What do Women want?

With August being Women’s month; you have four weeks to try understanding what the women in your organisation want. I said try, you have the rest of the year to keep trying and hopefully raise your. game. There are three types of organisations in this month. The first type ignores the celebration of women and their contributions. Fools that don’t know the power of a feminine touch! The second type goes along with a grudge. I came across a IT consultancy that fires of a snappy e-mail to female staff: collect your goodie bag from the payroll department by 15h00. (That concludes management attention on the fairer sex) Finally we have the ritual type. Executives and HR treat women’s month as ritual #69 on the business calendar. Executives toffee talk their way through transformation and opportunities for women in the organisation. Sweet and sticky for about 45 minutes. Then HR organises a women’s day breakfast, pampering and motivation. More sweet and sticky. Throw in flowers and group photo’s for the staff newsletter. Sure, it makes the ladies feel special for a day.

But why don’t you go deeper this year to the burning issues? Talk to female staff about their deal in the company. Explore those flexible working arrangements; are they sufficiently flexible to accommodate the taxing roles of mother, wife and career women? Revisit the maternity leave policy and experiences of staff.  Listen to their concerns. Confront pay and promotion issues. Notwithstanding progress to date, pay inequities on the basis of gender remains a stubborn career ceiling. Take positive steps to change this situation. Investigate those cat fights between female managers and their sub-ordinates. Many females are fighting the “pull me down syndrome” in the workplace. You will learn more about what women want in your organisation than you ever imagined. Invaluable stuff for talent retention.


What happens to morals at the intersection of business and politics?*  A bit of history:  Nasionale Pers, known as Naspers goes back 93 years, when it was incorporated as a public limited liability company in the old Union of South Africa. It is no stranger to the politics of the day. Their first paper was Die Burger, the mouthpiece of the National Party. Nine decades later, Naspers Limited has grown from a publisher and printer into a multinational media giant. Towards the end of June 2008, investors were expecting a solid set of results on the back of a positive trading statement. A few days before the release of the financial results, a Naspers subsidiary, Paarl Web made headlines for the wrong reasons – printing of electioneering pamphlets for Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF Party. No law broken, just morally repugnant. Their leadership subsequently apologised and Paarl Media announced a R 300 000 donation to the people of Zimbabwe through the Red Cross Society. 
There are lessons in this experience for other corporates that do business, knowingly or not, in the rest of Africa with dictators and shady politicians. In the post Enron era, ethical leadership and business practices must come before profit.

Until next month, three key dates: the tax filing season for employers closes on 29 August 2008 for submission of PAYE reconciliations. Remember that your employees will not receive a pre-populated income tax return until you have completed the reconciliation and penalties apply for missing the deadline. Ouch! On 1 September, buckle up for the new driving points system, starting in Pretoria. Finally, rattle my cage at HR Future’s Open Day on 3 September 2008.

(HR Future, August 2008)

Additional Reading

Naspers subsidiary – printing contract for Zanu-PF?  (Moneyweb, 24 June 2008)


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