Agency rises to address corporate gender divide
The trend has been blamed on a dearth of programmes to empower women and position them for leadership roles.
This is set to change thanks to a programme by locally-based brand experience agency to uplift young women.
The Phakama Women’s Academy, an initiative that began two years ago to empower young women in the marketing, advertising and communications industry, is the brainchild of the VWV Group.
“Phakama” translates to “Rise” in isiZulu and isiXhosa.
VWV, based in Kyalami north of Johannesburg, has unveiled the 2016 class of the initiative, comprising of 25 students, second and third year, from the University of Johannesburg, AAA School of Advertising and Vega School of Brand Leadership.
They will be paired with 25 mentors and be enrolled into a five week programme, during which they will be taught life and practical business skills.
Koo Govender, Chairperson of Phakama Women’s Academy, says this opportunity will equip the students with the necessary tools to enter the corporate world and inspire them to dream big.
Govender started the academy after her appointment as the first female Chief Executive Officer of VWV Group.
“The corporate world is still dominated by men. We need to empower, equip and enable women to grow and aspire to take up senior positions in companies,” says Govender.
“The Phakama Women’s Academy does just that. We take young women who are passionate about marketing, advertising and communication, and who excel academically. Seventy-five percent of them are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds,” she says.
Govender says there are many barriers to entry and progress for women in the workplace.
“Being a wife, a mother and a career woman is not easy. You are constantly juggling and you don’t want to drop balls. Sometimes your career takes the back seat and you focus on your family. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can have it all with good support structures,” she says.
Among the mentors in the academy is Melissa Storey, Executive Head: Strategy, Development & Marketing at First Car Rental.
She says experienced how young women flourished during the programme as some overcame their fear of speaking before an audience, or learned to express themselves better in interviews.
“Others discovered newfound stamina to get through gruelling day-to-day routines,” says Storey.
She says the defining factor in this programme is that the woman found confidence in themselves and their abilities.
“These skills will assist them throughout their lives and hopefully they will transfer them to their children as well,” says Storey.
Already marginalised for her gender, Esther Motlhabane has had to deal with the stigma attached to albinism and having impaired vision.
A third-year student at University of Johannesburg, she was inspired to apply after Refilwe Modiselle, said to be South Africa’s first professional model with albinism, was among the Inspirational Speakers in 2014.
“People with albinism face a lot of discrimination. You need to be confident, accept who you are and believe in yourself. You should never look at the colour of your skin and let that determine where you go in life,” says Motlhabane.
– CAJ News
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