25/05/2017 10:14 SAST | Updated 25/05/2017 10:14 SAST

Four Myths About SA Women's Aspirations At Work -- And The Actual Truths

Actually, it’s companies and societal attitudes that are still the main hindrance.

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South African women aspire just as much as their male counterparts to reach senior leadership positions. They are as qualified, if not more, and also enter the workplace confident they will achieve their goals -- until they encounter the day-to-day lived realities of being a female in the workplace.

This is according to findings on gender disparity in the South African workplace, contained in the Bain & Company report released on Thursday. Here are our key takes on the myths and truths the report has revealed on gender disparity in South African workplaces:


  • Women are generally afraid of taking career risks;
  • Women are afraid of taking career risks because that may affect their personal lives;
  • Women are just not as resilient as men; and
  • Women need more senior-level support when pushing for opportunities.


  • Organisational culture and negative workplace experiences shut women out: e.g. sexual harassment, disrespect, lack of inclusion, coupled with women not feeling comfortable to come forward for a number of reasons;
  • Performance evaluations and promotion timelines are biased towards men. Women surveyed also indicated a lack of advocates/sponsors at senior levels to support their careers, resulting in their contributions and performances not being recognised or properly attributed;
  • Companies' efforts and solutions in supporting women are not effective: less than half the women surveyed believed their companies made gender equity a visible priority;
  • Then there are societal factors with some communities and families who do not believe in equal career opportunities for men and women.

In short, the report found little difference on personal traits affecting career advancement across genders, thereby challenging the commonly-held myth that personal factors are the main barriers to career advancement for women.