Women’s Month is a time for women to take that breath, sit down and reflect on the incredibly diverse roles we play in our communities. Throughout history, women have created their own opportunities, not only for themselves but for their families and society.
Creating opportunities is something the travel and tourism industries know how to do very well. If you didn’t before, ‘post-pandemic’ you must certainly have learnt a thing or two now!
Now that we’re cautiously yet joyously unmasked and free to plan ahead, for many of us it’s the first time we’ve had to take stock of how far we’ve come – and what we’ve survived.
Female entrepreneurship post-pandemic
The most incredible change, I believe, to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic was the opportunity for entrepreneurship. After the initial shock of lockdowns and the after-effects of worries and threats, entrepreneurs, especially females, took the plunge and started their own ventures, across industries. Many had to take this course of action, of course, out of necessity but it still serves to prove that women are resourceful in every way.
Working as a woman in a male-dominated sector
I’d love to say that my career was a deliberate choice. The truth is that it seemed like a good idea at the time, and fortunately I don’t regret that I ended up here. I was fresh off the ‘platteland’ (Northwest Rustenburg) when I moved to the city of Jozi, my birthplace. Enticed by the big city lights and with the energy of a 20-year-old, I started my career in insurance. The rest is history – and experience!
The insurance industry is known to be a largely male-dominated sector where women remain in the minority in the boardroom. Women face significant challenges, including recognition of their value in the workplace, representation and participation at C-Suite level, but we are beginning to make significant strides in South Africa’s insurance industry. Education of women, regardless of age, is the place to start.
In recent years in particular, the insurance sector has experienced stricter regulation and legislation and also, incredibly encouraging, is that top-heavy, male dominance in leadership is changing slowly but surely. There are more women at the helm than ever before and that sets the stage for all of us to step up to the plate and ensure we’re also doing our part to create more opportunities for other women in the industry.
I am encouraged that SATIB has a workforce dominated by hard-working women and we are proud to have each as a peer, a mentor and a source of inspiration. We are passionate about our tourism community and understanding our clients’ unique challenges. SATIB also continues to invest in and support working women, which has been one of the main reasons I have been with the company for 21 years.
Admittedly, I've certainly had my moments of highs and lows. But hard work, dedication and commitment can change that glass ceiling to nothing more than a (small) hurdle to overcome.
What changes would you like to see in the years to come?
The financial sector needs to do more to address the financial needs of women. There is a need for basic financial education for many women in South Africa and the financial sector can make a significant difference by educating and empowering women to understand basic and practical concepts to become financially independent.
Women bring many nuanced skills to the workplace, often excelling at the soft skills needed for business leadership. Although characteristics like effective communication, empathy and self-awareness are difficult to measure, they are highly valued and can make a real difference to any company’s bottom line. But I still feel that women are under-represented in key fields. Sectors like finance, engineering and tech still tend to be strongly male dominated. It’s important that women feel empowered to gain the skills and embrace the opportunities afforded by a career in these fields.
I believe that product innovation catering for women’s needs holistically, from health to investments, is growing rapidly. And along with that is digitisation – transforming the landscape and propelling optimism for the future. I am so excited by this.
Advice for other women
Whether she is a grandmother, a stepmother, a CEO or a tour guide, the worth of a woman is invaluable. My own mother taught me that we are each strong and resilient and wonderfully made.
My mantra? Never stop learning and travel as much as possible! These are the two best investments you can make in yourself. You can never unsee the things you experience when you travel and that in itself is education.
Finally, my three top tips for women in the workplace:
1. Know that you deserve it. When you are recognised for a job well done, take it. Take that compliment and let it motivate your next great achievement.
2. Perfectionism can be exhausting and can almost never be attained or sustained. Accept that not everything requires a perfect score and that, in many cases, done is better than perfect.
3. Not all battles are worth fighting. Listen to understand and not to react.
Last word: to all the women out there, whether you’re a professional homemaker or a professional mover and shaker, keep doing what you do best and shine!