Why is it proving so difficult for women to reach the pinnacle of companies? Are they simply less ambitious, less excited by the idea of extensive travel, late nights, and the stresses associated with executive responsibilities?
These are the questions I’ve wrestled with. Research, conferences, and workshops have canvassed reasons behind the absence of women at executive and board levels of most companies across the globe.
Solutions. Many schools in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to computers and other technological tools that are taken for granted in other parts of the world. Coupled with culture and societal expectations, the female child is even more disadvantaged.
To transcend these formidable challenges, I started a scheme with the support of my company to provide computer hardware and software (donated by Microsoft and Symantec) to schools in Lesotho, Mozambique, and Swaziland. It was an amazing initiative that brought together governments, private sector, and communities (students and parents) to work together leveraging limited resources and giving incredible opportunities to disadvantaged schools.
I have never thought math and science were exclusively for boys. Having done very well in math, physics, biology, and chemistry, I found that boys related to me as an equal. I therefore always encourage girls to beat boys in areas that are seen as male domains. It is the best way to challenge stereotypes.
Opportunities. Now more than ever, companies are compelled by customers to reflect the diversity of their customer profiles. Also, companies have been motivated by a desire to broaden the talent pool that their HR functions can fish in. Add to that the business case for diversity. Through integrated effort, women can mobilize inter-continental educational, mentoring, and exchange interventions to ensure that we capitalize on the above-referenced changes.
Why not mindset. We are still plagued by the pervasive stereotyping of women’s capacity to be at the apex. We need to rebel against this debilitating stereotype. Let’s instill the ‘why not?’ mindset in the female child.
Why not me being top of the class in math? Why not me delivering an important company presentation? Why don’t women combine efforts to ensure the sustained education of the female child across the world?
We can do it. Women are superior to men at multi-tasking, team building, and communicating. Let’s use these skills to arm the female child with that all-important catapult—education.