By Mosima Selekisho* Director at Signium Africa
The 9th of August 2020 marks a very different National Women’s Day for South Africa. This year, our attention is squarely focused on a global health disaster that threatens millions of lives.
Yet, for all the obvious negatives, some good is coming from the pandemic, especially in the way women are perceived globally. This crisis is serving to highlight our plight in terms of gender inequality but also our strengths and contributions as equal and capable members of society.
At the same time, COVID-19 has proved to be the great equalizer for genders, because we all suffered the same anxiety and none of us has answers to the problem. Instead, we have discovered that we can survive by working together and living life one day at a time.
I predict that, as we come out of lockdown, there will be a marked shift in the way women are seen in business, at the workplace and at home.
For one, women have proved that they make excellent leaders. For example, while many countries have struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is winning great respect for literally eradicating the virus in her country. She herself reports to the Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy. Like others, they didn’t know the cure but still managed to lead admirably.
They, and many female role models like them, assure us that women are fully equipped to lead. In fact, we may be just the type of leaders a tired and frayed world needs to recover properly.
Domestically, with people being forced to stay at and often work from home, many families have come to appreciate the hard work women do as working mothers. As a result, their partners have become more willing to roll up their sleeves and take some of the load from them. While research reports that women still shoulder most of the domestic and care giving responsibilities, we are hopeful that the foundation for greater equality is being laid.
Further, women are displaying excellent resilience in terms of managing their families while still remaining productive in their jobs. Although employers are accommodating them with flexible work hours, they must still manage their time effectively between domestic chores, child care and business. Yet, women are proving themselves under these trying circumstances.
Unfortunately, according to the UN, the frustrations of lockdown have also led to a global increase in gender-based violence with victims being targeted by their own family members. Women everywhere have responded by marching, protesting and calling for meaningful change. Their ongoing actions will help win equal rights to protection and dignity for women, and build a culture that rejects violence against them. Again, we see a positive outcome that will bear great fruit in the long run.
While COVID-19 has been a terrible strain on society, it has opened our eyes to a more equal world where we can excel better when we work together. Right now, the value women bring to the table is receiving well-deserved recognition. Our outlook of life has changed, so let’s recognise this progress as we continue to strive for complete equality.
For the first time, we have been forced to look after ourselves and not only consider our hectic lifestyles.
*Mosima Selekisho is a Director of Signium Africa, a leading executive search and talent management company that assists organisations across sub-Saharan Africa.