Business Source

Challenging gender perceptions

Every time Woman’s Day rolls around, I’m filled with hope and admiration for what women have achieved for their emancipation, how women are driving changes in their personal spaces and within communities, how they are making inroads into the powerful positions in government and business.

I become so hopeful that attitudes towards women have changed and that we are finally moving towards a truly egalitarian society where everyone is appreciated and valued for the unique skills they have to offer. I feel proud to be a woman and proud that I am raising a young woman in a world such as this.

But then I read the news and it’s like a ton of bricks have come crashing down on my spirit. The stories are almost too horrifying to list, rape, abuse of women and children, molestation, HIV – the cycle of violence and abuse seems never ending.

And then you get someone like Manglin Pillay, CEO of the South African Institute of Civil Engineers, whose comments in the media recently have left me dumbfounded at the mysogyny that continues to plague our society.

Here is an individual who is in one of the top senior business positions in the country, who has influence over how his profession is perceived and will grow in the future, and yet, he feels free to make gross generalisations about women and what women want, as well as make dangerous assumptions about what roles women should play in business and society.

Pillay and the men like him who have a mysogynistic, patriarchal mindset, really don’t see the problem with relegating women to nurturing, child-bearing, housekeeping and other more subservient roles because those attitudes towards women are accepted and perpetrated within our society daily.

One only has to turn on the news for examples of what I am talking about. According to Crime Statistics South Africa, 49445 rapes were reported to the police in 2017. Those are just the reported cases. No one reports the unsolicited cat calls and groping, the name calling and belittling attitudes.
No one goes to the police to report a family member forcing them to do the cooking and wash dishes because they are a female, and no one goes to the police because their boss told them to make the coffee or take meeting minutes because they are a woman.

The call for parity is not just for attitudes towards women to change, but also for equal work opportunities and equal pay. The Global Gender Gap report of 2015 stated that it will take another 118 years for women to earn the same as men. Women make up half the world’s population and yet they are still not included in businesses future plans.

And therein lies the problem. It is because we force people into roles that they do not necessarily identify with that we have issues of conflict and discrimination. Who is to say that a man would not prefer staying at home and looking after the children? Why is it an automatic assumption that all women want to have children? What does being a woman or being pregnant have to do with the ability to do a job?

These are the types of questions we should be asking instead of turning back towards the dark ages and trying to disenfranchise women by basing decisions on whether the individual has a uterus or not.

It all boils down to cultivating an attitude of mutual respect. Men really need to ask themselves that if the roles were reversed and women treated men the way men treated women, would they tolerate it?

All it takes is a little bit of mindfulness about people’s roles. Imagine if we perceived peoples roles as collaborative instead of subservient, regardless of the responsibility – that’s the stuff of revolutions.

Women’s Day should be an opportunity for all of us to challenge our perceptions about gender discrimination and make a conscientious effort to improve gender awareness in our personal, professional and business life.

By Keshina Thaver

The WhatsApp Trap

We’ve all experienced it. The phone beeps at 2am and your immediate thought is that there’s an emergency. But when you check the message, it’s someone in your child’s school group sending a chain message. Sleep is extremely elusive thereafter.

Group messaging has radically changed the way we communicate in our personal, business and professional lives. We can decide what gift to get mom for Mother’s Day together, we can remind colleagues of meeting times, we can discuss plans for weekend drinks with our friends, and we can even sneakily discuss things we should not be with our squad.

However wonderful it might be to communicate with people instantaneously, most of us forget that there are still very important etiquette rules to remember. According to the South Africa Legal Information Institute, there is legal precedent for inappropriate messages to be tried as common law offenses or crimes. What you say in group may be held against you in a court of law.

Here are the five most important things to remember when participating in group chats:

  1. Don’t be offensive

Not all groups are created equally. The things you discuss with your closest friends are not what you would discuss in the group with your work colleagues. Your friends know and understand your quirky ways so you can say outrageous things and share funny memes without offending anyone.

Your work colleagues are the people you treat with professional courtesy at all times. The daily requirements and stresses of working together mean that you cannot share inappropriate jokes or even comments that might have negative implications in the workplace.

It is a safe rule of thumb that race, religion and sex are topics that are best avoided.

  1. Respect time

The truth is that we do not know what is going on in other people’s lives, and to send messages at unreasonable times is just plain rude. You might have a brilliant idea that you want to discuss with your partner or friend, but 2am is not the appropriate time to discuss it.

If you want to discuss work, stick to office hours.

If you want to remind someone of a meeting, 11pm is not the right time. And just because you are awake does not mean anyone else is.

  1. Don’t get into an argument on group platforms

SMS stands for ‘short message service’. So trying to write long essays is not going to work. If it doesn’t fit on the recipient’s cell phone screen, they’re not going to bother reading it.

Besides which, as mentioned above, whatever you say can be held against you in a court of law. Be very mindful of what you say to others because not everyone has the same understanding as you do.

Keep it short, simple and clean.

  1. Keep private things private

If a message can be deemed a criminal offence, according to the South African Legal Information Institute, then sending someone a lewd message or image may be construed as harassment and a sexual offence, or in the case of minors, child pornography. It then becomes a very serious matter indeed.

If you’re contemplating sending a risqué message and have even the slightest doubt, the short answer is: Don’t do it!

  1. No chain letters

No one likes them. No one wants them. Don’t send them. People cannot unsubscribe from a WhatsApp broadcast list, so don’t put them in a position where they get stuck receiving continuous messages from you.

It is very important to read your message very carefully before you send it, and ask yourself if it is really necessary to send right now. Ultimately, you are responsible for everything you share on social platforms, so remember to be mindful of others and remember that we all have different perspectives.

By Keshina Thaver