Pencil skirts and heels (or slacks and pumps, thank you very much) are no stranger to the boardroom. In the twenty-first century, it is hardly surprising to find women in positions of power in the workplace, filling up spots in every industry, both new and old.
Of course, this has not always been the case. Travel back in time, pick any country across the globe, and the result is the same: a history of gender inequality. We all know the story – to be a woman, more often than not, meant one was man’s chattel, a possession rather than a person. As women, it took us centuries to vote, to have a say in political and economic affairs, to access education and top professions, such as medicine and law.
There have been great victories in the battle for gender equality, but it is sobering to consider that today, women are still at a disadvantage globally. Few heads of state worldwide are women. Women still earn less than men in many countries and are often not catered for in the workplace, such as those brave moms navigating breastfeeding while back at work. Women are still denied access to education in many cultures and, instead, funneled into the marriage market.
The industries of finance, insurance and technology, while opening their doors to females, still find a disproportionate number of males populating top spots. In the startup world, things are not much better. Go to a Meetup in the home of big tech startups, San Francisco, and you will find the room filled with men from around the world, with very few women chatting bots and bugs.
In South Africa, ‘insurtech’ (a merger of insurance and technology) is in its infancy, where one such startup injecting new life and new tech into the insurance industry is JaSure. For the startup, offering on-demand insurance for personal assets all on an app, the office simply wouldn’t be the same without the women who make things happen.
With her insurance background, Chief Operating Officer Jaclyn Prior is at the helm of the JaSure ship. Possessing a keen eye for detail, Jaclyn has had to become a jack of all trades and is the go-to person if you want to know anything at all about anything at all happening within the startup. From writing up policy documents to drafting distribution contracts to chatting to cyclists at races about the new app, Jaclyn is certainly accustomed to the demands of startup life. Late nights on her laptop are not uncommon, but neither are early mornings, as Jaclyn can usually be found in her trainers on the road or at SWEAT 1000. Work life balance is important to her, as is the flexibility offered by the startup. An Eastern Cape local, Jaclyn enjoys returning to her hometown of East London from time to time to visit her parents. She simply takes her laptop along and works remotely – a perk of the modern workplace.
It is this flexibility which is especially important for new mom Abi Schilperoort. Heading up marketing, Abi is an energetic go-getter, always enthusiastic, even when she’s had four hours of sleep with her little one Jack. For Abi, during the early stages of her son’s life, it has been crucial to have the space to be there for him during the workday when he might need her, such as doctor’s appointments, inoculations and taking him to Nurturing Nannies. After-work walks in the park with the dogs and Jack in his baby carrier are life’s special moments which she also doesn’t have to miss as a working mom. JaSure allows her this freedom, as she can always catch up on emails in the evenings. Abi considers that there is some ‘parenting stuff’ that only moms can do and JaSure creates an environment where this is possible, free of guilt and clock-watching.
Another woman to watch in the fintech space is CRM Specialist Carly Barnes of Lulalend. With smart tech giving customers access to fast, simple and flexible online business funding, Lulalend is an exciting place for Carly to be heading up user journeys and brand experience. Yet, it is more than the work itself which Carly appreciates at Lulalend. The startup wholly supports diversity, welcoming a mix of genders, races and cultures. Carly says this just makes sense, as an opportunity to gain different perspectives when building a product to service your customers. At Lulalend, as at JaSure, flexibility is part of the modern ethos of the work environment. Carly suggests that such agile HR practices need to be coupled with trust and responsibility on the part of the employee. Provided that she is holding up her end of the deal, so to speak, Lulalend is the type of company that is more than willing to cater for flexibility in the workplace, giving you the autonomy to run your own day.
In the twenty-first century, where women, and men, for that matter, are juggling the likes of work, family, fitness, friends and leisure, it is future-minded companies like JaSure and Lulalend which are becoming increasingly popular places to work. That these ladies happen to love their jobs is just an added bonus!
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