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This article was originally published in the The Star – The Workplace, Wednesday, September 2, 2015, page 5. ***

It has been 50 years since the month of August was bookmarked as Women’s Month, but a silent protest still rages quietly in the corporate world.

The challenges which plague the ‘contemporary’ working woman come in all shapes and sizes. The challenges she faces are like a well-baked pastry pie made of the finest ingredients misogyny has to offer: sexual harassment, office power dynamics based on patriarchal beliefs, and gender discrimination.

In a recent article written by Anita Bosch, titled ‘Women are still paid less than men in South African companies’, Bosch mentions that “the South African gender pay gap is estimated, on average, to be between 15%-17%. This implies that a South African woman would need to work two months more than a man to earn the equivalent salary that he would earn in a year.”

Breaking the mould

Ntombi Nkabinde (31) is a welder, with an NQF 3 qualification obtained at the  The SAJ Competency Training Institute, a project which was managed  by i-Fundi Customer Solutions  – a private Further Education and Training college, registered with Umalusi and the Services Seta.

Nkabinde is one of many who entered the artisan learnership programme which was funded by The Gauteng City Region Academy (GCRA), which is making commendable strides in making a significant contribution in the public sector development, reducing the high unemployment rate in South Africa.

Nkabinde completed her level 2 and 3 programme, and awaits the commencement of level 4 in order to fully qualify as an artisan.

She reflects on her experience as a woman who has been exposed to working in a largely male-dominated field. “I feel as though I have been somewhat disadvantaged because I am a woman who happens to be a welder by profession”, she says. “At the company where I did my practicals, the ratio of women was 100 to 1 – yes, I was the only women working with men. It is an intimidating situation to be in because you feel you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself”, she continues.

Nkabine reflects with disdain to the disrespect she would sometimes have to endure from the men she worked with. “They felt like I was misplaced working as welder”, she says.

“Men tend to undermine the capabilities we have as women. They must understand that respect is a double-edged sword – it must be earned to be received. I remember I would sometimes go home and cry because the situation was so challenging at work- but in hindsight it made me stronger. I am a better woman today because of that experience”, she concludes confidently.

Is this an objective view of the 21st century workplace experience for women? e-mail your views to amanda.maliba@inl.co.za.

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Stand a chance to win a bursary with i-Fundi!

i-Fundi would like to offer a learnership bursary to (a) deserving person(s). You are invited to submit a motivational letter of no more than 350 words, motivating why you should be awarded the opportunity to be placed in a learnership with one of the host employers in our database.

The lucky winners will be contacted telephonically, announced  on our Facebook page and website, and placed in a 12 month learnership.  Please note that we have extended the closing date to Monday, 14 September 2015, at 12:00.  The announcement will be made on this respective date.

Email the motivational letter to: nyeleti@i-fundi.com.