A powerful woman in her own right – an advocate for other women and all people – Karen Mutasa – sent me and other women a question the other week: ‘I have been invited to be on the panel below – what would you like to see represented?’
First panel: Supporting women in the workplace
Women are prejudiced from the cultural and patriarchal society they are born into. This prejudice is often transferred into the workplace and the world. As a woman leading in your organisation, what have you done in overcoming these barriers or share how your workplace has supported you in overcoming these barriers. What is your advice to the audience in overcoming these challenges in the workplace?
First of all – I love that those given a voice to speak at such platforms, do not grab and speak only for themselves, but bring along other women; collecting voices, making sure as many of us are represented as much as is possible. That is power. Power in numbers, power in representation, power in using the leadership position in a way that embraces, understands, provides opportunity and represents a unity that forges ahead with solutions that embrace as many as possible. Thank you, Karen, and all the other women on the panel.
My contribution: We need to stop just talking about it. Let’s move to putting words into action. This topic has been on the table for years. We know what needs to be done – LET’S JUST DO IT. We know the purpose is to make sure women’s voices are heard, but what is the outcome, what are the actions that we will take after the talk? Are there dates to those actions? These are questions that should be asked right before the panel starts so that there is clarity in action and momentum is carried forward – otherwise we are just doing the same old thing we have been doing for years – talking without ACTING – meaning no PROGRESS is made.
Women make up 50%+ of the human population, yet decisions are made for them by others – there is not enough consultation or the bringing of women concerned to the decision-making tables. There are not enough men or other women bringing women to the table.
Our global decisions are made by half of the human species, which means the other half of our species are not adequately heard or represented. Everything – any meeting, any decision that affects women – whether it’s health, education, work, the home – everything – should have all genders represented so that each and everyone’s input, from their perspective and their lived experiences within the realm of manhood, womanhood and other can be fully, adequately and accurately represented.
Work policies should be all inclusive of gender relations. Human resources departments should be committed to have discussions within the workplace, addressing personal and organisational cultures so that rights of each individual – men and women alike, are addressed openly – as opposed to just being in a paper contract.
We need to stop assuming that people understand what harassment is. Even jokes made in passing about a person in relation to their gender affects individuals viscerally – but they feel they cannot say anything because that’s our ‘culture’. To begin to breakdown a culture of open harassment that is masked as a ‘joke’ or an excuse to say ‘that’s what men do’ or ‘that’s what other women do’ – we need to have those conversations and to provide platforms where everyone can express themselves freely and also learn how to. Where voices have been quietened and where voices are still quietened; open, safe platforms of vocal engagements need to be reopened and reintroduced.
Women are harassed on a daily basis, making it difficult for them to raise their hands, to sit at the table, to share their views. How can we educate, how are we providing examples to live by, how can women get out of both given and self-imposed shells? INCLUDE THEM, starting from now, in all sectors, from office bearers in governments, to offices, to homes and other social spaces – providing them with the same playing field so that they can share their worth. It’s not enough to have a few ‘token’ women in positions – not at all.
Let’s all go to our meeting place, boardroom, tea room, sport field, office, bench – and let’s bring out all the things the demean and belittle others, so that in their place we replace with the actions and words that make us all grow and use our talent for everyone’s benefit.
When we start including our women, then other key populations start being included: children and young people for example – because they are important. Us as the mothers of the nation need to bring them to the table, but how do we bring them to the table when we ourselves are not there? This is their nation too. Are we helping them gain the confidence to walk to and sit at the table or are we just fobbing them off, using societal-constructed barriers? Is it because we ourselves are not at the tables and so we don’t know how to advise and guide them to get there? We are leaving our young behind, we are letting them down. They are living on this same earth; it is in fact theirs. What are we doing to show them how to also take care of it for their own children and grandchildren? What are we doing? What legacies are we passing on? Which table are you sitting at?
The brand that is a Woman: I am here, I am woman, I have a voice. I know what I want. What I want nurtures, grows and feeds the nations without discrimination of age, gender, sex, religion or culture. The very physical body of each and every person on this planet – was birthed through me. You are all part of me and because you are all part of me – when I don’t speak up and act to represent me and my gender, I am silencing you as well. I therefore, make the decision today and for all the days I have on this earth, to 1. speak for myself , to 2. nurture your by providing safe platforms of engagement – so that you can start to also use your voice. Come along with me so that you can learn and know that the only way you can continue to contribute and to be part of this wonderful world – is for you to bring forth yourself in all your different glorious, beautiful selves. I am woman. Here. Voice. SHE. Strong, Heroine. Protector.