But it was not only government that was exclusively white and male. Women were few and far between in the private sector and it was mainly in civil society that there was any real debate about the politics of gender and the need for women leaders. The appointment of so many women now illustrates what many already know, that there are many capable women in public life, previously denied an opportunity to prove their worth. These appointments set the stage for far more women to take up leadership positions in other spheres and sectors. Next year, planning will start for the next municipal elections. And hopefully far more women will have a chance at attaining leadership positions in municipalities. This is a sphere of government in which women remain marginal despite the fact that men and women experience delivery from municipalities differently, and it is poor women, in particular, who bear the brunt of poor or absent municipal services. The majority of municipalities have men in mayoral positions and at least one of the metropolitan municipalities has an entirely male top management team: illustrating the disdain with which women staff and citizens are still regarded in some parts. This, though, is likely a thing of the past. It will be politically difficult for the ruling party, and other parties, to elect or appoint any leadership structure from now onward that does not substantially challenge the male-dominated status quo. This may become a fine illustration of how the actions of leaders affect society. Already the national broadcaster has taken to describing some structures as ‘male-dominated’ even though they always have been. The tenth anniversary of democracy in South Africa could stand out as a moment in history when the country’s leaders dealt a decisive blow to sexism. Ten years ago it was hard to imagine a South Africa where democracy thrived, where different political parties could work together in democratic institutions without their members killing one another on the ground. We could not conceive that the members of liberation forces and the old South African Defence Force could don the same uniforms and be bound by the same chain of command. But things changed.
Still it is hard to imagine that our daughters will have the same opportunities as our sons. While the statute books have made equality real, mindsets have not changed accordingly. The President, though, has led from the front. It may be that this will take us to new a point in our history where institutions and individuals challenge their prejudice about the abilities of women, and act to end the institutionalised sexism which has, up until now, been a common characteristic of many cultures in South Africa.