Women have proven throughout the years that they are willing to take on any obstacle standing in their way to achieve what they desire. Phrases such as “glass ceiling”, “concrete walls”, “sticky floors” and “career labyrinths” all refer to the difficulty a woman will experience when trying to further her career beyond industry “expectations”. These difficulties are still around in many industries today however, due to the determination and resilience of many women, it has been confirmed that they can be overcome.
“Women’s month is the perfect opportunity to recognise the women who have contributed to the shattering of gender stereotypes within the workplace and are forging new paths for generations of women to follow,” comments Mpho Nkeli, Director and Head: Board Practice at Search Partners International.
Hafajee became the first female editor of a mainstream newspaper in South Africa when she was appointed as editor of the Mail & Guardian, furthering and increasing the publication’s reputation as a source of credible and courageous journalism. When she left M&G, she took on the task of repositioning the City Press and grew the readership to 1,75 million. Early in her career she was chosen as one of the journalists to interview Nelson Mandela upon his release in 1990. She is known for her tough approach and dedication to discovering and reporting the truth.
A fighter for girls’ rights to education, Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She was born in 1997 in Pakistan under Taliban rule, and in 2009 began writing an anonymous blog for the BBC where she voiced her views on education and life under the Taliban. Soon, she began receiving death threats but refused to give up on her cause. She was featured in a documentary by Adam B Ellick, a New York Times reporter, for which she received international attention and soon her identity as the author of the blog was revealed. Even though her identity was now known, she did not give up on what she believed which resulted in her being the target of masked gunman in 2012. She miraculously survived her attack, which created an international outcry and led to two million people signing the Right to Education Campaign. This helped to pass Pakistan’s first right to education bill.
A Russian cosmonaut, engineer and politician who was the first and youngest woman to fly in space. In June 1963 she solo piloted the Vostok 6 and was chosen from more than 400 applicants and five finalists. She spent three days in space and orbited the Earth 48 times. She never made a second trip into space, and rather turned to politics where she became an important member and representative of the Soviet government.
Patrick is the most successful woman in Indy racing history, and after her victory at the Indy Japan 300 became the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race. She pursued her love for racing at an early age when she began karting at 10 years old and achieved success by winning her class in the World Karting Association Grand National Championship three times in the mid-1990s. She moved to the UK to further her career and took part in Formula Vauxhall and Formula Ford before returning home. She competed in various races including the Badger Dodge Pro Series and Toyota Atlantic Series. Her first experience in the IndyCar Series was in 2005 and took three pole positions and was named Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series. She continued this path for many years and achieved various successes. In 2010 she began racing stock cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and only went from strength to strength, defeating all odds. She stopped racing full time after the 2017 season but competed at the 2018 Daytona 500 and the 2018 Indianapolis 500 before officially retiring.
Madam CJ Walker (Sarah Breedlove)
The first self-made millionaire in America, Madam CJ Walker (born Sarah Breedlove), made her fortune by creating and marketing cosmetics and hair care products for African American women, after suffering a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss. She began her business by traveling across the country giving lecture demonstrations, and eventually launched Madame CJ Walker Laboratories to manufacture the cosmetics and train sales beauticians. She was well known for her philanthropy and activism, and her estate in Irvington New York became the social gathering place for the African American community. When she died, she was considered the wealthiest African American businesswomen in America.
“Women through the decades, and across various industries have been making their own way, and instead of buckling under the weight of social expectation, have taken control of their own destinies and achieved what was once thought of as the impossible,”comments Mpho.