It has been almost 70 years since the Founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women which adopted the 1954 Women’s Charter. Soon afterwards, 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest carrying pass books. These actions were integral to the forming of a democratic South Africa nearly 30 years ago.
As South Africa celebrates Women’s Day on 09 August 2023, we recognise the bravery and sacrifice of all women, not just in South Africa but around the world, in shaping the freedoms enjoyed by all citizens. Still, decades later, women are often overlooked in many spheres of business and society, including the hospitality industry where they form the backbone of any operation.
When I was invited to attend the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) Women in Hospitality Conference in Cape Town this month, I was honoured to discuss female leadership and share the strides that we at Profitroom have been able to achieve in promoting gender equality at all levels of the business.
Profitroom has implemented a well-defined strategy to support women to reach their dreams in technology, take on leadership roles and bring new insights only they could offer. Rather than trying to do too much, our strategy focuses on just a handful of areas where we believe we can make the greatest difference.
1. Gender balance
In the still male-dominated world of information technology, women are still massively under-represented. That makes our ability to now have a team that is split equally between male and female (124 women and 124 women as of August 2023) something to be proud of. The Profitroom executive team has also made strides, with a 60/40 male-female ratio that ensures we have strong female role models in the organisation.
Finding female software developers remains a challenge, but we are proactively looking for them via every recruitment process. While this mission is harder than expected, our project management/development team is made up of more women than men (60/40). Those ladies who have reached higher positions in Product Management in this area were predominantly promoted internally and have had an opportunity to grow.
2. Remote work and flexibility
Our flexible work policy has been designed to benefit everyone, including young mums, allowing them to work from home so they can ease their way back into work. Flexible ways of working even extend to expectant mums, who may need to change their working schedule before delivery, to accommodate work-life balance.
In the third quarter of 2023, we are kicking off an internal mentoring program to strengthen skill sharing.
We now have a representative in the PowHER Talent, a global women's mentoring programme, and I have personally volunteered to be a part of the Women in Tech mentoring programme, which invites female leaders from around the world to share their experiences.
4. Visibility (empowering women) :
We believe that providing opportunities inside our organisations is just the beginning of the journey, and we actively seek out opportunities for our aspiring female leaders to network in the industry and elevate their personal and professional profiles on a bigger platform. Over the years, we have encouraged dynamic women from Profitroom to attend the annual Hotel Manager’s Conference (HMC), our leading hospitality conference in Poland, where we have an amazing selection of female speakers and panelists attending in 2023.
We have not reached true equality in South Africa or in this industry but with these highly effective and targeted actions, we will reach our goal of opening new doors of opportunity for women in technology, as well as hospitality.