Women of Influence
The roles of homemaker, obedient wife, and dutiful mother have restricted the female gender for as far back as the history books can record. In spite of the progress we have made for gender equality thanks to crusades such as the feminist movement, and despite the fact that we are living in the 21st century, women are still severely underrepresented in the workplace and under-celebrated for their achievements.
since the Nobel Prize was first awarded in 1901, there have been 825 male winners, but only 48 female winners. In the south African business environment, the statistics are just as shocking. According to Grant Thornton’s 2014 International Business Report, only 15% of companies have female board members, 26% of senior management positions are held by women, and 21% of local businesses have no women at all in senior management positions. For the past seven years, statistics have remained static with the average percentage of women in senior business positions sitting at around a meagre 26%.
However, there are inspiring women leading the charge against our patriarchal contemporary society. August is women’s Month, a national tribute to the thousands of women who bravely protested against pass laws on 9 August 1956, and a reminder of the ongoing battle for gender equality. so, SLOW thought it appropriate to revel in the successes of some of the world’s most powerful women who have broken through the glass ceiling, and have shown that it is possible to for a woman to come out on top – even while living in a man’s world.
In 2016, Maria Ramos, CEO of Barclays Africa Group, was rated the 20th Most Influential Businesswoman in the world by Fortune magazine. Ramos is responsible for bringing together 12 banks across the African continent to form Barclays Africa Group (BAGL) – a single pan-african institution with an independent board and separate listing on the Johannesburg stock Exchange. If it were not for her tenacity, Ramos might have never reached this success. originally told that the scholarship for her degree was reserved for only men, Ramos was able to convince the men in charge to give her the same chance at success as was afforded to her male peers.
Güler sabanci, listed as the 64th most Powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2016, was the first female member of the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, as well as the first and only female member of the European Round Table of Industrialists. Today, she is the first woman to run sabanci Holding, Turkey’s second-largest conglomerate, and is an active promoter for gender equality in Turkey.
Fellow female rights crusader, Chanda Kochhar, CEO and managing director of ICICI Bank, and rated Fortune magazine’s fifth most Powerful Woman in the World in 2016, is also fighting for women’s interests in her home country, India. A survey at her company revealed that two-thirds of the female employees surveyed said they had quit their job because of long commutes and child-care responsibilities. In an effort to retain female staff, Kochhar launched the iwork@home programme in March last year, which enables female employees to work from home for a year to see to the family responsibilities of caring for new-born children. Kochhar is using her power and influence to make sure that other females get a fair chance of reaching the level of success that she has already achieved.
Females gaining equal rights may have come a long way, but we are by no means done with the struggle for equality. Take this women’s Month to celebrate the women who have made it to the top, and have provided many fellow women with the necessary stepping stones to follow in their footsteps.