As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month it provides communities an opportunity to reflect on the inequality of women in society. There are areas of progress that have been made and other areas where the gender inequality gap remains unbridged. The role of women in today’s society is critical; they lend a perspective to government, business and the social fabric of our culture. International research has demonstrated that the role of women in top executive positions has a profoundly positive effect on profit, people and planet – the three prized outcomes of good organisations.
The ILO Global Wage report of 2018/19, published in May 2019, has some depressing figures about the gender pay gap in South Africa. Covering 70 countries and 80% of wage employees worldwide, the report shows that on average, women continue to be paid 28% less than men are. In South Africa, South African women who are permanently employed earn 22.7% less than men do and those who work part-time earn 39% less than men do.
When coming to basic education the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) coordinated by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted an international education survey to access the state of education amongst countries of which South Africa was the only participant on the African continent. The findings on gender distribution of teacher and principals workforce showed a degree of gender imbalance and disparities in the scope of promotion to leadership positions. In South Africa, only 22% of principals are women, compared to 60% of teachers. This can be benchmarked against the OECD averages of 47% of women among school leaders and 68% among teachers.
The acceleration of school districts supporting instructional leadership is one of the interventions that can empower more female teachers and principals to be well equipped to take-up leadership positions.
Ms M. E. Nkhi, Principal at a KST school Tsimatsima Primary in the Motheo district in the Free State Province is one of very few female principals. “Women should be given the opportunity to stand up and showcase their strength, female educators need to start embracing technology and apply critical thinking and decision making”, said Nkhi. Tsimatsima Primary is part of KST District Whole School Development programme and has received curriculum educator support in Mathematics and English for foundation and intermediate phase. This intervention will benefit four educators of which three are women and the 31 learners in school. At a handover ceremony the learners received school uniform donated and collected from KST’s partner entities as part of the school uniform collection drive.
“Key to gender equality later in life is the provision of schooling for girls that encourages them to begin and pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects from an early age. There is no basis to the idea that girls cannot do technical subjects, indeed the opposite is true; they often excel against boys until their mid-teens. The drop could be attributed to a societal pressure to be more ‘womanly’”, concludes Nkhi.