The topic of black women’s excellence has been on my mind for a number of years. I have witnessed colleagues of mine and other women leaders take up their workplace and leadership roles with authenticity and a solid sense of self. These black women represent distinction in their work and, although their numbers have not yet reached projected equity goals, they serve as important role models to a younger generation of South African women who are to meet these goals in the near future.
Black women have participated in paid work over a number of decades, also in a democratic South Africa, and in forced unpaid work for millennia. Yet, the work roles which have stereotypically been associated with blackness in South Africa, and our own biases, have often blurred our ability to view black women’s professional and workplace leadership success with admiration and appreciation.
Working in the field of diversity studies, I am primed and reminded to consider my own social positioning in relation to the topics that I write about. I am classified as white, and recognise that my lived reality is different from that of the women who are presented in this year’s Women’s Report. It is for this reason that I did not contribute a paper in 2020. I nevertheless feel excited at witnessing the unfolding of black women’s workplace prominence — a new face of leadership that may yet reach a stable footing amongst men who feel vulnerable and some women sceptics.
With the backdrop of global groundswells for change, the conviction to propose that three black women write papers about black women in South African workplaces is appropriate. True to her own spirit of positivity, Phumzile Mmope ignites our thinking by positioning ubuntu leadership in relation to Black Girl Magic — does it have a place in the workplace?
Nastassja Wessels anchors our thinking in her paper about black women’s societal placement, which she likens to a twice-black bind. She highlights aspects of discrimination and misinterpretation that women often endure due to their societal positioning.
The papers in the report are concluded with a reflection on the unleashing of black women’s entrepreneurial power. An entrepreneur herself, Christine Kere’s paper provides practical advice with many helpful links in order to encourage black women to seek self-determination through entrepreneurship.
A celebration of excellence would not be complete without words of wisdom and encouragement to the next generation of women. Twelve black women of note — women who have excelled in their respective fields — have graciously narrated their life stories and views about their success. A must-read for inspiration and strength for all women, irrespective of colour or creed.
Happy reading of this first web-based Women’s Report.