A study conducted by McKinsey & Co. found that companies with several women in senior leadership roles tend to perform better financially, and that hiring and retaining women at all levels also enlarges pools of talent. How we made it in Africa’s Karimi Kiambi asked Videsha Proothveerajh (33), Intel’s country manager for South Africa if local companies are getting it right and how more women professionals can land top jobs.
Where are all the senior-level women?
Serious intervention is required to correct the dismal representation of women in senior positions in South Africa’s corporate world. The social and economic challenges that are responsible for the low numbers are well-documented. The lack of role models, mentors and sponsors, especially in IT and other previously male dominated fields, mean fewer young women are being attracted to the profession.
Access to quality education and early work opportunities are the key to growing a talent pipeline from which to draw women to take up senior-level jobs. Many companies have specific programmes in this regard but the unfortunate reality is that many others don’t.
Gender parity at Intel is a key value of the company. The chairperson of the board for Intel Worldwide is a woman and so is the CIO. 50% of Intel SA’s senior positions are held by women. These are some of the talented women who serve as role models and are proof that many of the stereotypes and generalisations that exist about why women should not hold senior positions in business are in fact pure nonsense. That said, embracing gender diversity is not about quotas or political ideals. It is about identifying and removing systemic barriers that currently prevent women from claiming their rightful roles and participation in the public and private sector.
How should women prepare for the climb up the corporate ladder?
I was very analytical about the companies I chose to work for. I did my research upfront and ensured that the companies I decided to join had a culture and environment that was conducive to my growth and success. The decisions I made about my life and career determined how fast I advanced up the corporate ladder.
Many women, including myself, have all the ingredients for success built into them, such as good work ethics, great IQ and EQ. What is imperative is being able to compete on an equal footing. Once women are given the same opportunities and support systems that make them productive, then the game will change dramatically. I work for a company that is a meritocracy so I am given the same opportunities as my male colleagues and I am able to compete fairly.
Read How we made it in Africa tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Videsha Proothveerajh. Subscribe to our daily email updates to make 100% sure you don’t miss it.