“At ACSA, a woman’s place is anywhere they want to be,ÀM&GMay09

Date: September 17, 2009
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This article may be used to:
– discuss the imagery used to depicted women in the media;
– spark discussion on how images influence actions and belief;
– promote debate around gender-parity quotas in the private sector.

Trainers’ notes:
This advert shows a female worker in the construction industry and can be seen to promote female role models who break gender stereotypes in the workplace. The woman presented in the photo is well-dressed and holds herself with an air of authority against a backdrop usually associated with masculinity, as if to infer that she is more than an average labourer, she is someone who has broken the “glass ceiling” or a level in most professions above which women are not promoted.

The ad is gender aware and supports – in both images and text – women’s inclusion in historically male-dominated industries such as aviation and construction. Furthermore, it supports this inclusion in a meaningful way, specifically highlighting, what the company sees, is women’s ability to lead not just work within these sectors. Lastly, in basing an ad-campaign around the need to redress gender stereotypes and promote gender quality, the advert promotes a gender agenda in within the private sector; this ad campaign posits the idea that gender equality should be a part of good business and that promoting it demonstrates the kind of corporate social responsibility a business should want itself associated with.

Soon after the fall of Apartheid, South Africa instituted a policy of affirmative action quotas within its labour laws to ensure qualified people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds as well as women entered into meaningful ranks within the private sector. Quotas like these have helped ensure an increasing number of women in high-level positions. For instance, the 2009 “Women in Leadership Census” by South Africa’s Business Women’s Association (BWA) found that the percentage of women in directorships about doubled from 2004 to 2009. However, women remain under-represented. According to 2009 figures from South Africa’s government statistics body, Statistics South Africa, women make up 52 percent of the country’s population yet women account for less than four percent of all chief executive officers or managing directors in the country, according to the BWA census.

BWA Women in leadership Census 2009

Discussion questions

– Are women under-represented in leadership roles in business? If so, what are the consequences?
– What are some of the barriers that female employees face in their careers that their male counterparts do not?
– Are quota systems effective? Necessary? What are their pros and cons?
– Is business the only arena where we see a shortage of women leaders? If so, where else and what, if anything is being done to address the shortage?

Training exercises:
– Ask a principal if you can conduct a focus group with graduating secondary school students – one with boys and one with girls. As each group about their study habits, do their households support their studies? If so, in what way? Also what are their plans after graduation? Note and analyse each groups answers, did they differ based on gender? (Note: For ethical reasons, you should ensure that a teacher or school administrator is present during each group and that, if you present your findings, you protect the identity of the children. It may also be advisable to ask to talk to only those children that are 18 years and older, or considered adults, that do not need parental consent forms to be signed).
– Interview a woman business leader – what inspired her and what struggles did she have to overcome? Write the interview as a profile and contact editors to see if you can place it in a local publication.
– Interview a man working in a historically female profession i.e. nursing, teaching, care giving. What inspired him to break gender stereotypes and what does he think he – as a man – adds to a profession? How did his community react? Were they supportive? What were his challenges? Write the interview as a profile and contact editors to see if you can place it in a local publication without a business-focus.

Links to training resources:

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