Renee Hulley, CEO:Black Balance - Gender Diversity in the Workplace
Renee Hulley, CEO:Black Balance - Gender Diversity in the Workplace

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Renee Hulley, CEO:Black Balance - Gender Diversity in the Workplace


In writing this article it must be stated that my views are not representative of any group. They are my experiences of being a female and black in corporate South Africa. I am that: female and black and the world will see me as that irrespective of where I travel and I have been fortunate enough to travel abroad often. What the world will not know, however, is that I am educated and that I have extensive experience in
the built environment.

Statistically women make up more that 50% of the population in the country. This in effect means that as a collective we can influence the political trajectory of the country and we can influence the debates on social
and other media. We can dictate the spending power in our homes including the type of brands that our families subscribe to and the ones we don't.

It would seem to me that given the fact that women are the majority population and have the social, economic and political influence to change the direction of our society that more women should be in management and leadership roles in our corporate South Africa. Yet we are not.

I do not take lightly the gains that have been made over the last few years. In this time of our democracy we are a generation of females that have access to more social, political and economic opportunities than any previous generations. Yet, the percentage of women in management and leadership positions is decreasing (Destiny Article: April 2016). So the question is why does corporate South Africa not employ more of us to tap into this market? We females, think, act, strategise differently and it is this difference, this diversity that will grow revenue.

I am not saying there isn't a space for our male counterparts; we have a lot to learn from them, but they have a lot to learn from us as well. A different strategy is necessary for the sustainability and longevity of any organisation, so a female perspective must be sought after.

I would also encourage women to be ambitious enough to want to be in these management and leadership positions. My ambition and journey was always to be in corporate South Africa either in senior positions or
as a business owner. I wanted the challenge of sitting at a boardroom table debating how to grow an organisation and to contribute positively to our country. My life journey to date has been to do the hard work of being educated and learning my craft, so that I understood the content, process of my craft and my environment. This under my belt I want to engage on the hard issues of our developmental agenda and make money while I am doing it. I want to "lean in" and have my voice heard. For two reasons, I have a responsibility to contribute to our society and what I feel and say as a female is important. Yes, I said feel. I can see my male counterparts cringe. I don't apologise any more for my feelings, with which my gender has blessed me. I approach most situations with my heart first and then my head. Don't be misled, I am not a stranger to tough decision making if it impacts on our bottom line or my objective.

The reaction from my female counterparts when tough decisions have to be made or when I passionately expect a result has surprised me. I have been called unpleasant names. Yet my male counterparts who do
the same get off lighter and are offered coffee.

We must discuss this response and understand where it comes from. The wage debate must also be discussed. I have thought about this difference but have not ventured a response. I need smarter females and males than me to assist on this one. I have also opted to focus on my learning and growing in my field mainly because this I can do something about. The result has been acknowledgement from my peers, even when I feel overlooked.

So to quote Sheryl Sandberg's award winning book "Lean In" I encourage all females to be the best person you can be and strive to sit at the boardroom, if this is what you want. 

Black Balance Projects
Tel: +27 (0)31 832 3450

Renee Hulley, CEO:Black Balance - Gender Diversity in the Workplace

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