Motherhood hinders growth for women
Motherhood hinders career growth for many women, but experts say mothers can combat this issue by upskilling while they are away from work.Research shows that having women in leadership roles helps companies perform better financially, and companies in Africa have certainly adopted this approach, seating more women on their boards and executive committees than the global average.
But only one in twenty of these women make it to the very top. Experts say starting a family is a big reason why this is happening. “It’s a big issue in the finance industry globally,” says Justin Kyriakou, International Development Manager for the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).AAT is an organisation that offers qualifications in practical skills development in accounting.
It has been operating in Botswana for the past 30 years with over 130,000 members and students worldwide. Approximately two thirds of AAT members and students are female.
“There’s a big gender pay gap in the sector because many highly-skilled women often put their careers on hold at middle management level to start a family, and then instead of progressing into senior management roles, either don’t return to work or stagnate in their current role.”In Botswana, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report published in 2018, the average age of women at the birth of their first child is 30-years-old, and an average of 84 days maternity leave is taken. This can have a negative effect on their career.
Leaving to start a family and then staying away from the workplace for long stretches of time makes it very difficult to return. But it has less to do with a person’s actual skills than it does with perceptions that permeate the business environment.In research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2008 titled ´Motherhood: A potential source of bias in employment decisions,’ negative expectations in terms of their commitment and dependability was found to be a major driver behind the bias against mothers in the workplace. The findings suggested that motherhood does hinder career advancement and that gender stereotypes are the source of motherhood’s negative consequences on career growth. Kenyan journalist, Kwamboka Ovaro, in an article about gender representation in leadership roles across the continent wrote:
“The belief among many Africans that a woman’s career should complement – not interfere with – her family responsibilities is a traditional notion of a woman’s role that fails to acknowledge the benefits of gender diversity to society.” This is a global issue too. According to research from the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), women in the workplace worldwide are still expected to shoulder more than 50 percent of childcare and other family duties, which essentially prevents them from working long hours. But to get promoted, a number of organisations can expect them to be assertive and work long hours. It’s a “double whammy” that can be very demotivating, the authors of the study noted.
“Mothers can suffer a lack of support from their employers when they return to their careers, and don’t receive enough help to balance their time between work and childcare, or have managers and colleagues who are inflexible with working hours or deadlines,” comments Kyriakou. “At the very worst, the difficulty of getting back into work can make some women leave their jobs entirely. Losing these women could be bad for employers because the business will lose their knowledge and skills and could suffer damage as a result.” For Kyriakou, tackling this issue must come from two places, starting with employers.
“Employers should try to ensure they stay in contact with those who have to take time out of their jobs,” he says. “If they are on maternity leave, ‘keep in touch’ days during that period could be arranged where the new mother can come in to see colleagues and perhaps do some work so that they stay connected to their team and can hit the ground running when they come back full-time.”
An organisation which offers flexible working solutions, AAT recently published a study comparing the productivity of a group of workers who set their own hours or working location against those who are not doing so, and found that the former benefit from feeling happier and less stressed.
Associate Professor Linda Ronnie, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Cape Town who participated in the GNAM research agrees that: “senior managers have the power to exacerbate or relieve the pressure employees are feeling to conform to perceived expectations.”On the other hand, says Kyriakou, the responsibility also falls on the mothers to keep their skills sharp.
“To give yourself the best chance of being able to return to your career after taking time out, it is important to keep on top of your career development, for example through some short training or studying for new qualifications,” he says. “It’s important to keep learning throughout life, not just for mothers, because technology and society move so fast that those who don’t keep learning soon get left behind.”
He says that with the renewed effort in Botswana to build the finance industry in trying to diversify its economy, AAT Botswana has seen a steady growth in the number of women enrolling in its courses. And many of them are mothers.
“We see students who have just had babies come to study for our qualifications,” he says, “because they are flexible and they can fit the studying around taking care of their babies. “And, of course, every business needs an accountant, so there is a lot of scope for women entering the finance industry.”He says that many of the women who have studied with AAT Botswana have gone on to start their own businesses with the skills they acquired.
FREE AT LAST: LGBTI persons celebrate
Thapelo Matshameko, a transgender woman who last year was attacked at Trekkers night club in Gaborone is over the moon about the High Court ruling that overturned a law that criminalised same sex relations.
A trans-woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. In response to the ruling, she told The Midweek Sun that even though she has had it tough before with people calling her ‘Brazen’ and to stop behaving like a woman, she is now happy that the law recognises that they exist. She said that Batswana are now becoming tolerant towards Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transgender and Intersex persons.
“Recently I went out for dinner with my bae, and I came all the way from my house wearing a dress. People that know me loved it and my boyfriend loved it even more,” she says, adding that the verdict will also help other LGBTI persons that are in the closet to come out.
In a previous interview Metshameko pleaded for assistance from members of the public to help her do a surgery that would make her a complete woman. For Motswakgakala Sithole also known as Motswafere in music circles, the ruling shows that Botswana is one step closer to gay marriages.
“Thank you to all the visible gay people. We take punches for those hiding and those shaming us for being visible and exercising our rights. You guys attended court cases with pride and you have carried us to freedom,” he said.
He also thanked Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), lawyers in the case, the media, and friends of the LGBTI community for their support. Phio Kenosi who identifies as trans non-binary asexual woma-romantic, (romantically attracted to the feminine essence), was also ecstatic.
“It is obviously showing that we are moving in a new direction that is positive and inclusive towards sexual and gender minority,” he said.
Wame – a little einstein in the making
Wame Petit Kangumbe, 12, is an Optometrist in the making.
Kangumbe envisions taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to the next level by inventing something scientific in the future.The standard 7 pupil at Ratsie Setlhako Primary School in Palapye impressed everyone during the BIUST 5th STEM Festival and Research and Innovation Symposium with her sharp answers during the fest.
The little Scientist believes that the entire country should embrace science and do more experiments, to find out more about our physical environment and shed dependency on foreign countries in terms of Science and Engineering.
Her secret to relating with different topics so well, is research and more research. “I like researching. We have Wi-Fi at home, and so I often use my mother’s phone to type different topics and interact with how everything is related. I always prepare for the next lesson through researching,” she said.
She said the poverty in Africa can only be eliminated through STEM. “If everyone could take interest in STEM, we would go further in terms of uplifting the status of our economies as African countries,” she said.
She urged her peers to believe in themselves and be serious about their education. “When you write down your notes in class, make an application of what you want out of them. Everyone’s life is in their own hands,” she advised.
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