“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will be just leaders,” said Sheryl Sandberg. In honour of Women’s Month in South Africa and the progress that we have made in terms of gender equality since 1956, we asked the ladies on our local VMware team to answer a few questions on what impacts them as a woman in the workplace and in society.
Natanya Steyn, Senior Marketing Manager at VMware, said that some of her most significant challenges facing women in South Africa in the workplace include the pipe dream that women can “have it all”. She shared, “I know many amazing women, but none of them has it all. You can work on all the areas of your life to make each one as successful as you can but striving for perfection all the time isn’t healthy nor realistic. We need to stop aspiring to be all things to all people and losing ourselves in the process.”
Colleen Williams, Operations Manager at VMware, shared that one of her challenges is fear. “I think we are fearful of not being perceived as performing at the same level as our colleagues. That we are perceived as less focused and committed because we have families to tend to as well as work on our careers,” she said.
“Often, as women of colour, we tend to be very shy about our successes and achievements. I had a senior exec once tell me that I needed to sell myself more. I encourage women to be an advocate, to be their own biggest fan, and to be a coach and mentor to the younger women in the organisation to build confidence. As women, we need to support other women and be supportive of their successes,” said Williams.
Merle Pillay, Strategic Partner Business Manager, shared that she found the prevalence of boys’ clubs in the IT industry a barrier, as well as pay inequality still being an issue to be addressed on a global scale. Celeste Davids, Office Manager, said that in her experience, she has seen women afraid to share their opinions or contributions openly with senior management due to a sense of inferiority from being a woman and that she hopes this can change with time.
Women’s ability to balance their lives at home and career so well isn’t a new concept, and they attest to this by holding a family and a household together, and often are the glue that makes their family stick while loving all members of their family unconditionally. Almost all of our respondents have said that their children and families while juggling a thriving career brought them the greatest sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.
We asked the women on our team at VMware, what the most important message is that they would like to send out to young women thinking about their careers, and this is the advice they shared:
- “Don’t try to be a man. Be your authentic self. Choose your mentors carefully and make sure you have a strong circle of trusted people to support you.” – Natanya Steyn
- “The only person that can truly stand in your way is you. Fuel your ambition, be yourself, not who other people want you to be. You are unique and will always have a different perspective to bring to the table. Foster relationships, learn from others and above all, help others on your journey because if you fall or stumble, they will be there to pick you up and dust you off! Do not be afraid to try again.” – Celeste Davids
- “Know your worth, appreciate your network and embrace all experiences and opportunities for growth.” – Colleen Williams
- “You create your destiny, and there is no limit as to what you can do. All you need for success is need is grit and determination – your gender should not in any way limit your choices and your success. Never be a shrinking violet and never underestimate yourself.” – Merle Pillay
Lastly, we asked the women to share a few words on what they would tell women job candidates, why it’s so great to work at VMware. This is what they told us:
- “VMware practices what they preach, and they are taking steps to create real equality by involving the men in these critical conversations. I have worked for amazing companies, but never one that takes equality this seriously.” – Natanya Steyn
- “Of all the organisations I have been a part of, I have never felt more encouraged, empowered and supported than I have here. The respect and care given to ALL employees is phenomenal.” – Colleen Williams
- “We are blessed to be a part of the organisation we are a part of. We are supported, uplifted and encouraged. The best I could do is to embody and be representative of the ethics and qualities advocated by VMware. Of all the organisations I have been a part of, I have never felt more encouraged, empowered, and supported than I have here. The respect and care given to all employees is phenomenal.” – Colleen Williams
- “VMware is a diverse company, and its culture is built on EPIC 2 values, execution, passion, integrity, customers, and its people within the VMware community. Working at VMware is like being close to family people are always willing to listen and extend a helping hand.” – Celeste Davids