by Abigail Radebe
Qhwa qhwa qhwa (the supposedly sound that my heel makes) as I’m about to walk into a room full of men that think I am incompetent, yes you have guessed it right. I’m back to square one where I have to prove myself again. I have to use this opportunity not only to prove I’m competent but also to prove behind the “loud” heel is a woman who’s strong, who can handle anything and is up for every challenge thrown at her.
Another opportunity was stolen from me simply because I am a woman, black to be precise and I am young. I’m only 21 but I’m in the corporate world wheeling and dealing my way and I’m still given the “you can’t” look. After decades of years we still find ourselves in a predicament we can’t take ourselves out of, yes we wanted 50/50, independence, equal pay and equal treatment simply because we understand work ethics, we understand that it makes sense to work hard for what you want and we also understand that in every industry you win some, you lose some.
I walked in the meeting hoping to score another deal that could possibly award me close to R50 000. I walked in with my partner who’s a male, his hand was shaken first simply because they thought he is the project manager, I was given a cute handshake (not too serious after all I could be his assistant). It was time to pitch for the money. I stood up with confidence and I was told instantly to sit down as they want the project manager to be the one pitching. My partner stood up and told them I was the manager and he was the creative director (their faces changed, I knew I had to do more than pitching I had to convince them that I got this! I can manage).
I nailed the pitch and was on my way to sign for the money until Mr M decided to whisper (sleep with me and get R100 000) my body went numb, I froze wondering to myself what did I do to imply that I would taint my dignity like that. Yet again I wasn’t surprised, after all, we are considered the “weak” ones so in order to make it and swim with the sharks I’m going to have to sleep my way to the top. I didn’t get the R50 000 I was also voted out of the pitching competitions simply because I said no to sleeping my way to the top.
This is not a country crisis but a global pandemic. Until men stop looking at us like they looking at some meat they about to devour, we’ll still have women walk into boardrooms and be looked down on. I don’t know why we still have to prove ourselves, I don’t know why I walk into a room and I give it my best and I’m told: “if you want more drop your pants” this is disgusting and irritating.
Women will not be rehabilitation centers for broken men who have low self-esteem, bruised egos, sexual urges and men who seek attention. We demand to be taken seriously because we take ourselves and the work we do seriously. I may be young, female and black but that doesn’t mean I’m incompetent. The heels I wear should tell you that I mean business and that I’m not something to be taken lightly.
Till this day I have my male partner who goes with me to meetings and is able to confidently say ‘she’s the manger’ without feeling like “I’m disrespecting him” or feel out of place for being led by a woman.
As a country, we need men who are willing to be led by females without feeling like they are weak, soft and less of a man. We need men that are ready to sit in a boardroom and have a woman tell them the next plan and strategy and still feel at ease without having to include their egos and their self-esteem.
If we can have such men then we will be ready as a country to have a female leader in every industry. Women are the future. Question is, are men ready to put aside their egos, low self-esteem and work hand in hand with us?
Wathintha umfazi wathintha imbokodo! (African proverb which means You strike a woman you strike a rock!)