South African State-owned power utility Eskom has crafted a framework for the advancement and development of women in technical and leadership roles. Moving forward, the focus will be on ensuring that the company has the right skills in the right places, Eskom human resource senior GM Elsie Pule tells Engineering News.
The framework focuses on ensuring that capacity exists, but most importantly, includes nonqualitative initiatives aimed at ensuring a conducive environment for women to thrive in, she says.
The programme will ensure that there is a healthy pipeline starting at high school level, to enhance the skills of young women and prepare them for a career at Eskom.
A centralised database of engineering-orientated women at high schools, tertiary institutions and those already in the marketplace has been created.
The Socialisation and Image-Building Programme aims to enhance self-awareness and personal branding, as well as networking forums.
The Work-Life Balance/Employee Value Proposition (EVP) provides EVP for women at remote sites, which includes regional and international assignments, policy updates, wellness interventions and sabbaticals.
Pule explains that women at Eskom occupy 23% of leadership roles and 29% of technical roles. The Commission for Gender Equality, which aims to advance gender equality in all spheres of society and make recommendations on any legislation affecting the status of women, says that by 2018, Eskom should work towards a 50:50 ratio of women and men in technical and leadership roles.
However, Pule says the 50:50 ratio is not practical given the timeframes. “We will, however, strive to increase the number of women through deliberate initiatives geared towards capacity-building and ensuring there is strong support to ensure that the change sticks,” she adds.
Barriers to Advancement
Women in the workplace face several challenges, which serve as a barrier to their advancement in the corporate environment, says Pule, explaining that these barriers contribute to the underrepresentation of women in critical operational areas of any organisation.
“Eskom’s framework is aimed at meeting the specific needs of women. If you have an adequate support system for women with young kids, you have already met them half way, and that is the key to development,” emphasises Pule.
Further, this flagship programme has been designed, and is being implemented to develop a class of women who have the necessary skills and talent to lead Eskom, by equipping them with leadership and technical skills.
Pule adds that participants will also be empowered by gaining business and industry knowledge and being prepared for challenges associated with Eskom and the industry in general.