A fresh perspective needed to advance women in business

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“In order to promote women in the workplace you have to be able to change your mindset. When you go to ways of thinking and traditional management styles in the modern world, you see in the emerging markets more modernistic thinking, and that is where you have women in senior leadership,” Grant Thornton Johannesburg deputy chief executive, Jeanette Hern told CNBC Africa.

“You have management styles that [are] encouraging, coaching, mentoring, diversity in the workplace, inclusive decision making processes, and in that sort of environment, it’s easier for women to come to the fore and they feel more comfortable.”

(READ MORE: S.Africa’s new gender bill ruffles feathers with 50% women quota)

According to Grant Thornton’s 2014 International Business Report, the percentage of women in senior management positions in business in South Africa stands at just 26 per cent, a two per cent decrease from last year.

“If you take the research back even further, there’s been no progress over the last seven years so we’ve been trying to understand why this number is fluctuating around 26 per cent. What we’re seeing is that companies seem to be committed when you talk to them but when you try and unpack what they’re doing within the workplace, there’s very little being done,” Hern explained.

“Once you’re at the top, make sure that you’re an appropriate mentor to the young ladies coming through because for young women with career aspirations, it’s nice to be able to work with somebody that’s senior, to understand the path that they’ve taken and to work on that path.”

Hern added that women also have to have confidence in who they are in the workplace in order to succeed and grow.  

“Many women come into the workplace and believe they have to compete in a man’s world – that’s where women go wrong. If you try and be somebody you aren’t, you’re not necessarily going to succeed. To add value, we need to be the women we are and bring out the diversity that we can bring to the decision-making process,” she said.   

(READ MORE: Women vital for the future of mining)

“To young women coming through – be yourself, understand that there is a ‘ceiling’ but very often that ‘ceiling’ is something you might impose on yourself through the choices you make. Be selective about the company you join – if you find yourself in an environment that’s not conducive to having women in the workplace and you want to have a career, it’s best to move on to another company that will provide you with that environment.”