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Address at the seminar on Women in Management and Leadership, 5 May 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches


Address by the Minister of Education, Mrs Naledi Pandor, MP, at the seminar on Women in Management and Leadership, Burgers Park Hotel, Pretoria

05 May 2005

Programme director
Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to thank you for inviting me to this important seminar. You are meeting to discuss the crucial subject of gender and leadership in general, and the participation of women in management, in particular. The government regards the active pursuit of gender equity as critical to the transformation of our country.

South Africa is committed to the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. We are determined to advance the goals of equality and development. The status of women has advanced in some important respects in the past decade but we also recognise that progress has been uneven.

Women are represented in government and in parliament in greater numbers than ever before and we compare quite favourably to other countries in this regard.

In the Department the number of women in leadership positions has increased in the recent past. We have three women DDGs out of five, and about a third of the chief directors and nearly a half of the directors in the Department of Education are women. This is a major step forward towards gender equity.

However, we must remember that in the public education system nearly 70% of employees are women.

For a long time, women have been restricted to the lower levels of the occupational hierarchy in our schools, colleges and universities.

I have noticed that, if there is a male member of staff in a primary school, he is almost always the principal.

The situation is worse in our secondary schools, where almost all principals and most heads of department are male.
This clearly is a cause for concern.

The issue is that this existing pattern sends out the wrong message to women.

The barriers women face in reaching management and leadership positions are constructed largely from stereotypes of the female roles in society, sexist institutional cultures, and inadequate organisational support.

This view of the roles of men and women clearly creates a gendered division of labour, where men are regarded as leaders and women are relegated to the role of followers.

This stereotype of the roles of men and women is often transferred from the home into broader society and into the workplace.

The stereotype is fatally flawed and hopelessly outdated and it is a stereotype that we need to challenge with the aim of ultimately eradicating it from our thinking and our practice.

There is a perception in the Department that women in leadership positions fail to groom women in the junior ranks of the organisation for promotion to leadership positions.

This practice has come to be known as the “pull-her-down syndrome”. It must be discouraged, because women need one another more than ever before.

This is not simply a women’s issue. We can only succeed in meeting the goals of transformation if men and women work together, and give support to one another.

We need to develop the capacity of women to lead as well as to provide a working environment in which women are able to realise their full potential as leaders. This means among other things that we have to allow for reasonable job accommodation where there is a need.

It is for this reason that I am pleased to note that this seminar is a joint project involving the staffing and gender directorates supporting the education management and governance directorate.

It is important that men attend these seminars. Men must be encouraged to participate fully in all programmes aimed at greater equity in the workplace.

We should do more of what we are already doing in our Women In and Into Management and Leadership Training Programme.

I browsed through the training manuals that were developed as part of this programme. The training themes of assertiveness training, strategic leadership, managerial skills, and administrative skills provide a good basis for preparing women for leadership and management positions. It should now be our goal to reach as many current and potential women education managers as possible.

We need to level the playing fields in the selection stakes. In this regard, we are in the process of developing protocols and regulations to ensure that recruitment procedures are aligned to and support the goal of gender equity in recruitment for senior positions in our schools.

We also need to develop effective support systems for serving women managers. This requires the development of informal and formal networks to which women managers can turn for mutual solidarity and support. Such networks can and should be led by women.

Middle managers are an important sector of the Department. They should establish networks with other staff members across branches of the Department. In that way, they will be able to learn informally from colleagues in other units.

We must meet the goal of gender equity in our organisation. To do so and to track our progress, we need a database to record are progress towards gender equity. This requires the co-operation of the gender and staffing directorates.

Such seminars should not only focus on group and individual empowerment. Attention must be given to professional and policy issues. How much do you know about current developments in education, what do you know of new ideas, new durections etc. If you became a chief director tomorrow, would you be able to hit the ground running? This is the kind of dynamic inskilling that our workshops should offer.

In conclusion, I hope that today’s seminar will go a long way towards preparing you for the role of change agent for gender equity and quality education.

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 529

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