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Creating an Environment for Women to Rise

11 August 2021

The pandemic may have set gender parity progress back by a generation according to the World Economic Forum.

There’s also been an increase in gender-based violence, primarily linked to lockdowns. And there’s an increasing financial gap between men and women. As the global economy slowly recovers and we embrace the new normal, how are women being empowered to live in a post-pandemic world?

In celebration of Women’s Month this year, four of Sanlam’s leaders shared what the 9th of August means to them, along with their suggestions for navigating uncertainty and how to live with confidence.

You Don’t Have to Be ‘Every Woman’

We’ve spent the better part of the past 18 months being strong, courageous, resilient ‘all-rounders’ and about 100 other adjectives that essentially all amount to being self-sacrificing. And it’s enough. We don’t have to be ‘every woman’, says Kanyisa Mkhize, CEO of Sanlam Corporate. My wish for my mother, my sister and every other woman in South Africa is that they entertain, even for a second, the idea of taking care of themselves and filling their own cups.

Over this time, I’ve learnt the importance of being grateful for every moment. Of being more present with family and friends. I’m prioritising my health and wellbeing and that of my colleagues. To keep the spirit of the women who marched in 1956 alive, we need to invest in ourselves – financially, mentally and physically.

Data from Stats SA (December 2020) found that 41.8% of South African households were female-headed, highlighting the significant financial pressure women are under. And of the three million job losses during the 2020 lockdowns, two million were women. Financial equality is critical and we need to actively increase the opportunities for women (that want to) to earn their own income and accumulate assets. We need to make it imperative to remove any structural/socio-economic barriers to this. And where a woman has chosen to work – we should fight to close the gender pay gap so that, in each household, there is a level playing field when it comes to earning potential.

There is no middle ground. It is either we do something about it and reap the benefits that come with having more of the population economically engaged, or we do nothing and allow our socio-economic ills to overcome us a society.

The Power of Financial Confidence

Financial inclusion for women means more economic opportunities. More importantly, it represents the opportunity to change the social outcomes of generations of women. If anything, the pandemic has taught me that women need to strive towards financial literacy and build their financial confidence, says Natalie Jabangwe, Group Digital Executive Officer at Sanlam.

My advice to women is to use every opportunity to learn about managing your money and making it work for you. Whether you’d like to learn how to budget, save, set financial goals, or something else – use your connection to the digital world to access the tools that will help you.

For me, living with confidence is having the courage to start something, despite the challenges. It’s harnessing our deep experiences and failures, in business and life, to craft solid plans to achieve our goals.

Avoid Dwelling on Things You Can’t Control

I believe that now more than ever, women throughout the world are struggling to navigate their identity in the workplace, at home and in social spaces. The realities we face today are different from what our mothers experienced, not to mention the added pressure of social media and trying to keep up with the Khumalos. However, we need to forgive ourselves for not meeting everyone’s expectations and most importantly, our own. We have it in our DNA to support and inspire, but we cannot do it if we don’t take care of ourselves.

This Women’s Month, Liesl Myburgh, CEO at Sanlam Collective Investments, would like to challenge all the women in South Africa to avoid dwelling on things that are out of their control. Do your research, do the planning, and if things don’t necessarily go according to plan, learn the lesson and see how you can do things better next time. Living with confidence doesn’t mean you’ll always have absolute control over how things turn out. But with persistence, and by celebrating the small wins, over time you will have guaranteed success. Take control of what you can, even if it’s just scheduling an hour each day to write down one thing you’d like to achieve. This will give you a sense of comforting structure and accomplishment.

‘Each One Teach One’

The work for women is ongoing. We cannot be truly happy while some of us still face unemployment, poor health and poverty. I believe we all have a role to play in helping women feel financially confident and fostering greater economic inclusion, says Abigail Mukhuba, Group Financial Director of Sanlam. This pandemic has shaped how I show up as a leader in the workplace, every decision I make should always have a positive ripple effect. It is important to me that my place of work isn’t merely profit-driven but has a greater purpose to advance women- and humankind.

My wish this Women’s Month is that we all recognise our uniqueness rather than focusing on our weaknesses. Whether it be in the workplace or at home, we need to lead with the purpose of motivating and celebrating each other – an ‘each one teach one’ approach. We all have a role to play in our respective areas of influence and if anything, the pandemic has taught us the power of coming together to have a greater impact.

Everyone Can Help Build Financial Confidence

We urge our corporate contemporaries to join us in finding real, sustainable ways to financially include women, from promoting deserving candidates and paying people fairly to fostering flexibility and providing fair maternity and paternity leave. Importantly, employers can also play a pivotal role in providing regular financial education to employees, even if this is through informal monthly meetups or discussion groups. It’s these kinds of innovations that move the needle and build financial confidence.

Sanlam Life Insurance is a licensed financial service provider.
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