Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength. – G.D Anderson
In light of it being Women’s month and recently having celebrated Women’s day in South Africa, what an appropriate topic to address, and celebrate, Women in the Workplace.
What is the history of Women’s day in South Africa?
Women’s day in South Africa is a Nationally recognized public holiday, commemorating the 1956 march of 20 000 women, who marched to the Union buildings in Pretoria in order to protest against apartheid laws, that intended to control urbanization, maintain population segregation and manage migrant labourers, by requiring “black-defined” South Africans to carry internal pass books.
August is a good month to reflect on the progress we have made towards the support of, not only women’s rights, but the rights of all cultural diversities; and to contemplate on the additional steps to take towards boosting that movement to greater heights.
Gender Equality in the Workplace?
Women are creatures of divine juggling qualities, balancing many roles, such as keeping house, becoming wives, mothers, raising families and often breadwinners (frequently the sole earners), in many households.
For decades, women have been asking for a seat at the table of the decision makers; and have been quieted by the undercurrent of the patriarchal hierarchy of societal expressionism, with a lack of gender diversity being vastly unrepresented in the workplace. Fortunately, standards are slowly beginning to evolve and a new order of acceptability is being recognized; leading to women gaining a voice and obtaining more influence in the workplace.
Stepping into the future?
A clear distinction is being drawn between the present view of authority holders and previous views; with “old dogs” often struggling to “learn new tricks;” however, true change begins with workplace policies, relating to hiring and promotion practices. The support is two-fold, from the ground up and from the top down: a strong HR will act as a medium, striking a balance between business needs and employee upliftment.
The test of fairness?
The question arises, what would happen in the situation whereby you may be overlooked for an opportunity for promotion?
Section 186(2)(a) of the LRA defines an unfair labour practice as “any unfair act or omission that arises between an employer and an employee involving – unfair conduct by the employer relating to the promotion, demotion, probation or training of an employee or relating to the provision of benefits to an employee.”
In Arries v CCMA & Others, the Labour Court commented that:
Moreover, the decision to promote must uphold fair and objective criteria; in City of Cape Town v SA Municipal Workers Union obo Sylvester & Others, the Labour Court held that in assessing whether a failure to promote constitutes an unfair labour practice, the test is one of fairness, taking into account inter alia the following:
The overall test is one of fairness. Female employees should feel supported by their employers for wanting to create a balance of work and personal life, for wanting or having a family and to have equal opportunities available to them relating to promotions and holding senior roles in the workplace.
How can MISA support you?
The MISA Women’s Forum promotes many gender equality objectives, relating to inter alia, workplace social dialogues to improve working conditions; creating increased awareness surrounding women-related issues, supporting financial independence, education and training. Contact MISA at 011 476 3920, should you have a query or wish to seek assistance in lodging a dispute.
Women, I call on you to speak your truth, respectfully; find your voice, stand tall and work hard. Men, I call on you to listen; uplift your mothers, wives and daughters. Women you can do it all! Let us support our co-workers, we are evolving at a pace and this is the time to honour your strength.
To ALL you wonderful women, Happy Women’s Month!
I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.
– Maya Angelou
Written by, Nichole Turner
Senior Legal Advisor, MISA
 Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995
 (2006) 27 ILJ 2324 (LC)
 (2013) 34 ILJ 1156 (LC); Nehawu obo NE Botuana v Department of Health Free-State, arbitration award under case number: PSHS318-18/19