Women represent approximately half of the global population, half of South Africa’s population, and half of the population of working age (15-64 years) in the country. That’s 18.5 million women that can add value in South Africa, yet the country still lags behind in unequal access to education.
A recent discussion between Strate’s Big Data Analyst, Dr. Merrill van Der Walt, and publication Leadership Magazine highlights the importance of education for women. It cites van der Walt saying, “I cannot stress how absolutely crucial education for women is, because it’s only through education that you can free yourself from any oppression and any chains that you may have.”
Strate CEO Monica Singer concurs, adding that women need to be encouraged and empowered from a young age to understand that they have the power to achieve their aspirations of becoming whatever it is they put their mind to. “South African businesses need to strengthen the pipeline of talent, whether it be through mentoring schemes, learnerships, higher education initiatives, or sponsorship of female employees – while providing them with role models and the encouragement to fulfil their ambitions and aspirations in the workplace, where we can all benefit from their contributions.”
She explains that skills development is crucial. “At Strate, for example, we have incorporated skills development into each employee’s performance appraisal, providing them with a budget each year that they are encouraged to use to learn more and hone in on new skills. It’s a no-brainer, staff are motivated to learn and improve every year by using a training budget provided for by the company, and if they do, they are rewarded for it in their performance appraisals.”
Having said that, Singer highlights the importance of having the right attitude. “Women need to reflect within themselves and change their attitudes. Women need to seize their own opportunities, raise their hand and be responsible for achieving their successes and aspirations. They need to surround themselves with experts and ask the right questions. Challenge the myth that you can’t when you can. Women need to develop their skills by studying, and studying with a passion and obsession that gets them to read everything that they can to empower themselves.”
Van Der Walt believes that education is the only thing that cannot be taken from people…explaining that “it’s the only thing that widens your thought processes, giving you opportunity out of whatever unfortunate circumstance that you might have been born into”. “As much as men are able to understand, women are equally able to understand. Education takes whatever work has been done with human rights in the past, and it hands over that baton,” she adds.
Singer says she has never stopped learning. “There is so much knowledge out there. Socrates said, ‘The only thing I know is that I know nothing.’ Stephen Covey also said that you cannot plant a plant then pull the plant to grow faster. Give it sand, water and time. Every day, one step at a time, study and work hard with determination and passion. All of us have a talent and we have an obligation, a responsibility that’s paramount, to bring that talent to the world.”
Strate would like to wish women across South Africa a Happy Women’s Month as the country celebrates Women’s Day on 9 August.