International Women's Day: SA women are doing it for themselves

2017-03-08 10:38 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
Post a comment 0

Cape Town - The world is celebrating International Women's Day on Wednesday, 8 March.

While women around the globe and in our very own Mzansi are breaking past glass ceilings, making things happen for themselves and just getting stuff done on their own terms, there is no denying they face a large degree of challenges in the process.

International Women's day means we not only get to reflect on victories for women - but continue to highlight the inequality of the sexes globally. 

Women still earn less than men 

Pay disparities are still very much a reality as is the perception that women are less capable than men in certain professions.

According to Statista, the antiquated attitudes and gender stereotypes that define women as being less capable than men in performing certain tasks is most prevalent in the following countries. This chart shows percent of citizens of selected countries who think men are more capable than women: 

Infographic: Many Still Think of Women as Less Capable | Statista

Why do women work abroad?  

As seen in the study above, women face many challenges in order to be viewed in the same light as men, professionally. Almost half of the women who currently live abroad, 46% to be exact, mentioned their job or business as a reason for expatriating. This share is still lower than among their male counterparts, of which seven out of ten (71%) say the same. 

Based on the insights of more than 6 000 women given in the annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations, the world’s largest network for people who live and work abroad, Luxembourg, Taiwan, and Germany top the chart as the best places for women to work. They all do particularly well for women’s job security.

More surprisingly, Hungary and Bahrain follow just behind in the top five, performing extremely well for job satisfaction and career opportunities for women. 

And male dominated professions? 

It's no secret that the aviation industry is very much a male-dominated one. 

But, some women are taking to the sky, bashing through those glass ceilings in steering their own lives to greater heights. Case in point is captain pilot for and British Airways Kanthum du Plessis, who would not let this 'man's world' keep her from following her dreams to become a pilot.  

She says, "Perseverance is key as it can be a difficult industry to break into. The best advice that I can give is to find a mentor in the industry that you can learn from and who can offer you the insights that you need to land the perfect job at the perfect airline."  

Du Plessis is inviting other women to follow her lead, saying that there "is definitely a lot of room for women to become a force to be reckoned with, not just in the airline environment, but also in charter and corporate flying, airline engineering and flight instruction." 

'Motherhood vs Career'

She admits that the 'Motherhood vs Career' challenge is still an issue in the South African work space.

"As employers and as a country, we need to stress the importance of embracing women as mothers and career women and provide women with coping strategies as well as working environments to make being a mom and a successful career woman possible," she says.   

The challenges make the rewards sweeter, however. Du Plessis says that one of her fondest flight experiences as a pilot was when "I was still a new First Officer and, back then, a brand-new Mom. I got the chance to fly my 6-month-old baby girl and husband to their destination." 

Kanthum du Plessis

ALSO SEE: Women in Tourism: 'More respect, recognition and representation'

Paving the way through  

South Africa - and South African women especially - are taking the lead on innovation on a global scale when it comes to airlines. In this year's Airbus Fly Your Ideas competition, a Wits University team of four ladies making up Team Aero Squad are in the run for their passenger experience innovation set to reduce aisle congestion and boarding delays.

SEE: SA team from Wits makes top 50 in Airbus global aviation competition

The team says they drew on personal travel experiences to improve on current designs, coming up with the elevator luggage compartment for the Passenger Experience Category. Through their innovation the team envisages changing and easing the entire in-flight congestion experience.

The elevator luggage compartment focuses on eliminating aisle congestion before take-off and after landing caused by passengers trying to get their luggage in overhead compartments - through a luggage compartment that is located directly above the seated passenger.

This allows passengers to embark and immediately take their seats with their luggage in hand. Once seated, they may lower a compartment directly above them to a level low enough for them to place their luggage in the provided space, all whilst seated.

How smart is that!? Give it up for SA's smartest airline innovators on Women's Day, and every other day too! 

Photo: Supplied


What to read next on Traveller24

SA team from Wits makes top 50 in Airbus global aviation competition

SA women complete 'humbling' 16 000km journey through Africa in aid of ellies

Women in Tourism: 'More respect, recognition and representation'