Black women held back: Gill Marcus

By Drum Digital
21 August 2013

The assumption that black women are only domestic workers affects their progress in the business sector and needs to be fought, SA Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus said on Wednesday.

"It is partly because in the South African society the experience of most people with African women is of the domestic worker we have in our homes, and therefore there is the assumption that that's what African women do," Marcus said.

"Black women have to be a thousand times better, a thousand times smarter and have a skin as thick as a rhinoceros because there are assumptions before you open your mouth. And those won't go away easily."

Speaking at a PricewaterhouseCoopers breakfast at the Johannesburg Country Club in Sandton, she said women in general had to prove themselves every time, but black women in particular had more to overcome.

It was important to ensure that the assumption people had of black women was not allowed to dominate, Marcus said.

"So as much as all women have challenges, African women in particular have bigger challenges because there are assumptions. Therefore you have got to overcome assumptions and prejudice before you even start," she said.

"African women in our society have additional burdens."

She said most domestic workers in the country were black women but that these women often did what work they could get because they did not want the same for their children.

She said the world financial crisis, including in South Africa, was not over.

"We are meeting in very difficult times... We may go in and out of the recession but we have not come out of the financial crisis. Behind the statistics are ordinary people whose lives have been fundamentally affected."

She said one of the reasons the financial crisis had not been solved was because there was not trust globally. South Africa was still in "unprecedented times" and it was not business as usual.

Addressing an audience of mostly women, she said women often needed to make more sacrifices because of responsibilities like looking after children and their households. Therefore women needed a better support system.

"Weigh up responsibilities and see the price women have to pay, then create a support network to cope."

Marcus encouraged women to be "present" at work and said they needed to add value in the workplace.

Marcus said men were often awarded better education and opportunities. She told women to work harder to show their worth and capabilities. The skills shortage made it important to educate girls.

"If we educate the girl child we will do away with shortages of skills. The challenge is that the girl child is not educated in the same way as the boy child," Marcus said.

She encouraged women who wanted to succeed to enhance their skills and get work exposure and experience.

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