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Women in leadership Session 2: Changing Roles
Posted Fri, 11 Nov 2005

Tuesday, 1st November

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP Session 2 Topic: Changing Roles

Moderator: Ms Evelyn Mungai: African Business Women's Association

Speakers: Dr Renate Volpe: HIRS Women Leaders Under Construction
Ms Nozipho Sithole: National Ports Authority

Dr Renate Volpe

Managing People

"The silence of inferiority is usually in place before adulthood. It is programmed at a time when a child does not have the perspective to understand". Some of these voices are within us.

There are two precedents:

  1. Relationships are important but difficult.
  2. We must accept that we live in a changing world but it is easier to lead the change rather than have it imposed on us. Look at the life factors that have formed you and influenced you and have courage to face these life factors. Don't look in terms of masculine and feminine but in terms of power and competence.

Power does not depend on physical ability but on balance between male and female characteristics within each person and society. Women are compassionate, responsive and passionate. We have male and female competencies.

� Male: Initiating, starting, completing. � Female: Developing and creating.

We need to find both masculinity and femininity in ourselves. The one without the other is incomplete.

We sell ourselves to survive in a corporate atmosphere. Women are forced to become political and chauvinistic. Interplay of caring, initiating, responsiveness and focus - traits necessary to become future female leaders. Be careful no to recreate the paradigms of the past.

Women have made progress. Our society is in transition�Census 2005
Roles have changed. Men are taking up domestic responsibilities in relationships with career women. However, we have still not arrived. Duplicity, double standards and policy issues are still very much alive.

BWA Statistics on women:
World population = 52% women
Working Population = 41%
Directors = 10%
CEO's =6%

The reality is that we have not made significant progress.

Review of external influencers

Is it per chance that the voice of God is a man? Recommended reading - "Stitched up" - Stephanie Vermeulen

Is self sacrifice natural to women? - Self sacrifice comes about with poor self esteem where we suppress our needs in favour of other people. We comply with social stereotypes and defeat our own needs (become passive aggressive). We become open to being manipulated by people looking at us with a disapproving to; we take on guilt. Challenge the precepts that men are from Mars and Women from Venus because the inadequacies of men are reinforced.

Is "femininity" a mystique that is intrinsic to women? How do we feel? How many of us feel magnificent? E.g. Buying a magazine extracts three costs: First the purchase price, then you lose self esteem and then you buy the products that make elusive promises. These things create a false sense of security. Ask yourself into what have you been socialized and manipulated. To some extent we are trapped when domestic role reversal is made public society reacts conversely. Take ownership for our own compliance. Are we caught between a desire to fulfill our own needs but continue to uphold tradition? Are we free? - we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Have women reached liberation? Many of us feel guilt, fear, anxiety, frustrated, irritated, hurt and depressed. Depression is anger left unmanaged. We struggle to remain fertile in high pressured careers. Anger is energy. It tells you what you don't want and you decide what to do with it. Conflicting needs results in confusion between emotion and expression.

Female economy owns 50% of GDP in USA but influences 80% of purchasing. However there is still a mindset of financial dependence and the need to be taken care of. Generally women have a low sense of personal achievement and not wanting to stand out from a crowd. Not much has changed!

We are not immune. We are mothers, wives, business people and trying to look like models. We should respond consciously - review beliefs for applicability. We should not believe in Knights in shining armour. Tradition is difficult to tackle because it is sacred. We should have partnerships, rather than marriage. Women don't want power over others; they want sovereignty over their own affairs. Marriage must be seen as independent and interdependent. Do not forfeit health and happiness.

Man is not the enemy but the fellow victim.

Ms Nozipho Sithole

Where do we originate from a business perspective?
What are the challenges we face?
The roles we need to play are:

  • stimulating economic growth
  • from control to co-ordination
  • soft skills, the only skills that matter.

Women are new players in various industries. We are not familiar with the operations of some of these industries. We are entering a new world that is globalizing. We have access to international resources and information that is not locally based. We need to adapt to learn new skills to be competitive and responsive to the new economy. We are intruders and we need to make sure we have the skill to succeed, for the economy and the country as a whole.

We need to network more broadly than the closed networks we have if we are to learn the new environment we are now entering. Life long learning and collaboration are some of the skills we already possess. Soft skills are the only skills that matter. Women need to stop lamenting, being responsive, creative, teachers, nurturers and developers because the knowledge economy requires these skills.

Economic growth initiatives - beneficiation, infrastructure development, and cost effective and efficient services. South Africa needs to start adding value to its high mineral wealth and exports.

Responses from industry - loss of jobs, industry is requiring a different skills set (a knowledge worker).

Under the circumstances women need to move from survival and control to co-ordination. Women are taking on the household responsibilities for minimal gain and still responsible for the domestic function.

Women are major players in the informal sector, due to migrant husbands. They have had to survive and have thus displayed entrepreneurial talents. We should use our entrepreneurial skills to increase scale and help grow our economies and create sustainable income. There need to be policies from Government and the sector needs to be formalized to promote the growth of the economy.

The majority of economically active women are engaged in this economy. Women participation ranges from 18 - 62%, which accounts for 93% of all new jobs in Africa. The informal economy accounts for 80% of the non agricultural employment in South Africa.

Strategic networks enable access to new markets, knowledge and co-ordination. It is important to use emerging skills to boost the informal sector. The informal sector is an important source of sustainable income and employment generation. However, it needs regulation; it needs to be organized. We need to understand the underlying issues in the economy and create structures to unblock to environmental conditions.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is going to propel the African economy from an industrial market to a knowledge market. We need to have the skills and competencies to create knowledge workers who are able to compete in the global market. Soft skills are the only skills that matter in a knowledge economy.


Women are comfortable with their closed networks, but it is now time to move on and learn new things - we need to propel our organizations forward. Women have shown the most resilience to change, which should be used as a base to stimulate growth. Women are focused and efficient which is important in terms of empowerment and growth in the economy. Women are operating in a very competitive arena. The sky is the limit.