Who is the woman or women in your life who anchor you? Is it your mother or grandmother? Perhaps a sister or an aunt, or even a teacher. Just think about the words we use to describe these women: she is my rock, my pillar of strength.
This theme of strength is threaded through all the stories of remarkable women. The strength that they display lies locked in patience, in support, in comfort. It is the prodigious strength of gentleness.
As South Africans, we have remarkable examples of women that are the epitome of strength and gentleness. During apartheid, women famously organised and led the protest against pass laws on 9 August 1956. Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Lilian Ngoyi challenged the system with a non-violent protest and are still regarded as the faces of female protest in South Africa today.
Today, we have no lack of leading female figures who fill the shoes of the early icons of women’s protest. From 2009 to 2016, South Africa could not have been in better hands than in those of Advocate Thuli Madonsela, the former Public Protector.
“A society that harms women harms life at source,” Madonsela said in 2016.
A study undertaken in 2014 by Gallup of two companies comprising approximately 800 divisions found that the more gender diverse the leadership of a division, the more financially successful that division was.*
Gallup suggested that the teams that were more gender diverse performed better as a result of the various different viewpoints that women brought to the table that enabled problem solving, their contribution to a larger knowledge base to draw from.
Yet, the situation in South Africa remains far from ideal: although almost one third (29%) of senior roles in South Africa are now filled by women, one in five local businesses (20%) still have no women at all in senior positions.**
Ambledown Financial Services is proud to buck this trend with 52% of managerial positions filled by women. We asked Dipuo Chaka for her thoughts on being a female manager at Ambledown.
“The global knowledge arena does not have many women, let alone black women, in leading positions. Being appointed as the manager of individual membership validates the sentiments of black girls who may not feel that they could be able to assume leadership positions. They may be inspired to know that it is possible to become the leader of a company of our size or larger – the sky is the limit.”
With these words, Unity Health and Ambledown Financial Services want to challenge everyone this International Women’s Day by celebrating the women who challenge the status quo with their gentle strength. Because through challenge, we can drive change for a more equal future.