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Women who defy gender stereotypes in the workplace

August, best known as Women's Month in South Africa, is a time were women stand tall and celebrate the battle that was won 60 years ago, when they defiantly marched to the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, against the pass laws.

Women of all races united to fight a battle that changed our country for the better. The success of the march has created a lot of opportunities for different generations of women across South Africa. Some of these victories include the ability of women to voice their opinion and to be heard without the fear of being undermined or persecuted. A lot has changed since the 20 000-strong women contingent marched in 1956. Today, women are able to take on roles that were once reserved only for men - with several occupying key decision-making positions in our country.

Rosebank College followed the stories of three women, who enjoy the fruits of the women's march 60 years later. These women are placed in powerful roles that come with a lot of challenges based on their gender. The college had the honour of sitting down with them asking about their place as women in roles previously reserved for men.

This is Limakaso Selepe, a 42-year-old security guard who works at Rosebank College Braamfontein. She has been working as a security guard for eight years. Rosebank College is an educational brand of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE).

Q. What does Women's Month mean to you?

Women's Month, to me, means women can now proudly call themselves role models because their voices are equally heard. There is a saying that says: "Mme o tswara thipa ka bohaleng" (A mother holds a knife on the sharp side). That is what those women proved when they fought for us, and I am proud of them.

Q. Do you think women are as united as they were 60 years ago?

Gradually, we are drifting apart, but I hope and wish that women could remove whatever issues they have and work together like before, because together we will stand, but if we are divided, this country will fall.

Q. What are some of the challenges that you face in your position?

It is very tough because you always get undermined, but I think and believe that as a woman, I need to stand firm in what I believe in, especially when I am faced with a situation where I am undermined by men. It's not easy, but I have to be strong.

Q. How did you celebrate Women's Day?

Unfortunately, I was on duty, but Rosebank College always has something nice for us.

Magdaline Nchabeleng (52) started working as bus driver for Metro Bus 15 years ago. She recalls the negative attitude she received from men and women alike who didn't believe a woman was fit for the job. "I belonged to the first group of women to drive a bus. We had to just ignore them, but it was clear many were unhappy because they believed it was a man's job."

Passengers also had to warm up to the idea. "Some passengers were not sure about hopping on, while others were really excited. But, to be honest, we drive better than men. One time a passenger was in labour on the bus and I had to drive her to the hospital."

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love meeting new people; some of my passengers have become my friends. They invite me to their weddings and some buy me birthday presents just to say 'thank you'. I have been transporting children to the German School for 10 years now. I have seen some of them grow from students to college-goers and some are teachers at the school today. I am really proud of that.

Q. Do you see a change of attitudes towards women today?

Yes; women were abused by men in the past, especially our mothers who were beat regularly and grew to accept that treatment from men. Back then, women couldn't really do anything about that abuse, but today, women's rights are protected. For example, 20 years ago I would have never been able to drive a bus.

Maryanne Tjale (22) is currently the Student Council (SC) President at Rosebank College Mega Campus, in Braamfontein. As the president, her role includes representing and managing the SC, representing the campus management team, working closely with the Student Relations Managers (SRM) in the development of the student council, as well as providing the necessary support to the various committees by attending site activities and events, just to mention a few.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have encountered as a female leader?

A lot of people genuinely believe that men have a better shot at leadership positions; as a result, sometimes people express some scepticism of whether I will be able to overcome the obstacles that we face on campus daily, and with a team that comprises males, it is challenging to get everyone to sing the same song; but as the President, I must stand firm to get things done.

Q: How do you stay motivated to be an effective leader despite the challenges?

I have a wonderful mentor who helps and guides me during my journey as President as well as a student. In addition, I learnt how to manage my time, from last year when I was handling the sport, social and cultural committee. I also read motivational books and books on leadership. But the key is: do what is supposed to be done on time to meet deadlines and avoid clashes along the way.

Q: What do you plan to do after you graduate?

Once I graduate, I would like to continue with my studies. I would like to do my honour's in information technology and start another undergraduate programme in science. The ultimate plan is become a business analyst and a biological scientist, quite the combination, I know.

Rosebank College

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a private higher education institution under the Higher Education Act, 1997 ( reg. no. 2007/HE07/002). Company 1987/004754/07