business section of a newspaper. It detracts from the seriousness of the article, and conveys subtle stereotypes about women’s priorities, i.e. women care more about their looks than their business ventures, women need to keep themselves ‘well-groomed’ to succeed, etc.
Discussion Questions
  • This article puts a great deal of focus on grooming and attire. How important is fashion, relative to other factors for success in the business world? What else could have been discussed here?
  • Do you feel this article provides positive role models and advice for women in business? Should the author have also sourced men? Why or why not?
  • How do you think factors such as elections, poverty, and violence against women impact women in business? Do you think the author adequately addresses these issues in the article?
 Training exercises
  • Interview some local female entrepreneurs and find out what they feel are priorities for women in business this year. Use these interviews to write a similar article or commentary.
  • Compare this article with other articles commonly found in the business section of your national newspaper. How is this article different? Do the other articles speak to women as well as men? Do you think its necessary to have articles that focus specifically on women in business? How else can gender be incorporated into the business section?
  • Find some other short articles about business trends. Ask participants to work in groups and add a paragraph about men’s business fashion do’s and don’ts. Have one or two groups read their articles aloud. Does the fashion paragraph fit? Is it appropriate or does it sound silly? What does it do to the article?  
Links to other training resources
Picture our lives: Gender and images https://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=97
Business Unusual: Gender and the economy https://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=310
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Download : 2009 will be the year for women in business ,Sowetan 5 January 2009 ,p10

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