Equal but Different is an inspiring handbook filled with invaluable advice and wisdom from South African women who have faced the challenges of climbing to leadership positions in this country. This Women's Month we chat to Dr Judy Dlamini, Chair of Mbekani Investment Holdings Limited author of the book about the gender equality and the hurdles South African women face.
How would you define a successful woman?
Success means different things to different people; it also means different things to the same person at different times in their lives.
I once thought success means being financially independent. I now believe that if you believe you are living your purpose, then you are successful. Living your purpose is bigger than yourself, your immediate & extended family. It encompasses community and society at large. Making a positive difference in people’s lives, with whatever you have wherever you are is success in my world.
What is the most significant barrier to female leadership? How do we embrace and overcome?
There are many barriers to women in different sectors of society and at different levels of leadership. In a patriarchal society like South Africa, women have to work much harder to receive recognition. In spite of this their rewards are still 25% less than that of their male counterparts. In spite of their contribution to society, they are not valued by society. Women are not their barrier, instead, society highlights any mistake made by women and undervalues their success and contribution.
Our battle for recognition and acceptance the way we are requires the support of men and women at all levels of society. The role of women is to continue to invest in themselves, body, mind and soul and learning to love themselves unconditionally.
What can we do today to minimise these challenges our daughters and granddaughters will face?
Unless each and every one of us, men and women confront the gender stereotype and prejudice, women will continue to be undervalued. Progressive men and women should be supported in their quest for equality across race, gender and all other social identities
What has been your disappointment in business and what you learnt from it?
The commitment to transformation is lacking at worst and half-hearted at best. The inequalities of the past will not be removed unless business sees transformation as a societal imperative. Economic supremacy of one race and one gender at the expense of the majority is not sustainable, it breeds mediocre society.
Do you regret or embrace these events?
I do not live a life of regrets. Everything that has happened in my life, happened for a reason, even the most painful. I was lucky to be born to the loving parents that shaped my life, I was lucky to marry my husband who helped me build our family.
What key message would you like to relay to South African women today?
Love yourself unconditionally, don’t allow anyone to tell you what you can or can’t be. Limits exist only in your mind!
What advice would you give to young women who fear to have to choose between children and a career?
Career and family co-exist; you choose what to prioritise. The family will always be there, the experience of time spent with them and their love supersedes any career achievement you can ever make. Invest in them.
Women are currently fighting for a place in a “man’s world” what is the best advice you can give women who are fighting this battle? Do you think buy in from men is important?
Part of the problem is accepting our world as the men’s world. Part of the solution is changing the status quo, working alongside men to make it everyone’s world, the world should belong to all who live in it, across all social identities. Women’s and men’s efforts, to change the status quo, need to be acknowledged, supported and celebrated. It starts with you and me!