By Lizelle Fourie, Applications Consultant at DAC Systems
In my experience, the corporate environment today is a much more enabling one for women than in the past. Even though the gender breakdown still favours men, the general attitude towards women has certainly changed for the better. Of course, there are still some men who find it difficult to take orders from women, but I do not think that is ever going to completely go away.
However, what is still a significant challenge is the expectation that women and men work the same number of hours. Unfortunately, this does not account for how some women are the primary care givers at home. In many companies, it is still frowned upon if they need to look after their children. This can include everything from dropping them off at school, fetching them from sporting activities, or even taking them to the doctor. Instead, a more balanced view should apply to those female employees with children.
Fortunately, lockdown conditions have helped in this regard.
The normalisation of distributed work has made it clear to leadership that people do not have to be physically present at the office to still be productive. Working from home has made it easier for many women to balance their professional and personal lives without negatively impacting either.
Yes, some people struggle with the limited social interaction that comes from working from home, but this has to do with the various personalities at play more than anything else. There will always be those that need to engage with colleagues face-to-face while others are comfortable with using technology like Zoom, Teams, and others to participate in meetings.
Personally, I do not think much more can be done to promote a positive environment for women in leadership positions. There will always be those who will have issues in dealing with instructions whether from male or female bosses.
What could be beneficial is for companies to conduct more internal training and awareness campaigns around gender issues and ways to address them at an individual level and a corporate one.
Even though I did not have many negative experiences growing up when it comes education, I was one of the fortunate ones. An enabling environment must be created for girls to equip themselves with the skills required to pursue careers in STEM disciplines.
But the education system is just part of the equation. It does not help if the subjects are accessible to girls, and they are not mentally prepared to take responsibility for their own lives. They must understand that even from a young age they need to question everything around them and never take things at face value.
This change is very much a cultural thing. Certain cultures do not expect women to work. Instead, they must stay at home, cook, and look after the children. The only thing that can change this is to educate people on the topic and show the importance of schooling for children to eventually pursue STEM careers as adults.