“The seeds of success in every nation on Earth are best planted in women and children.” – Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda
The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) may be viewed as a catalyst for many indignant situations. One of these is the position of females within the workplace. In South Africa, be it due to socio-economic reasons or financial reasons, young girls remain underrepresented. Statistics reveal that regardless of the level of education whether primary, secondary or tertiary, males still dominate in the workplace. Education has long been seen as a catalyst for social mobility. We understand the power of education and so we study. The question to be asked though: “is studying truly enough?”
I understood the importance of education from a young age thanks to my parents who instilled in me that primary and secondary education was non-negotiable. Moreover, I wanted to pursue my tertiary studies because I firmly believed that I was just as good as any other person who would be attending a tertiary institution; a fact borne out by my grades. But the shocking reality which no one had ever explicitly addressed, or brought to my attention prior to tertiary studies was the reality of what one is born with – the twin realities of gender and skin colour. The reality is that, depending on where you fall on the spectrum, these two factors can be advantageous or majorly prejudicial. Pursuing a tertiary education with limited resources is challenging and requires many sacrifices. I am a testimony to this. But a certain confidence remains and subsists, it drives you to persevere and graduate believing that there will be a significant shift in my financial and social circumstances. The dream we are sold is that we will earn a substantial salary, according to all the financial reports I read whilst studying and dreaming about my future. Boldly and rightfully so, females decorate the stages of our grandiose graduation ceremonies’ not knowing that victory is a far cry away. It is unfortunate that in post education, males unfortunately dominate too. The reasons for this may be multilayered. What is of a far greater concern is that this unsettling pattern continues to exist and very little is being done to change this.
The young female employee
As women, we enter the workplace underrepresented and we are then treated in the workplace as secondary. I have been in this position myself (and not only as a junior but, in my senior years too). We are told we are equal and that we have equal rights. The fights for those rights have been won and are considered part of past history. However, we no longer want rights that are only academic, but the benefits of those rights. We want to be recognized as equals, we want to take up positions equally and we want equal remuneration. I am a coloured female and a first-generation graduate – I know the challenges can be hard and the contest is continuous but keep voicing your opinion. Keep calling out prejudices. Keep making ground-breaking inventions and keep reinventing until the invention accommodates all. It is in these small strides that change truly occurs.
“Is studying truly enough? “I earlier asked. Having spent the last decade acquiring professional experience as a female and a female of colour, my answer is unfortunately, no. No, studying is not enough, not yet. But it will be, every time you challenge the norm of male and caucasian, you put your shoulder to the wheel and nudge the entire society towards a more equal state.
The future of the female employee
Dear young female student, my desire and hope is that you understand this, imprint it and know that when you enter the battlefield called the workplace this is what you are fighting along every other work battle that may exist. There is absolutely no replacement for knowledge, experience and hard work. These factors are the foundational aspects, and for a male – this will certainly translate into success. The female child needs to be reared to understand that you are no longer fighting to express your capabilities, this has been proven and the results are known. We are fighting a systematic oppressive system enacted to continue infinitely. Our bare existence in workplaces is no longer enough. It is your duty to break down barriers pre-existing barriers which may not necessarily benefit you, but will pave the way for the next generation of women, who will in turn have their work cut out for them too. It should not be that the next generation of young females entering the workplace should have to fight battles, which could have been conquered by our predecessors. Each female needs to comprehend that by virtue of being a female, a fight awaits. The female of colour needs to understand that not only were you born female but you have been given an additional 20 kilograms on your journey, not because you chose it, but the battlefield needs you. We need fighters and victorious conquerors so that those who follow have references and giants to admire.
To all our fellow males, we are not asking that you apologise for being male. We are asking that you help break a system which you unknowingly (or knowingly) continue to benefit from tothe exclusion of others.
I am human but, I am female;
I am female but, I am pigmented;
I am pigmented but, I am pigmented, incorrectly –