As in many other places around the world, in South Africa women can get low-paid jobs. They can get middle-management jobs. Very few have jobs at the top. The proportion of women in executive management positions in South Africa has increased marginally over the last two years.
Natalie Maroun, Managing Director at LRMG Performance Agency, however, believes we are at a new frontier of feminism. “At last some of the women who have reached the top are starting to speak out about just how hard it is for women to get there and are providing advice for younger women who are still climbing the corporate ladder.”
These women represent a new breed of women and are typically not the ‘Queen Bee’ stereotype. Queen Bees are defined as senior women in masculine organisational cultures who have fulfilled their career aspirations by disassociating themselves from their gender while simultaneously contributing to the gender stereotyping of other women.
Maroun believes we are now starting to experience a rising executive feminism which recognises individual achievement. “This is just what we need to jump-start the stalled gender revolution. Harnessing individual talent and skill, irrelevant of gender, is key to optimising business efficiencies. Any kind of stereotyping only gets in the way and slows down the natural progression,” she says.
“We need to overcome society's lingering discomfort with powerful women and the idea that wealth is unseemly in a woman.”
Maroun says women will never reach, or thrive in, positions of power as long as their wealth is shameful or their opinions belittled. Executive feminism recognises that even wealthy and powerful women run into gender bias and the resulting clog in the pipeline affects all women.
“It is high time we moved away from gender and viewed people as individuals in a gender neutral workplace. The new successful leader will be one who gives all people the right to perform and the permission to be fantastic, irrespective of whether they are male or female,” concludes Maroun.