The Standard Bank Top Women Conference has established itself as one of the leading gatherings of the top entrepreneurial minds in the country. This year’s agenda was led not only by furthering the conversation around mental health in the workplace, addressing the digital gender divide and equality at all levels but, it honed in on the ‘she-cession’ and the tangible impact of COVID-19 on women in the workplace.
According to CNBC, approximately 64 million women lost their jobs last year which equates to 5% of the jobs that women have globally, whereas only 3.9% of men were affected. Considering that there are millions of female-headed households, this statistic is deeply alarming. Panel discussions throughout the conference tackled this topic in various manners. “We’ve always strived to create the environment where women can come together to tackle macro social issues that they face but to also tangibly deal with the most pressing business issues of the time,” explains Ralf Fletcher, CEO of Topco Media, the organisers of the conference. “This year we’re tremendously excited at the outcomes of the brave conversations that took place over two days and we’ll be using them to inform our masterclasses, further engagements and even conferences next year.”
Although, the conversation around women and work usually centres around established women. This year’s conference took a holistic view that touched on how Gen Z is key to reclaiming Africa’s future. An insightful panel discussion with Lindy-Lou Alexander, Group Head of Marketing: Consumer and High Net Worth Clients, Standard Bank Group, Kwena Mabotja, Global Director Purpose and Sustainability Marketing, SAP and Stafford Massie, Xoogler, WeWork Alumni & Tech Investor pointed out that “for you to hire Gen Z, you are going to have really rethink your organisational structure.” The boom of hybrid work is just one signal that organisations are starting to understand this yet, it still places disproportionate stress on women at home to excel in dual roles as caregivers and executives. Bridging the gap between solutions that benefit women of all generations is yet to happen globally.
Even though the conference typically brings together women in business this year also featured discussions with some of the country’s top athletes including, Bianca Buitendag, Olympic Surfer, Simphiwe Mendy Dludlu, former Banyana Banyana captain-turned-coach and Ria Ledwaba, Vice-President, The South African Football Association. They provided deep insight into how inequitable sports are from an opportunity and payment perspective in South Africa – with a long journey still to be traversed to make any meaningful change.
Overall, it was a jam-packed two days with over 10 000 women benefiting from brave conversations. The central take-away being that while there’s been a regression in terms of the representation by numbers of women at work, the collective consciousness and understanding of the steps needed to tackle the post-pandemic gender crisis exists at all levels.
“This year we reached more women than ever and we can’t wait to see these conversations flourish into action through powerful initiatives,” says Fletcher. This is just one component of SB Top Women, so if you know any incredible women then nominate them for this year’s Standard Bank Top Women Awards taking place on 4 November 2021.
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