Celebrating the Women of Smoke CI

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In 1956, 2000 South African women staged a march to the Union Buildings in protest of amendments to the Urban Areas Act. They acted against the proposed bill while showing unity and strength. The demonstration also forever added the phrase “When you have touched the woman, you have touched a rock” to our local lexicon. Sixty-three years later, we commemorate this day of action and continue to celebrate the strong, passionate and vibrant women of South Africa.

At Smoke Customer Intelligence, we hold uniqueness and diversity close to our hearts. This Women’s Day we are celebrating the intelligence, vibrancy and passion the ladies of Smoke CI bring to our clients and our business. We sat down with some of the dynamic ladies in our team to chat with them about women in the workplace and to get their advice for young ladies entering the workforce.

Nicole

Equality in the workplace needs to be balanced by equality in other areas of our lives. This is not something women can simply demand. Men need to buy into is as well.

Nicola Thomson, Strategic Account Manager

Gender equality in the workplace is an interesting conversation and one that I believe Smoke CI is actively trying to get right. I think however that the challenge lies within the expectation’s society, and often women themselves, place on each other. It’s a fine balance. In South Africa, I think that we are still at the beginning of the journey to true equality. As women, we are expected to run our households and raise our children, while at the same time carving out careers. Often this very balancing act is seen as a risk to organisations, placing us at a disadvantage. We are expected to be high-fliers while still being home for dinner time. To not neglect our significant others, but still remember to take time for ourselves. To excel at everything, but still get 8 hours sleep a night. No wonder we are exhausted. To me, equality in the workplace needs to be balanced by equality in other areas of our lives. This is not something women can simply demand. Men need to buy into it as well. Some men have, others, not yet. There is no doubt that women can accomplish great things, but this expectation of “super womanhood” can leave us at risk of trying to be everything to everyone all at once. What does equality mean? We are innately different from our male colleagues – we show emotions differently, we problem solve differently, and we engage with people differently. I don’t think women need to strive to be “the same” to achieve equality and success. I think that if women focus on their strengths, and determine which area’s they want to excel in, be it at home, at work, in their relationships or any combination of these, they will shoot the lights out and be game changers. Women underestimate the power of the change they hold.”

Allison Jansen

For organisations to flourish, women need an equal seat at the table with ideas and innovations being gathered from all corners of the business .

Allison Jansen, Strategic Account Manager

It is a sad fact that the gender pay gap continues to be a struggle women all over the world face. According to the World Economic Forum, globally, women earn on average 63% of what men earn, and it is predicted it will take 20 decades to close this gap for good. Fortunately, there are organisations like Smoke CI leading the change, but it remains a pervasive challenge for women on all levels of society and education. To me, the gender gap is far more than simple remuneration. For organisations to flourish, women need an equal seat at the table. It is a pleasure to work for an organisation where ideas and innovations are gathered from all corners of the business and gender is a non-issue. To me, the value and importance of women in the workplace is encapsulated in a quote by Iyanla Vanzant “The Queen establishes and maintains harmony in the kingdom”. This quote so beautifully paints the picture of the softer skills women bring into teams and organisations. As a Queen, we are unbending, decisive and powerful, but we are also able to display love and care to our roles and the people we interact with. Women are notoriously good at “multitasking” and so contribute to the flexibility and agility of our teams. A woman’s innate ability to be equally creative and analytical, while remaining caring and engaged, plays a massive role in the success of any organisation. For young ladies just starting their career journey, I have only one nugget of advice. Confidence in who you are and dedication to what you want to achieve is all you need. Confidence gives you a voice, and dedication to your journey allows you to embrace learnings to become the best version of yourself as you grow in your career. Oh, and another thing, never accept less of anything simply because of your gender!”

Lauren van Stavel

Be authentically who you are. Be fierce. Be kind. Be driven. Show up with grit, determination and passion every day in all that you do. Embrace your role. Have an inquiring mind. Be kind and caring.

Lauren van Stavel, Head of Human Capital

As a woman, we have the privilege, more so today than ever before, of being able to choose our unique roles and actively pursue our goals. We can choose to be women in power, stay-at-home mothers, work flexi-hours, be academics, career women, breadwinners, really anything our hearts desire. More importantly, though, we can also choose how we wish to show up in these roles. That being said, however, according to the International Labour Organisation’s recent report, the global gender employment gap has shrunk by less than 2 percentage points over the past 27 years. What’s even more alarming, is that both men and women’s employment rates have declined globally. The report also indicates that women are still 26% less likely to be employed than men. Women continue to be employed in occupations that are of lower skill, with worse working conditions. Of big concern is that in more than 90% of sub-Saharan African countries, women are exposed to informal employment to a much greater extent than the rest of the world. This leaves local women under-represented in managerial and leadership positions. I do believe that gender equality globally is on the rise, but this will take time. In the interim, those of us privileged enough to have beaten the statistics need to actively contribute. As women, and indeed, people, we need to ensure that we work hard to pursue our goals and dreams. We should offer a helping hand to others by embracing mentoring and creating opportunities for young women. Each one of us always has the responsibility to use our voices smartly to advocate for and represent women. At Smoke CI, we embrace women, see their worth and offer equal opportunities. We reward hard work and value our people, irrespective of gender. To all my fellow females, whether starting out or in the midst of a career, authentically be who you are. Be fierce. Be kind. Be driven. Show up with grit, resilience, determination and passion every day in all that you do. Embrace your role, which ever role you chose. Have an enquiring mind. Of course, women can rival men in the boardroom, if they so wish. Work hard for what you want, employ deliberate practice and play to your strengths. Together we can achieve greatness.”

Michelle Nontokozo Sidambe

Gone are the days when men were the ones who worked for a living and women stayed at home. These days a fierce female workforce is in every area even in roles that were once deemed to be male occupations now sit firmly within reach of the GIRL CHILD.

Michelle Nontokozo Sidambe, Strategic Account Manager

Gone are the days when men were the ones who worked for a living and women stayed at home. These days a fierce female workforce is in every area – be it at a construction site, behind a car engine or at a desk in an office park leading a large organisation. Such roles were once deemed to be male occupations but now sit firmly within the reach of the GIRL CHILD. My thoughts on gender equality in the workplace are pretty clear – women have shown up and are slowly taking OVER… there is a definite positive shift in the way woman are treated in the workplace. On the flip side (because every positive has a negative), I still feel like women in the workplace, particularly in SA, often need to work 10x harder to be seen, heard and understood or to sit at the top of the hierarchy. Despite strides towards equality being made, woman leaders are still scarce. In SA, we’ve never had a female president, and as a nation, we still have a long way to go towards believing that women can lead at the highest level. That being said, my own journey has been positive, and I might add a favourable one. I am privileged to be working for an organisation that judges you on what you bring to the table (be it the skill, determination or passion). At Smoke CI, equality is evident – from the way we speak to each other, the way resources are allocated, to the way my opinion is asked for and valued. I can see and feel equality. Similarly, in organisations up and down the country, women are being given equal and leading seats. This shows me clearly that gender inequality is slowly shifting, giving hope to all. Equality is a no-brainer really. Women bring not only exceptional talent and intelligence but also a wonderfully upbeat vibe to the office. They come with a pinch of fierce, a handful of multitasking abilities and a bucket load of determination, drive and passion. Not to mention – we always look great. For young ladies just starting out, remember that the first few years are going to be your most challenging. Not because you are female, but because you need to prove your worth (as do young men, by the way). You will need to grow, and growth isn’t always going to be easy. My advice is to keep pushing, never quit and always remember what you are working towards.”

Michelle Nontokozo Sidambe

For young ladies entering the workforce, and especially for those eyeing out so-called male-dominated roles, don’t be afraid to do it.

Nicole Kriel, Systems Administrator/Application Support Specialist.

“It may still be a man’s world, particularly in the IT industry, but women are here. We are brilliant, we are effective, and we are changing the face of every industry. Even at an organisation as diverse as Smoke CI, where I am still the only woman in the IT department, I can see how, throughout the organisation, women are making an impact, and are both valued and included. It is amazing to see the difference a female perspective can bring to a team, and I have never once regretted being the proverbial lone ranger. Every day we learn something new as we grow together. Gender is not an issue – we are simply a team working together towards a common goal. In my opinion, it is vital to have gender diversity in every situation. It not only brings a diversity of thought, but often women tend to have a better eye for detail, and particularly in IT, this skill is invaluable. For young ladies entering the workforce, and especially for those eyeing out so-called male-dominated roles, don’t be afraid to do it. Despite it sounding terribly corny, I am a living, breathing example of how following your dreams can become a wonderful reality. People told me that I could never be a Systems Administrator as it is a man’s world. To them, I say – look at me now. I am here, and I am doing the so-called impossible. Don’t let anyone ever dictate what you can and can’t do – your mind is a very powerful tool – use it!”

Hanlie Palmer

I think the biggest challenge for young women entering the workforce is the balance between retaining their unique femininity and fighting for their place.

Hanlie Palmer, Financial Officer

“I feel like it’s a bit bizarre that the question of gender equality in the workplace is still relevant in 2019. In South Africa, women have held the right to vote for almost 90 years. We have a parliament that has the 2nd highest female representation of all G20 members. Corporates across our nation have been appointing female executives at the highest levels for decades. What is sad, however, is that women in power are still deemed to be unicorns – rare, and likely to vanish any second.  Surely the conversation should be about ability and not gender? As women, we are fortunate that at Smoke CI, it is just that. Everyone is given equal voice and opportunity, based on ability and contribution, and not gender. Just as it should be, gender (and for that matter, race, religion, sexuality or any other label) is not the defining characteristic of employees in our workplace. It’s simple really – people are valued as people and for the contributions they make.  I do think, however, that it is essential to highlight that different genders certainly bring different strengths to the workplace. Woman tend to bring a sense of organisation, coordination, kindness and control. Women have an inherent ability to delegate and manage several deliverables at a time, while still being able to smile, joke and be an ear for those who need it. These certainly are generalisations, but in my experience, valid ones. I think the biggest challenge for young women entering the workforce is the balance between retaining their unique femininity and fighting for their place. Regardless of gender, an employee that is too forceful or outspoken is likely to find themselves in difficult situations. To me, the best advice is to show up, step up and deliver to your fullest. The world is progressing every day, and often the barriers we as women see, are those we have created for ourselves. Find an organisation with visible equality and then achieve your dreams!”

 

This Women’s Day, and every day, we celebrate the amazing ladies of Smoke CI, and all the women in our great nation that are actively making a difference. We also celebrate the men who are stepping up and championing gender equality. Our strength lies in our differences, but our collaboration and unity, as equals, will change the world!

 

“If you want to run for Prime Minister, you can. If you don’t, that’s wonderful, too. Shave your armpits, don’t shave them, wear flats one day, heels the next. These things are so irrelevant and surface to what it is all really about, and I wish people wouldn’t get caught up in that. We want to empower women to do exactly what they want, to be true to themselves, to have the opportunities to develop. Women should feel free.” – Emma Watson

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