Women in business, especially those working in traditionally male-dominated sectors, should not hesitate to be their authentic selves.

 “We don’t actually do a service to gender advancement when we try to assimilate to the male norm. Don’t be afraid to be a woman,” Kate Hofmeyr, evidence leader advocate in the Zondo Commission, told those attending the 2021 GIBS Women in Business Breakfast.

A panel of extraordinary and successful women made up this year’s Women in Business Breakfast, held virtually and hosted by Dr. Morris Mthombeni, interim dean at GIBS. They told of their experiences in corporate South Africa and shared thoughts and opinions on Women’s Day and what needs to be done to continue empowering women in South Africa.

Advocate Shamila Batohi, prosecutor and the national director of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority, said: “The fact that we even need to have a Women’s Day and month is sad; it shows how far we still have to go.”

Despite a great conviction rate, she said a “horrific” number of women were killed and raped in South Africa. “It is a poor reflection on society that so much needs to be done so that women are not violated in the most basic way, every day.”

Peggy-Sue Khumalo, a former CEO of Standard Bank Wealth, an experienced financial professional and former Miss South Africa, added: “The struggles that women face today are so deep-rooted. There is so much more the country needs to do to support women and truly empower them.”

“We have a long way to go to ensure that women have the same platform as men,” a business news anchor and producer at eNCA, Rofhiwa Madzena, told the forum. “We need to fight for our freedom and defend it every day – defend our livelihoods and our actual lives. The government of today is not accommodating enough, and it feels like a one-sided fight. There definitely needs to be some change.”

The fact that many workplaces remain dominated by men means that aggressive behaviour continues to be often overlooked, whereas women were expected to “be a rock and not show emotion or cry”, said the founder of Shop.Hellenrose, an e-commerce platform that showcases women-owned brands, Lerato Kgamanyane. “Let women be delicate. Let us be soft. Let us be who we want to be. It doesn’t take anything away from our strength.”

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