'Patriarchy reigns supreme in SA'

South Africa prepares to celebrate Women’s Day as women continue to lag behind men.

Women protest against gender based violence. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Human Sciences Research Council's Professor Jane Rarieya says patriarchy continues to be one of the stumbling blocks in workplace leadership.

Statistics released by the Commission for Employment Equity this year show women account for just 30 percent of senior management positions in South Africa.

At top management level, the number is just 19.8 percent.

Professor Rarieya says women who are breaking the mould need more exposure so they can serve as role models to young girls.

She adds, while South Africa is still very much enveloped by a patriarchal mindset, women need to play a bigger role in breaking the barriers.

Jacinta De Gouveia believes she has managed to do just that.

Her auto repair shop is geared towards providing premium service and an environment where female customers in particular do not feel patronised.

De Gouveia's interest in cars dates back to her years as a teenager, but she says many women are not afforded the opportunity to live out their passion because of prevailing attitudes and perceptions.

Mocking those who say she or other women can't do a job like hers, she says, "It's not a woman's job. It's hard work. The engines are too heavy. Your hands are going to be black and dirty."

She said men think they own women.

"What is it about the way we socialise men around patriarchy that perpetuates this violence? Because it doesn't matter, they would rather go to jail or die, but they [think] they have a right to harm and abuse women."

At the same time, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana wants better equity for women this Women's Month.

Her ministry wants Parliament to pass the Women Empowerment and Gender Equity Bill.

Xingwana has also vowed to tackle gender-based violence in the country and has called for harsher punishment for perpetrators.

Her special adviser, advocate Joyce Maluleke, says the bill will make a major difference.

"This bill is going to impact on any piece of legislation that we have in South Africa. Any legislation that is being implemented by any other department - this bill gives the minister powers to monitor and evaluate whether that bill impacts equally on women and men.

"The bill doesn't just focus on the economy, it focuses on health, it focuses on all aspects of women so it will impact on any legislation."

Maluleke said businesses will be compelled by law to abide by the new bill.

"When you look at Section 2 of the bill, it talks about application. Subsection 2 to 5 talks about the designation of certain companies that have to comply. It's going to target certain companies that are able and also that have a bigger impact than just two people who are just partners."

She warned that companies who fail to comply might lose their licences.

Meanwhile, Xingwana has vowed to tackle gender-based violence in the country. She has also called for harsher punishment for the perpetrators.