The outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela called out for the society to learn to give women a chance to lead while she lamented that the SA society is neither willing nor ready to give room for women to lead.
Speaking on Wednesday at the Top Women Conference held at Emperor’s Palace, the well-respected and highly placed advocate said while reflecting on her position as Public Protector, that the society is not ready for women to lead.
Madonsela called out for women to be equally represented as the men are all areas of society as she pointed out that she became a public protector with the help of other women who nominated her for the job. “I said, why me? Why not me?… I have a duty to pay it forward even if I am preaching to the choir.”
Speaking on the level of development attained in gender equality in South Africa over the past 60 years, advocate Thuli said: “Today is better than yesterday… but things could be even better if we did things differently.”
She said in the next 14 years, women should be equally represented in the society ,because their expertise, endeavours and leadership is needed in the decision making that will bring lasting change in the country.
Madonsela went on to explain that gender equality is an extension of Ubuntu. “The core of Ubuntu is group survival, the essence of Ubuntu is to look after the welfare of every member of the group, to optimize the well-being of the entire group.”
Contrasting the public and private sector in terms of how women are represented, the advocate said the public sector leads the private sector in leadership. But numbers do not necessarily mean more power. “Some women have power, but others are proxies,” said Madonsela.
“As a proxy, someone else is pulling the strings and you can’t make the impact you want to,” said Madonsela. In the private sector there may be fewer women represented in leadership but they are making life changing decisions for companies, which are their own, she explained. “Being a proxy is more dangerous, decisions are made based on others, and these decisions are attributed to women.”
Madonsela who has less than seven weeks before handing over the reins as Public Protector, explained the importance of achieving the 50:50 gender parity goal by the year 2030 saying business shows that achieving 50:50 parity is better for companies in that there are better profits, ethical decision-making and improved welfare of staff.
Investing in diversity brings more diverse ideas for improvement in decision-making processes. Generally, society does better in terms of its development if there is gender equality, said Madonsela as she urged government to learn from business and try to let go of leadership to women and see what difference it will make.
“Change also starts in families. Men should take more responsibilities at home, the women shouldn’t have to rush to pick up the children from preschool. And equally, women should not be shocked when they see men picking up their children from preschool,” Madonsela noted.
She went on to encourage the women to try to take up leadership roles for the benefit of the country. “If women are to lead, they must do what is required to earn a place to do what they want to do,” She added