Palesa Mahlaba
South Africa

The rise of the career woman: relooking at workplace gender disparity

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.  Eleanor Roosevelt

“These words contain an eternal truth and in the context of Women’s Month they inspire creating a proactive environment which addresses the start reality of the glass ceiling for women in the South African workplace,” says Patience Mahlaba, branch manager, Boston Braamfontein.

We take a look at proactive strategies to relook at gender disparity in the workplace.

  1. Strategise 

While South Africa’s ongoing push for gender transformation in senior positions has not yet seen major changes in business, women can start creating opportunities by proactively planning for success. Patience herself has a mindset of continual growth. Throughout her years at Boston she has been studying, and I succrenty studying towards a BCom degree. She quotes author of the Slight Edge, Jeff Olson – “Luck is when that constancy of preparedness eventually creates opportunity.”

Says Patience, “we need to actively focus on continuous professional development and upgrading of our skills. This will allow us as women to adopt an active position in seeking our opportunities,”.  She also advises to get involved in your communities and NGO’s.  “Serving on committees and completing high-profile tasks bring achievements into relevant conversations to highlight your competencies,” she says.

  • Take responsibility: The lack of women in top management positions* illustrates the glass ceiling for women in the South African workplace, but Patience advises not to feel beaten, rather take control , decide on the position you want and realistically work out the steps and the necessary skills needed to facilitate your own advancement.
  • Role models:

Patience advises to find a mentor or role model and do some research into their success.  Ask yourself “How have these women moved through the glass ceiling?” Find out what skills or character traits you need to emulate and develop to make this possible for yourself.  This can be facilitated through further studies such as Boston’s new Postgraduate Diploma in Management for those who have completed undergrad degrees and are looking to move into management positions with confidence and capacity.

  • Assertiveness:

Being assertive means standing up for your rights in a calm, constructive way, rather than adopting a passive attitude of waiting for the “right” moment and opportunity. You can create opportunities to promote your worth and competencies. 

“It’s a question of drawing attention to your successes, and what you believe to be your strenghths.”  At Boston we recommend building your LinkedIn profile and building your social media presence in a professional way.

5. Know the law:

Create a safe and protected environment in the workplace by aligning yourself with other women in senior positions.  It is also imperative to know your legal rights so that you are able to voice any concerns which may arise within the relevant legislative parameters.

6. Start at the source

Women are involved in raising both boys and girls.  We play a strategic role in nurturing the mindset of our children.  Become conscious of the gender constructs we are enabling through our parenting. Ensuring that we divide work and household chores equally between our children, regardless of gender.  In this way we avoid entrenching the notion of gender prescribed roles which can often play out later on in the workplace environment.

“Don’t wait around for the promotion or right job or better environment to fall into your lap. Be assertive. Grow. Develop your skills,  creating your own opportunities to facilitate breaking through the glass ceiling,” she concludes.

Call Boston on (011) 551 2000, email, or visit

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