Society not benefiting from full economic potential of women‚ says Graca Machel
Jan Bornman | 2017-05-16 20:21:04.0
“The ability to be in the driving seat and at the helm of decision-making processes shifts patriarchal power dynamics‚” Machel said. File photo
Women must be allowed to assume positions where they can unleash their transformational power in business and society.
That was one of the messages that came from Graça Machel’s key note speech at The Trialogue Business in Society Conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Machel‚ the widow of the late Nelson Mandela‚ said she believed it was imperative that civil society joined hands with government and business “to collectively push forward our aims of social and economic transformation on the continent”.
“As it stands‚ society at large is not benefiting from the full economic potential of women as women continue to be underrepresented in key industries and executive roles‚ they face barriers in entry to the formal economy‚ often suffer from discrimination‚ and experience challenges in balancing the demands of family and work life‚” Machel said.
She further pointed to the wage gap between men and women which she said “knows no borders”.
Machel said the increased integration of women in the formal economy would have a knock-on effect which elevated the status of women and their perceived value in society at large.
“The ability to be in the driving seat and at the helm of decision-making processes shifts patriarchal power dynamics‚” she said.
Machel added: “A quick scan of societies with high percentages of female participation in the economy reveals that the more influence women hold in the workplace and the more authority their voices hold‚ the more esteem and respect women tend to be given as a collective outside of the boardroom as well.
“When women’s contributions are recognised and valued from an economic perspective‚ a profound social shift and elevation of their status often transpires as a result‚” she said.
Machel said society intuitively knew how important it was for women to be active in the economy‚ yet there was a lack of empirical evidence quantifying their contributions in the African economy and well as a lack of demographic data.
“We have a severe knowledge gap when it comes to reliable data sets providing information geographically and sectorally‚” she said‚ adding that with the right information in hand more can be done to support women.
Machel highlighted the importance the Graça Machel Trust placed on women’s empowerment and the role of networks to assist in the development in business women.
She highlighted the work by the Network for African Business women which strengthens business women’s associations‚ the Women Creating Wealth enterprise development programme which trained more than 90 women entrepreneurs in Zambia‚ Tanzania and Malawi last year‚ and The African Women in Agribusiness Network which addresses challenges in food security.
Machel emphasised the need to support such networks to help them grow their memberships‚ develop their capacities and increase their scope and reach.
“I encourage you to define for yourself and your organisation how you are tangibly going to work externally with partners gathered here‚ and internally within your own institutions to create an enabling environment for women to flourish in business and in society‚ and in turn‚ help transform this beautiful continent of ours‚” she said.