The Significance of Celebrating Women’s Month

August is Women’s Month in South Africa, with attention brought to the issues African women faced before 1994, including domestic violence, workplace sexual harassment, unequal pay, girls not being allowed to go to school, and no-help parenting.

The importance of Women's Month: The history of women's rights in South Africa

In 1994, women had very low representation within Parliament making up only 2.7% of the members. Since the creation of the National Women’s Day public holiday on 9 August 1995, the numbers nearly doubled, with women now having 48% representation throughout SA’s government.

This day celebrates the resilience and strength of South Africa’s women as well as their contribution to society and our democracy. In August 1956, more than 20 000 women marched to the Union buildings in protest against the oppressive laws of the Apartheid regime. This month is now celebrated by the government and people of South Africa as Women’s Month.

Increasingly, Women’s Month has also been used to highlight the ongoing gender-based violence ravaging communities.

Women who changed the world 

Just a few decades ago, the whole world was still savagely cloaked in the darkness of inequality. Women had to make peace with the fact that they were deemed unworthy, merely resources to be worked for their ability to cook, clean, and produce heirs. 

In 1429, a 17-year-old peasant girl, Jeanne d’Arc was armed with nothing but defiant self-belief. Powered by unflinching conviction in what she believed in, she rode into battle on her white horse and set the stage for the wheels of the women’s rights movement to gain momentum forever after. Joan of Arc’s infamous success in a male-dominated (battle)field in the 15th century blazed a trail for other women to do the same.

Inspirational women throughout history

The most iconic historic female figures hail from politics, science, exploration, and social reform. Noteworthy women like Catherine the Great, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Earheart, Rosa Parks, Queen Elizabeth II, Anne Frank, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Benazir Bhutto have shown the world that women are worthy and can make an impact and a difference. 

Powerful women today 

Today, women like Kamala Harris, Angela Merkel, Jacinda Arden, Malala Yousufzai and Greta Thunberg inspire other women and young girls the world over, to set their sights on anything they desire and have the will to work towards.

We acknowledge the huge gains we as a society have made towards gender equality, while also highlighting the many challenges still faced by women. In a world where the gender pay gap, childcare challenges and gender-based violence still cause immense disparities in opportunities available to, and the day-to-day realities of women. These challenges are amplified even more when women hold multiple marginalised identities which intersect in complex ways. The work towards gender equality will not be done until the women named above become the norm, not the exception.

Female African leaders

Closer to home on the African continent, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, dubbed ‘Africa’s Iron Lady’ pioneered this change by becoming the first female President on the continent in 2005. Africa, knitted together by 54 countries, now celebrates the election of 10 women into the Heads of State positions. Closer still, in South Africa, we have proudly called Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka South Africa’s first female Deputy President from 2005 to 2008.

Keeping women's rights top of mind

Looking back at our distant and recent past, one can appreciate the paradigm shift in the collective consciousness of humanity for the evolution of women’s rights. Much of this narrative has been orchestrated by joint ventures such as the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, which consists of 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) that are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Goal five of the 17 SDGs is aimed at addressing gender inequalities that occur in all spheres of life.

Women in business

A recent Deloitte survey reflects that women account for a mere 5.4% of CEOs at S&P 500 companies. In 2019, the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms was 21.9%, which is projected to grow to 31% by 2030—still below parity. 

The 2021 PwC report on remuneration trends shows that only 13% of South Africa’s Executive Directors are women, including CEOs and CFOs. In 2022, the picture is not much better.

The latest report reveals that figure has only increased by 2% to 17%.

In absolute numbers, just 81 women occupy C-Suite positions.

How Paton Personnel empowers women

Top of mind then, in and amongst the other injustices that are at play, is this urgent call to action to nurture and empower the next generation of women who will, hopefully, bridge this divide. 

At Paton Personnel, against the backdrop of recruitment, our diverse and inclusive team of women leaders are privy to the behind-the-scenes stories of how this initiative has taken root and is slowly gaining momentum toward ensuring that the future gender equality scales will be balanced.

The HeForShe Campaign

Paton Personnel partners with organisations that provoke and embrace the change that is needed for gender equality. Several of our clients are corporate ambassadors of the Global HeForShe Campaign which was introduced to the world, in 2014, as a social movement providing a systematic approach and targeted platform through which men and boys become agents of change for the achievement of gender equality.

The 30% Club

We acknowledge a global social reform program called The 30% Club, which has as its mission to reach at least 30% representation of all women on all boards and C-suites globally. 

Paton Personnel works towards gender equality

We are also proudly associated with partners that propagate and drive the ‘Take a girl child to work’ campaign. Additionally, we support the efforts of Business Engage which annually hosts the Gender Mainstreaming Awards, aimed at recognizing and celebrating individuals and organizations that espouse the values of gender equality.

Our very own Roshael Hoosen was nominated for the Accenture GMA Provincial Positive Role Model award and Professional Services Sector Southern Africa award this year! We celebrate her success and the inspiring example she is.

Paton Personnel will continue to purposefully partner with proponents of change in our bid to close the gender divide and to do justice to the memories of the many women whose shoulders we stand on.