As we turn our attention to Women’s Day this week, we should consider how far we have come in helping women and girls reach a more secure and empowered situation. What are some of the initiatives being conducted for women and girls?
I am closely involved with the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) of South Africa in my work as a trainer and manager. All SETAs are concerned with education and they all strive to priorities women and people with disabilities in their activities.
The great thing about working with the SETAs is that they ensure training companies meet quality and equity standards. If a company offers SETA-accredited training, you can be confident it will make a real difference to trainees and interns. So how do the SETAs help women?
We can look to the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA) for examples of some excellent initiatives. The PSETA focuses on training public servants and it’s very important that we have equitable representation within the public service so that a variety of voices are heard and taken into account into the everyday governing of the nation. The same is of course true for all the SETAs.
Many companies hold the Cell C “Take a Girl Child to Work Day”, which has been going strong for 17 years! This year 700 organisations took part. This year’s theme was “Facing Fear, Embracing Ambition”. The event gives learners the opportunity to gain exposure in the workplace, and they are also assisted in planning their future career. Thus these girls have a wonderful opportunity to get to know what really goes on in the working world, something schooling systems have long not really addressed.
Companies need not wait for “Take a Girl Child to Work Day” each year, or focus only on girls. Women, people with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds should also be given an opportunity, even if only for one day, to gain insight into the working world. Sometimes they lack confidence or exposure and just need a window into the possibilities open to them. Being in an office environment and observing business executives and managers in action in the workplace can give a person more confidence in entering this world.
Many business operations and processes can be explained and observed so that people will better understand what will be expected of them in the workplace, and how various business departments and professionals work in unison. It can trigger their interest in a certain profession and help them upskill themselves to fit that role.
Why not use this Women’s Day to bring women from disadvantaged backgrounds into your workplace and show them how your company operates and discuss the types of skills your company needs? (Similar initiatives can be held on World Disability Day on 3 December, SA Youth Day on 16 November, etc.)
This is just the beginning, however. With confidence-building comes the desire to act on one’s dreams. Training makes many dreams come true such as financial independence, self-actualisation, career satisfaction, and the ability to pay it forward.
There are a number of ways to do this. I will focus on the role of Further Education and Training (FETC) specifically. FETC is important because it hones specific skills needed in specific occupations. There are so many FETC accredited courses which ensure that professionals in all types of industries know their duties and follow correct procedures. This is for everything from insurance brokers to occupational safety and HIV/AIDS awareness training.
FETC colleges are great because they give women so much scope to explore the field that most interested in. If done as part of accredited staff training, it comes with SARS tax incentives so that companies’ expenditure on training ends up being very low. Accredited training companies can offer training which pretty much pays for itself.
Some important skills for women and girls to learn are in IT and computer use, particularly Microsoft (MS) programs and also coding. Concern has been expressed that the more male-dominated fields, including IT, can lead to women’s needs being neglected. This is because technology now pervades almost every facet of our existence but women’s needs can differ, while men might not realise that they have not taken this into account in their algorithms and coding. If too few women are involved in IT, it will disadvantage them.
There are thus initiatives such as “Girls Who Code”. These and other STEM-related initiatives and training show women and girls that they don’t need to be stuck in archaic roles where they are beholden to others and have little decision-making power.
One of the most awesome PSETA initiatives is “Help a Learner Apply” whereby people are assisted in applying at education institutions. Training companies also often come into the workplace at the application stage so that staff and managers are taken through the process and everything goes smoothly.
A critical IT foundation is office-related technology. Training in the MS office suite is very useful and helps people work faster, stay organised, and present their work in a more professional manner. Programs such as Word, Excel, Outlook, web browsers, and similar programs do need to be taught at some stage, whether at school or in the workplace. In-depth MS training makes for very efficient and confident employees and it should be noted that women tend to dominate in administrative roles.
Employees who struggle to use the tools available will be less productive and stressed. Sadly, companies do still neglect staff training and have too high expectations of employees, placing them in roles they are not equipped for. There is also a perception that youths know everything about IT. This is not true. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially girls, do not have as much access to technology. They are most in need of employment, but they do need training.
BEHIND THE SCENES – Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.
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