“Imperial unit invests R100m in EuropCar,À Business ReportJune09


Date: November 18, 2009
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This article may be used to:
– introduce the topic of gender inequalities in the workplace;
– debate the need for gender parity in the workplace;
– discuss portrayals of women in the media;
– highlight how gender agendas can exist within articles without having to dominate them.

Trainers’ notes:
This article covers the merger of two car companies and speaks to the female CEO of the company about what a new investment into the company will mean. While an overt gender agenda is absent from the article, it provides readers with an example of a strong woman leader largely absent from both the business world and media coverage of it.

The article’s main source is female – unsurprisingly the CEO of the new company, who happens to be a woman. The article’s strongest point is that although the CEO is a woman, it does not treat her gender as exceptional.

Although women represent 52 percent of South Africa’s population, they account for less than four percent of all chief executive officers or managing directors in the country, according to the 2009 Business Women’s Association census. Because of these underlying dynamics and gendered stereotypes that portray business executives as overwhelmingly male, businesswomen are often talked in terms that pander to stereotypes. For example, a woman will be framed as “the wife of…” or “mother of…” Alternatively, they may be described ass a “female CEO” or a “woman managing director” – although at first glance these may be factually correct descriptions – they suggest that a woman in such positions is a novelty.

In a world where most readers will never get to the last paragraph images are not only a way to grab readers but they also help journalists tell a story. The editorial team here decided to run with the picture of the woman CEO, visually promoting an image of a strong woman leader. Moreover, because the picture is large and appears “above the fold” or above where the newspaper folds over, it is the dominant element on the page in terms of design, placing a double emphasis on this image of a woman leader.

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.

Discussion questions
– How are women represented in the media? Are there some sections in which women appear more often? If so, what are they and what does that say about the media’s coverage of women?
– 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? Look at media professionals in your country; do you find that women are under-represented in any area whether that be reporters, sub-editors, news editors or media owners? How does who makes the news affect who appears in it?

Training exercises:
– Chose one local newspaper and follow its coverage over a period of months, charting where women usually appear most in the paper and how they are portrayed? What do you find? Write up your findings and schedule a meeting with the managing editor to feedback your findings to the newspaper.
– Is there a glass ceiling? Talk to one high-ranking businesswoman and one female journalist. What barriers did they face in terms of career advancement? Want to write an article about it? Make sure to take your research further and look for statistics to give your readers’ an idea of the scope of glass ceilings.
– 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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