By: Lindiwe Duma, IoT System & Device Communication Manager at Remote Metering Solutions
We are witnessing positive changes in the South African workplace. Women are making big shifts into industries and roles that were once predominantly male. One such field is the utilities sector and in particular the technical aspects thereof. While further career growth opportunities for women is needed, I do applaud the efforts made in recent years.
Women are adept at using soft skills and emotional intelligence to better understand their team members and interact with everyone on an individual level. Generally, women are also very calculating. They are not natural risk takers which could be a benefit in these difficult economic conditions.
Unfortunately, there is still a significant salary divide – many women earn less than their male counterparts in the same positions. The input they provide is often ignored and undermined. These conditions can be extremely demoralising for women in the workforce. However, the situation could be significantly improved if more sponsorships exist through which women could grow their skills and confidence, while getting much-needed exposure.
Companies do not necessarily have to implement sponsorship programmes. They can simply acknowledge the role of women in the workplace more noticeably, and highlight the skills and insight they bring to the business.
Continuous training is important, especially given the need for digital transformation. Equally invaluable are sessions designed to uplift women – opportunities where they can discuss their challenges and be motivated by internal or even external game changers. Some women still find the utilities domain intimidating. Identifying with a role model who have already overcome historical disadvantages can encourage and motivate them. This will contribute to a more favourable working environment and boost self-confidence in female employees.
Significant work can be done at school level to promote careers for girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Schools and other learning institutions should consider inviting women in the field to do ad hoc career coaching. More bursaries can also be awarded to girls who want to enter STEM. Organisations can provide internships to girls who want to enter previously male-dominated industries, give them the opportunity to gain experience and develop the confidence they need to embark on such a career.
Times are changing and there are more opportunities for women to enter the workforce than ever. Organisations cannot rest on their laurels – to affect meaningful change, we need to see more women in business.