It often takes a female leader to break the patterns and start the process of change, creating a culture that is progressive and aware. Businesses that adopt a progressive attitude are more likely to offer mentoring programmes that are designed to increase female career development. Gender bias and relatively fewer opportunities for women mean that often the total rewards offered aren’t one at all.
“Total rewards are defined as the combination of all types of rewards, including financial and non-financial, that are made available by employers to employees,” explains Dr Ronel Nienaber, Exco member of the South African Reward Association (SARA).
“There are not enough women in leadership positions to be role models and provide others with a map to success,” says Nienaber. “Although many women achieve lower and middle management positions, they seem to hit that glass ceiling and appear to be denied the most senior levels of upper management.”
Nienaber believes there are multiple reasons for this: some women lack the confidence to apply for senior positions, they are less assertive in terms of communicating career aspirations, they lack the necessary education and training and there are fewer women in leadership positions who can provide mentorship and coaching.
“Also, the demands on time that come with more senior roles are often not attractive to women, or they face systemic gender bias which puts them off from fighting for top management positions,” says Nienaber.
Overcoming the challenges
“The challenges around total reward for women can be addressed by placing women in upper management who serve as role models,” says Nienaber. “Also, the move towards increased focus on these issues and transparency will certainly ensure more reporting is done, but whether it will eliminate gender-based pay inequalities is questionable.”
“If an organisation has sufficient representation of women at senior levels, do what is necessary to bring about true change,” says Nienaber. “Conduct primary research to uncover what women’s unique needs and preferences are and work relentlessly towards implementing new policies, procedures and training/education that provide equal opportunities for men and women across all race and gender groups.”
There needs to be awareness on all sides to address the problems and ignite change. Women need to understand the business environment, be confident about the challenges it presents and be authoritative when required. They have to recognise, and be true to, their own leadership styles and spend time coaching and mentoring younger women, giving them the tools they need to navigate the corporate landscape.
True change requires that all types of bias are recognised and redressed, that all employees are working towards the same goal and that everyone feels empowered to reach their true potential. In a country that battles with the after effects of apartheid, employers should be actively engaging in efforts to reduce the wage gap, address fair and equal employment and ensure skills development and reward practices that will, in turn, increase return on investment and improve the organisation’s Employee Value Proposition.
MEDIA CONTACT: Cathlen Fourie, 012 644 2833, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.atthatpoint.co.za
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