Despite being one of the highest ranked countries in the world according to women in positions of political sway, Lisa Vetten, an academic at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research believes South African women are still far away from being equal to their male counterparts in the workplace.
Sunday 8th March marked International Women’s Day, a day aimed to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. This year’s theme ‘Make It Happen’ encourages effective action for advancing and recognising women.
Vetten says although South Africa has made some advances in gender equity 20 years into its democracy, more needs to be done to level the playing fields.
“Although we rank [highly] among a host of other countries in terms of women being represented in politics and government, women in other areas are still underrepresented, and, largely, underpaid, compared to men. Where women thrive are in the informal sector, such as entrepreneurs. But the problem with the informal sector is that work protection is largely missing.
“While we find some women excelling in the boardroom, in government and the private sector, I think for the most part, most women are still prevented from entering those formal areas.”
She says these issues are not necessarily the fault of the current dispensation, but some blame can be given to a history of discrimination against women.
“Some of these issues are deep rooted and have a long history, and are quite difficult to change only through things like affirmative action. Unemployment remains higher among women than it does among men, and if you look even deeper black women is the highest number of any group to show in the unemployment statistics. Pair this with the fact that women in general are usually paid less than their male counterparts in the workplace,” she said.
To curb this, she said authorities should encourage businesses to focus on areas that women are historically known for being proficient in such as the care industry. VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)