Gender Discrimination: Women’s Perspective

Some time ago I did a qualitative study with a small group of women. The aim was to gain an indication of gender equality in the work place as well as issues around the topic. The women interviewed were at executive, senior or middle management level within companies or institutions or in private practice. The industries covered: financial services, investments, media, information technology, law and medicine.


The woman who experienced no gender inequality is an actuary. She progressed very fast through the ranks. The category of women who experienced less discrimination (irrespective of race) are those who work in specialist fields: investments, law and medicine. BEE has definitely made it possible for Black women to leverage off legislation when it came to being appointed to positions.

Women in large corporations, experienced discrimination with regard to remuneration, benefits, promotion and career opportunities. Many experienced a paternalistic attitude with derogatory comments and chauvanistic attitudes from male colleagues. None of them took any notice of this and focussed on their work. Several women irrespective of race, feel that large companies are still being driven and managed by male values. There is a lack of warmth, care and balance. Instead the culture is being dominated by ego and power plays.

In specialised fields the women feel they are more readily accepted due to their qualifications. Qualifications obtained overseas have added even further credibility.

Several women commented that the view among men is still that women are incompetent until they can prove their competence. Whereas men are treated in the opposite way i.e. a man is perceived as competent until he proves otherwise. Most women felt that they still have to prove themselves in a man’s world.

What women bring to the workplace

There was unilateral agreement that women bring compassion, deeper understanding and warmth to the work place. They feel they bring greater authenticity: they are just themselves at work as opposed to wearing masks. Women feel they relate to soft issues and respect feelings more than men do.  Women have a wider range of emotions that enable them to relate to others more comfortably than men. They also will not hesitate to show their human side which creates a safe space for others to be themselves and to communicate more openly.

Women feel they juggle multiple responsibilities often far beyond their Key Performance Areas. Women are seen as playing an active role in breaking down stereotypes and paradigms. Thereby sending out the message that they are highly competent at what they do.

Personal drivers

It came through very strongly that status and titles are unimportant to the women interviewed. The question of what is perceived as success was also questioned. Success is more about making a difference in others’ lives than achieving something for yourself. Some of the women do not agree with women who model themselves on men or play games to progress or who are outspoken liberalists. They feel that being a champion for women does not mean that you hate men.

Several women feel there is still the assumption that women are not competent and do not know what they are doing. This perception is a motivator for many women to do well in their fields. It is a perception that still exists today.

Two of the women interviewed are champions for social issues with the need to give something back into their community. Both of them happen to be Black.

Findings in summary

  • There is less discrimination in specialised fields eg actuarial, investments, law, medicine.
  • There seems to be definite discrimination irrespective of race in large institutions and companies that are white male and especially white Afrikaner male dominated.
  • Married women are as hard working and put in as much effort as their single counterparts.
  • BEE legislation has made it easier for Black women to be appointed to positions.
  • Women are passionate about their work and enjoy what they do.
  • Status and titles are unimportant.
  • Women bring compassion and deeper understanding to the workplace.
  • Women’s passion for their work opens doors for them.
  • Women who had sponsors are in the minority.
  • Work life balance remains a challenge and source of inner conflict.
  • Women are organised and deliver results.
  • There is still not gender equality with regard to running the household and parenting.

As women we need to step into our greatness and honour the crucial role we play in bringing care, warmth and acceptance to the workplace.  Through empowering ourselves we contribute significantly to the well-being of those around us. This however, can not happen at the expense of our own needs and well-being.

It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to.   African proverb

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.   Malala Yousafzai

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.    Anais Nin

Posted in Women.