On International Women’s Day, the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report has little encouragement for women – at the current pace of transformation, it will take 108 years globally and 135 years in sub-Saharan Africa before gender parity across all indicators is achieved.
This year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter, is a call to action for accelerating gender balance in a world in which inequality is widening. The representation of women on boards of South African corporates remains dismally low, despite a body of research that confirms that female leadership leads to stronger companies.
Christelle Colman, Managing Director of Elite Risk Acceptances, a tailored short-term insurance offering for high-net-worth (HNW) individuals, highlights the importance of finding the right balance. “Many women want it all. They want a career, while at the same time wanting to be a good partner and mother. Women by nature are great multitaskers, but when attempting to juggle so many balls in the air, eventually something will have to give. It’s important to be realistic in order to be successful.”
Colman offers some life hacks to women in the pursuit of breaking through the corporate gender imbalance while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
1. Build a brand
Use the platform that social media provides to build a strong, professional personal brand and to stay connected with the global community. Always be mindful of what you are posting, these platforms often serve as a first impression for many employers and can prove to be the key differentiator between you and your dream job.
2. Ignore jealousy
There will always be some sort of envy in the workplace, whether it is gender orientated or a form of hierarchical jealousy. The key is to focus on the task at hand and ensure you are clear about your own career goals in order to not lose focus.
3. Money talks
My advice for women to overcome this hurdle is to lean in and insist on earning your due. Our constitution promotes gender equality at all times and it is firmly within your rights to insist in being paid an equal salary to men. If you are in a position of power, make sure you bring the change you would like to see in the workplace paving the way for those still making their way up the ladder.
4. A man is not a plan
There is no doubt in my mind, that one of the most important milestones in a woman’s life is true financial independence. Make sure that you are in full control of your financial wellbeing. Whilst we cannot deny the amazing feeling of achievement when owning that first Louis Vuitton handbag, buying it cash with your own money is really what it is all about!
5. Join a club
Make time and effort to join a female networking club, such as Future Females. Here you will find likeminded women to network with, who will also understand your unique challenges as a woman in business and they will provide support through testing times.
6. Find your style
Being a working mother means that we have no time. If you are clear on your personal fashion style and you keep it simple, your life will be so much easier. Dressing in the morning and packing for business trips become a breeze. My advice is first and foremost to stick with a colour theme such as black, white and cream with a splash of red on the lips (advice taken from Coco Chanel).
7. Health is wealth
It does not matter how busy you are – there is always time to exercise. When your children are young, find a trainer and go to the gym at 5am. That means you will never have an excuse not to go and your exercise regime will be done by the time your family wakes up. You have to be unapologetic about this alone time because your health is your wealth.
In closing, Colman stresses the importance of being your authentic self. It will give you the opportunity to lead by example at all times. It is true that if you are living your authentic self, you will never have any competition.”