#WomenofUP: ‘Transforming our society starts with us and the influence we choose to have’

Posted on August 06, 2021

As part of UP’s commemoration of Women’s Month, Tukkievaria spoke to HR Director Sithembile Mbuyisa, who shares details on her background, and her thoughts on how we can contribute to improving women’s experience of workplaces.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a self-driven individual who is constantly on a journey to be the best version of myself. I am a daughter, a mother, a friend, a professional and a leader. All these roles are central to the person that I am. Outside of my professional life, I am an adventurous soul who draws strength and revival from being in touch with nature.

Why did you choose a career in human resources? 

From a young age, I was keen to make a contribution to the transformation of the workplace through skills development and the creation of enabling workplaces where talent can thrive, and where everyone is treated fairly and equitably.

How has your work environment changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

COVID-19 has emphasised the importance of key competencies from everyone to help them cope with the drastic changes to the world as we knew it – these are agility and adaptability. It was important for me to work closely with my team to redefine how we were going to continue with HR services in unfamiliar conditions. COVID-19 created an opportunity for the digitisation agenda to be intensified. This means that more and more HR offerings are now digitised and more accessible.

What are the challenges that women face in the world of work?

Women are faced with a myriad of challenges that are underpinned by the inherent inequalities in a societal system that has infiltrated the workplace. The more pronounced challenges are those of gender inequality, underrepresentation, and inflexible and unsympathetic workplace systems that result in unfavourable conditions for women. These are exacerbated by the conflicting demands on women professionals that continue to place them under immense pressure. 

While employers around the world are working hard to achieve redress, the pace of change is hindered by numerous obstacles, resulting in the perpetuation of the factors constraining women’s holistic contribution to the workplace. The sooner the world of work identifies and eradicates the systems that inhibit the true value of women in the workplace, the better productivity will be. The eradication of these systems for the effective inclusion of women requires the involvement of women – they should take the lead in shaping conversations about their career challenges.

Do you think men should provide more support to women in their careers? 

Similar to the inherent structural inequalities in our societal systems, the views that we hold cannot be divorced from the influence of the society that has nurtured us. The acknowledgement of unhealthy, subconscious biases that may influence the relationships of some men with their female counterparts in the workplace is the first step towards any workplace getting close to achieving and yielding the benefits of effective gender equality. The combined voice of men and women against gender inequality can contribute towards raising the urgency of the challenges that working women face.

What should be done to ensure that more women assume leadership roles? 

There are several interventions that can be embarked upon to get more women into leadership roles. In my experience, the introduction of leadership programmes specifically for women is one of the most successful interventions as it allows employers to focus on the development of competencies that are critical for women to thrive in leadership roles. A rethink of the institutional systems and underlying ills in an organisational culture would also contribute significantly in the institution’s plight to attract, develop and retain women in leadership roles.

What do you like most about your job and what keeps you motivated? 

I am driven by the aspiration to make a difference in the lives of people through empowerment and being able to influence the transformative nature of the workplace for sustainable change. The dynamic nature of my job presents me with several opportunities to live my passion of people development and challenging the archaic institutional arrangements and practices that threaten the broader transformation agenda.

What advice do you have to offer about perseverance and overcoming adversity? 

My philosophy is to know what you stand for and are working towards to stay the course despite the adversities that may arise along the way. The clearer your vision is, the higher the possibility of bouncing back after every adversity that you encounter. Persistence is the fuel you need to rise above all odds towards the achievement of your goals.

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