If you look at the composition of top leadership at JSE-listed companies in 2019, only 3.31% had female CEOs and there were no female CEOs in the top 40 companies. Fast forward to 2021, we now have 19 women in executive positions at listed companies on the JSE. While women are in the strongest position they’ve ever been when it comes to career progression and opportunities, and although significant gains have been made when it comes to achieving economic gender parity, women in the workplace across various industries are still not treated equally compared to their male counterparts. South Africa’s democracy is 27 years old, but the country still has a long way to go in redressing discrimination and historical imbalances.
One way of addressing this is to include gender diversity in board diversity discussions, perhaps supported by appropriate legislation. Training and mentorship programmes that hone women’s leadership skills plus give them the tools to cope with the proverbial ‘Old Boys’ Club’ should also be introduced.
Yet, it is up to every individual to shake off societal expectations and beliefs about women’s leadership abilities, and to be the mouthpiece for those without a voice. Personally, more doors have opened for me the more I have spoken up and perceptions of me have changed the more present I have been as a young African woman.
My mantra in life is to do the best I can, with what I have, wherever I am, to make a difference. My advice to women in the workplace is to keep your head down, work hard and know your stuff. The more you know, the more powerful you are. Let your wisdom speak for itself. Have the courage to follow your goals. You are living in the best era of human history, where women are treated with much more dignity and respect. The only way to overcome the historical patriarchal workplace challenges is by acting ethically and doing our best at all times. Trust your own talents, enjoy the journey, and don't forget to celebrate your successes!
In my short time at Jaguar Land Rover, I have experienced a few notable highlights. Namely, the Defender Virtual Launch that reached over 24 000 000 people and over 250 000 views of the live stream, the amplified brand awareness using our Jaguar ambassadors achieving the best influencer marketing efficiency campaign in the world in Q3 of 2020, and the improvement in digital platforms ranging from virtual showroom consultations to online retailers. These highlights couldn’t have been achieved without the collaboration across all functions within the business.
The saying: “Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman”, well, the same applies for women. You need to have a partner or a circle that will support you. So, the next time someone asks you how you manage to do it all yourself, you can smile when you tell them, "I don't”.
Kim Pilaelo, Digital Marketing Specialist, Jaguar Land Rover Marketing South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa