Gender inequality remains a concern in the South African business environment as potential female leaders are side-lined for their male counterparts. This is according to Kay Vittee, the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions, who is committed to the empowerment of women in the workplace and who was recently named the 2014 Top Empowered Female leader of the Year.
Vittee says, “While it is true that it’s often harder for women and especially single mothers to pursue their career goals, any driven individual, regardless of gender, will rise to any challenge they are faced with. In fact it is duality in roles – juggling work and family – that often makes women more suitable for certain leadership positions.”
According to the results of the 2014 MasterCard Index of Women’s Advancement, gender inequality towards women at work remains. The overall index score of 73.5 for 2014 is marginally higher than the outcome of 73.4 in 2013 and 73.3 in 2012. However, a score of 73.5 means South African women at work are still not equal to men, as a score of 100 indicates gender equality.
“It is clear from this index that South Africa still has significant progress to make before it achieves gender equality in the area of leadership. This is particularly true regarding the development of female business owners and political leaders,” says Vittee.
Vittee’s business acumen, vast experience and personal journey of success have made her a sought after speaker and thought leader and have resulted in continued recognition on various platforms – the most recent being the Oliver Empowerment Award for the Top Empowered Female Leader of the Year.
Vittee credits her own success to sheer ambition, determination and most of all, a strong work ethic, all of which have enabled her to reach career heights most people only dream of.
She says, “When I entered the job market, it was disheartening to see jobs advertised in the newspaper saying ‘regret whites only’, it was tough finding employment.”
“Since, creating access to employment is an ideology that I have always held, meaningful employment fulfils and restores human dignity in every individual. The fact that Quest is a catalyst for employment creation to the youth of South Africa was providence to my personal purpose,” Vittee adds.
According to Vittee, in the workforce, the advancement of women is crucial to business success, as influential consumers of products and services, women touch every aspect of the business. This is emphasised by a Goldman Sachs study which shows that when women’s spending and decision-making power increases, they affect consumer trends.
Vittee says, “Women control household spending for the family, which has implications for the clothing, childcare, education, financial services, food, and healthcare sectors.”
“Interestingly, companies with women in leadership positions outperform their competitors,” she adds.
A McKinsey study found a 55% increase in average company earnings before interest and tax in companies with female leadership.
Vittee notes that men who work with experienced female leaders quickly learn that most women are focused, diligent and hate to waste time.
“They also learn that most women are great connectivity masters. They effectively facilitate connections between resources, people and relationships. This builds long-term, sustainable value to both business and individuals. The women leaders I know invest in themselves and become knowledge seekers, says Vittee, many top positions in the recruitment industry are held by women. We are seeing more and more ambitious women who aspire to leadership roles rising through the ranks because they have taken it upon themselves to further educate and up-skill themselves in an effort to achieve their career goals,” Vittee concludes.
Vittee shares her top tips for women who are driven to succeed in business.