Tag: equality

By Gaby Del Valle for Vox 

Fall is, without a doubt, the best time to buy office supplies. Yes, office supplies are sold year-round, but fall’s back-to-school vibe spares no one, even those of us who haven’t been in school for years. Fall is when the planners come out to play.

For me, this is the happiest time of the year. I love buying useless little journals and covering my desk with piles of colorful sticky notes. Fall and its corresponding school-and-office-supply bonanzas are a sign of a fresh start: I love telling myself that these journals and sticky notes will make me more organized and therefore more productive and therefore better at my job and therefore happier. Is it true? Not exactly. Does it matter? Not at all.

There’s just one small problem: so many of the office supplies that are marketed toward women are incredibly condescending.

Allow me to give you a few examples. There’s this day planner, which reminds you that ”every day is a fresh start” in the bouncy, stylized cursive script that The Goods’ Eliza Brooke dubbed “bridesmaid font.” The hundreds of notebooks that have “She believed she could, so she did” written across the cover, often in that same font. This Kate Spade “planner companion set,” which you can use to fill your affirmation-emblazoned notebook with stickers that say “the world was hers for the reading.” (You are the “her” in this situation. The world is yours, baby!)

This pencil pouch, which lets everyone know that you are “very busy.” (We are all very busy, because capitalism stops for no one.) These pencils, which would like to remind you that “you got this.” Or these pencils, which announce to the world that you are not only a “boss lady” but also a “goal digger.” Or any of these boss lady name plaques.

These products are a far cry from the boring legal pads and other cubicle accoutrements of yore. They’re kind of fun and seemingly innocuous — after all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a notebook that dares to be anything other than black or navy blue.

The point of these various fancy desk accessories isn’t just to help you get your work done. It’s to help you get your work done while reminding everyone that you are a woman who works, just in case the labor you do on a daily basis isn’t enough of a reminder.

The issue isn’t that some office supplies are marketed toward women, but that there don’t seem to be any equivalent products for men. Of course, men already have structural power; they don’t need a notebook to remind them that they’re capable of achieving their professional goals.

These products are the logical extension of the genre of professional self-help books that seem to exist solely to tell women that if they stop apologizing in emails and learn to “power pose,” they, too will ascend to the ranks of the She-E-Os.

The point of these books is to blame women for their own professional shortcomings, or at the very least, to rationalize why women are paid less money and taken less seriously than their male co-workers. The accompanying office supplies are meant to give women a way to rectify those perceived shortcomings — for a price, of course.

It’s not enough to be inundated with this advice day in and day out; you have to carry it with you constantly, in your head and on your notebook.

Even if life is easier for working women than it was a few decades ago, the fact remains that most workplaces weren’t designed with women’s needs in mind.

A 2017 report by Lean In and McKinsey, which surveyed more than 70,000 employees at 222 companies, found that corporations hire women at lower rates than men at all levels. Once they are hired, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male colleagues, which contributes to the oft-cited pay gap between men and women. They also receive less face time with managers and other senior-level staff and are given less advice on how to advance. All of these issues are compounded for women of color in general and for black women in particular, the report found.

Across industries, men are generally paid more than women, and women of color are paid less than both white men and white women. A 2017 report by the National Women’s Law Center found that black women who work full time, year-round are paid 63 cents for every dollar white men make. That figure is 57 cents for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, 54 cents for Latinas, and 87 percent for Asian women, though there’s also a wage gap between different groups of Asian women.

That’s just at the corporate level. A 2018 report by Fast Company found that women who freelance tend to receive lower rates than their male peers, and they’re less likely to receive payments on time. Minimum wage workers, most of whom are women, are rarely granted the same amount of paid leave as those who work at the corporate level. Women at all levels also experience sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting said harassment, which can have detrimental effects on not only their job performance and earnings but also their mental health.

Given these difficulties, it seems trivial to get annoyed about a planner that encourages me to treat every day as a gift or whatever. Honestly, buy whatever maniacally happy shit gets you through the day; the last thing any woman needs is yet another “don’t” on an endlessly long list of things they shouldn’t do at work.

But what infuriates me about these professional products geared toward women is that they seem to occupy a realm where structural issues are only alluded to through inspirational quotes about overcoming adversity and being a #girlboss. The world of women’s office supplies is pastel-colored and impossibly peppy. (I’m fine with the pastels, but I don’t love the pep.) This is a world where, given the right combination of planners and pencils, anything is possible. It is a world laden with positive affirmations, because reality is so bleak. It’s a world where she believes she can, so she does.

Then again, I doubt a planner that says “That ignoramus who sits next to you is going to get a promotion before you do because he’s a dude” would be a best-seller.

Women in the boardroom

South African women have come a long way in the boardroom; however, they still have a lot of work to do when it comes to making their mark and claiming ownership at board level.

In a rapidly evolving world, one would think that considering all the milestones we have passed and overcome as a nation and country, gender equality in the workplace is automatically observed.

At the Beijing Conference of 1995, women’s rights came to the fore. Here delegates prepared a declaration and platform for action aimed at achieving greater equality and opportunity for women. In South Africa we have our Bill of Rights, which was intended to promote the rights of women as equal citizens. This legislative environment is very much in line with a global trend that indicates that the advancement of women who hold leadership positions is linked to a legislative framework or environment and not a voluntary action of society.

Even with these milestones of women making their mark across various industries being very prominent and continuously encouraged, the success of gender transformation according to Stats SA and other relevant sources tells a different story.

Other than government, corporate SA shows an 80/20 split in the job market focused mainly on levels of directorship such as executive and board levels whereby men dominate the workplace.

According to the Stats SA 2015 survey, the gender gap is higher in the private and semi-private sectors. The percentage of senior posts held by females in state-owned enterprises is only 24%, with 76% being held by men.

Similarly, in chapter institutions this number is only 25% of senior leadership positions being held by women, with 74% held by men.

The most alarming, however, is when we look into the JSE Top 40 listed companies and find that only 3% of these CEOs are women.

“South Africa has a long way to go in establishing and promoting the future of female leaders. This clearly indicates the importance of gender mainstreaming as well as BEE transformation at board level,” says MD of Transcend Talent Management, Zanele Luvuno.

According to a report released by PwC, Executive Directors 2014, only 13% of women hold executive roles in the basic resource sector, in comparison to the 87% of males who occupy the same space. It highlights the amount of work still to be done and also the fact that the gap between male and female at board level continues to grow.

Another area of concern to be pointed out is the financial services industry, where the positioning is 85% male and 15% female split. Given these facts, it is evident that women in the workplace have a long way to go and grow, especially at board level.

Research has further pointed out that women at board level play a vital role in the dynamics of the organisation, bringing to the table more productivity, a visible increase in companies’ bottom lines and seeing better corporate governance. With there being a business case for women in leadership positions, why then has corporate South Africa been so slowly to transform?

The Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa indicates that women are mostly appointed in non-executive directorship positions, only 9,2% of women hold chairperson positions and only 2,4% of women are appointed as CEOs.

An argument for keeping women out of leadership positions has been our desire to have children and our responsibility to our families. Being the ever-increasingly independent beings that they are, women have become accustomed to a work/life family balance and are able to single-handedly juggle all these responsibilities.

By not empowering women, we not only deprive the economy but also deprive households of opportunities, where in this day and age run households as single parents and mothers, providing for their families. The facts continue to unravel of how male candidates have owned the corporate leadership space over decades and have been given preference over more senior opportunities.

Transcend Talent Management offers unique and tailored solutions to boards and companies to help align and place qualified women into leadership positions. Being headed by a successful female promotes the placement of women at directorship levels and into transactions so that we may start to be drivers of initiatives such as black industrialisation. Managing Director Zanele Luvuno focuses on partnering clients with the appropriate black partner to create the perfect fit and relationship for long-term success.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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