Women in leadership – finding the missing link!!!!

I am writing this piece sitting on an aircraft flying to Dar er Salaam in Tanzania.  I am excited about doing some work on the continent and it brings a great feeling of belonging.  I certainly understand the line in former president’s Mbeki’s poem – “today it feels good to be African”.

The main theme of my blog today is to raise a question on whether South Africa is not able to nurture and develop women leaders.  The recent ruling party’s debacle on the election of the Premiers is a case in point.  I have great respect for all the male Premiers and don’t for a second doubt their commitment and capability and wish them the best on the enormous task ahead.

There has been a significant improvement in women representation in the public sector (the jury is out on whether this representation translates into empowerment and we welcome the government’s decision to retain the Women’s Ministry) unfortunately the same is not true for the private sector. Whilst I might be taken to task on this statement and be shown budgets and leadership development programmes; in my books the employment statistics and board representation tell us a story that where decisions which have a major impact on our economy, women are under-represented.  As mothers; wives, partners women bear the brunt of these decisions and yet they are not at the main table.

So what needs to be done?  I can never profess to have all the solutions but I know in the few organizations that I work for there have been attempts to develop gender-sensitive leadership programmes as well as supporting women to be part of networks and conferences aimed at women leaders. In my work as an executive coach I come across many women who are put in leadership positions with no support and they are crying for help especially in areas of managing and balancing their different and demanding roles (mother, leader, wife, church steward etc.); building self-confidence; emotional intelligence and setting clear boundaries.  These skills and requisite support are unfortunately not going to be learnt at the business school.

I think our country’s celebration of women’s day (month) needs to be applauded and encouraged as it is the time when the plight of women is brought to the fore and various programmes are launched.  Do these get sustained? Or put differently are these effective? If yes why do they not help us to traverse a different strategic path?  May be the answer lies in the last question – are they informed by organizations taking a particular strategic path or are they about compliance and being seen to be doing something.  My inclination is that they are more about compliance and less about strategic intent and direction.

My take is that we need a comprehensive women in leadership programme.  I will discuss what I think should be elements of this programme in my next blog in July but would welcome comments on the topic as I prepare to write about it. Contact Pam through the website www.zenandeleadership.com.  You will also find some of the leadership development programmes we are currently running.

Ciao for now!!!!