FEMALE PERSPECTIVE

Diving into the female perspective

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In the modern world of technology, societal voices and opinions are louder now more than ever before and they can easily affect a business’s reputation. One thread on twitter can usher in a riot against a specific brand or organisation. All it takes is one angry customer to bear the torch on a grievance and the rest of the world to join in on the hype by showing support, in some extreme cases, it goes as far as turning into a competition of whose bad experiences with the same brand or company beat the other. We all know how bad that is for business. This is why it’s imperative for people in positions of power to look around them and check if their surroundings are inclusive and represent everyone.

Diversity and inclusion can be viewed as a company’s mission, strategies and practices to support a diverse workplace and leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive advantage. Diversity is about mirroring our consumer base, it is not limited to gender, sexual orientation, race or the usual stereotypical measures. But rather it looks at openness, acceptance and an excellent representation of people from all walks of life. A report conducted by PWC showed that out of the 40 JSE listed companies, there was only 1 female CEO. How can we cater to women’s needs if we can’t comprehend them?

Someone is always going to be a victim of the system. A system whose flexibility is casually masked, a system whose rules allow for certain crucial characteristics to be omitted in the corporate world of business. Particularly the number of diverse skills available in the corporate pool. It turns out that an organisation or company’s returns are the top priority. Forgetting that diversity gives any organisation the competitive advantage, somehow the world underestimates the power of diversity in the workplace.

BBQ sat with some inspirational women breaking the glass ceiling. These women shared their journey and experience with regards to diversity: Yvonne Scott who is an HR Advisor at South Africa’s Bombadier Transportation and Mantwa Chinoamadi who is the Producer of the Oldest Jazz Festival in South Africa, the Joy of Jazz Festival. According to Scott “There is a mounting body of evidence that indicates a strong link between diversity and inclusivity in the workforce and a positive financial performance. It has been proved that diverse, inclusive groups are better at identifying risks. In addition, companies which have been embracing diversity and inclusivity enjoy a lower staff turnover rate. Diversity and inclusivity promote increased creativity and innovation and are critical in harnessing a company’s full potential,” she explains.

Diversity and inclusivity, however, are about more than creating an open and equitable environment that does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, culture or gender. It’s about truly embracing the different ideas, perspectives, skills and experiences brought to the table by all employees.

To quote the chief operating officer for Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, who is also a renowned champion for women’s participation in business. “We need to resist the tyranny of low expectations. We need to open our eyes to the inequality that remains. We won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.”

“At my workplace, Bombardier is a global organisation with an inclusive workplace and a diverse workforce. Bombardier is committed to providing a work environment free of barriers and biases, a place where independence and dignity are fostered for all employees, clients and stakeholders. This is key to the success and sustainability of our company.

“Our employees have created different ways to improve diversity and inclusion, different networks, committees and events,” she adds.

“At Bombardier, we believe it is every employee’s responsibility to maintain a respectful work environment free of all discrimination. Bombardier has zero tolerance towards any type of harassment and/or discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, disability or veteran status, or any other protected category under applicable laws and our Business Code of Ethics,” she explains.

“Even though we experience natural turnover challenges as any organisation, we remain committed to the professional development and greater inclusion of female employees in managerial roles supporting profitability and sustainability of our organisation. We also embrace the role of women in broader society and work to promote gender diversity in the transport industry as a whole. Bombardier is a member of several different diversity associations operating within the aviation sector, including Women in Aviation International and sponsors scholarships to support the development of women in the sector. In addition, Bombardier is an advocate for the Women in Rail community and the company participates in a variety of conferences and work sessions focused on supporting women in driving their careers forward,” she says.

“Bombardier firmly believes that gender diversity and women in leadership are essential elements of our long-term success in South Africa. With the goal to make our operations in South Africa more attractive to female employees and encourage more heterogeneous teams, we are exploring the concept of launching a Women Empowerment Committee (WEC), to increase our involvement in Women in engineering initiatives and to enhance the Prevention of Harassment in our organization and across our sites. These initiatives will help us to increase diversity and greater involvement of women, as together we move millions of people daily globally. Everyone counts,” she concludes.

Mantwa Chinoamadi was born in Soweto and grew up in Chiawelo. Her education background is as follows: Her foundation or early learning was done at Molapo, she proceeded to Limpopo for high school and tertiary, and further graduated in the street corners of Johannesburg influenced by Jazz.

When asked how she got into the industry she explains:

“Technically it’s in my DNA, that being the case my aftercare premises were Tladi Musicman’s office which automatically became my internship. Whilst awaiting my ride home one lucky day my designated driver happened to be my caretaker. During my long waits at T Music man, I would help out with answering the phone and other administration work. I loved doing that as it fulfilled my dream of being the best project manager until I complimented my studies in project management,” Chinoamadi explains.

She is the producer of the oldest Jazz Festival in South Africa, “being a producer means you are practically the engine of a train that needs couches, wheels, coal to move on the bells and whistles for it to be in motion and safely reach its destination. I engage and work with a lot of teams from Talent search, Sellers and managers. My team consists of different departments within the entertainment sector, PR, Marketing, Sound, Stage, Hospitality, Transport etc,” she explains.

Being a woman in such a traditionally male-dominated world has had its fair share of challenges. But Chinoamadi handles it gracefully and assertively. “My passion and strength always make me concur most of the time. I present myself as a winner who doesn’t have to compete. I don’t even feel that this space is male-dominated. I guess I just multiply myself,” she says.

“South Africa’s oldest Jazz Festival, The Joy of Jazz was founded by Peter Tladi. He travelled the world touring with artists. After his many visits to other festivals, he realised that the artists that we manage needed to perform. In those days there were not many festivals. We then conceptualized and created the JOY of JAZZ series. We started in Pretoria at the State Theatre and moved to Newtown because the venue was small. A few years ago, after filling the capacity downtown, we moved to Sandton Convention Centre,” she explains.

The festival has contributed immensely to social cohesion, economic growth and cultural tourism in South Africa, both on a local and national scale. “The aspect of social cohesion is the glue of the festival, it involves the 3 spheres of government. Through the festival we further involve the local, national and international communities,” she says.

“We are thrilled that the SBJOJ platform plays a major role in cultural exchange amongst musicians, most importantly it is a platform where are our SMME’s get to sell directly to the festival patriots at the Jazz market and our international visitors take a piece of South Africa with them to their respective countries, ensuring there is cultural exchange,”

“The festival contributes billions to the economy a brief look from last year’s presentation from just one tour group brought in by Advantage International Travel from Chicago shows that we had 100 visitors who came through our national carrier SAA $17 000, spent in 5 days in Johannesburg contributed $330 000 accommodation and catering and $85000 is estimated to have been spent on shopping. For the 2019 installment from the USA alone through the Friends of Wynton Marslis we registered 75 visitors and from our partnerships with tour operators have registered 100. As you can imagine with other artists and their followers there are large numbers, which is definitely what tourism is about,“she explains.

There are many things that define women in South Africa. “I play in a very challenging industry that is male-dominated which rattles my feathers and invokes the core being of me. I was raised by a very strong woman, my mom, a woman full of wisdom. I look up to my sister Jane Tladi an epitome of strength and integrity.

“I am that kind of person that says when all fails to bring it to me, I will find a breakthrough. Seeing growth and prosperity in women drives me, I am passionate about it,” she explains.

Chinoadi defines heritage as: “For me and my clan, Heritage is a way of living, it is an expression of the ways of living in a specific community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values.

Of course, for me, Jazz is one of our customs. I celebrate it by giving you the SBJOJ, for me, it is not a once-off celebration it is who I am, throughout the year. I live breath and love my heritage which is Jazz, I further express myself by practicing the customs it encompasses including eating and dressing up as a moLemvhe.

Her thoughts on transformation in the Jazz industry sector? “Where do I begin, in the past years we have grown the segment of women performing at the festival, and not only did we do that, we took it a step further by making it a point that each year we have a young and upcoming artist. Last year it was Thandi Ntuli and this year we have Nelisiwe. We also promote collaborations,” she says.

She hopes one day her legacy will be centered around the development of black women as she is a feminist.

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