Ulwembu Business Services, a South African black-owned ICT services company, has introduced a new initiative in support of its female staff members, with the aim of providing the tools for these women to thrive in the workplace through self-awareness, personal development, and peer coaching circles.
The ‘Together We Rise’ initiative, the brainchild of Lorraine Mutambiranwa, executive at Ulwembu and leadership coach at Indigo Rose Coaching, is a women’s development programme encouraging participants to overcome personal bias and blind spots while developing their inner confidence and assertiveness skills to better navigate the inherent challenges of the workplace.
“Our country has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, despite this, and the fact that there are a greater number of South African women than men in terms of the population, the empowerment of women remains a top priority on the development agenda,” states Mutambiranwa. “In terms of the gender pay gap for instance, South African women earn between 23 and 35 percent less than men, and many are denied the opportunity to progress their education beyond basic levels.
“In light of this, Ulwembu has included women’s empowerment as an objective for its Vision 2025 strategy, a roadmap that the organisation has put together to cement its position as a people-led provider of innovative, trustworthy technology solutions and responsible corporate citizen. This commitment is demonstrated by Ulwembu’s use of female-led businesses in its procurement policy, in addition to the introduction of the Together We Rise programme through the Ulwembu Academy.”
Launched in July at Ulwembu, Together We Rise participants, who range from interns to middle management, are being taken through a four-month programme, which includes classroom learning, underpinned by peer coaching circles. The five modules covered will see individuals exploring their own personalities and understanding themselves and others in a more meaningful way. They also include a focus on self-care (targeting physical, mental and financial wellness), a close look at the people, groups, systems and processes that support and affect us, as well as investigating the anchors that can lead to a fulfilling role and career. The final module integrates all the learnings into leadership lessons for the participants to take forward.
“In addition to the classroom learning, members of the programme have access to peer coaching circles and one-on-one check-ins, with the objective of creating a reflective space for learning, empowerment and networking,” explains Mutambiranwa.
“The coaching circles provide a leadership development process that supports these women in their progress. They engender original thinking, collaboration, and engagement, and provide the opportunity to delve into issues or frustrations that are ‘live’ for participants: self-doubt, a lack of confidence, or imposter syndrome for instance. This develops a greater awareness of what doesn’t work, while developing insight and capacity to optimise what does, building agility and ongoing capacity for participants to apply new skills to consciously apply within the workplace.”
Ulwembu has also set up an online community on its intranet for members to access programme content, as well as additional resources such as assessments and articles that complement the classroom training and coaching circles.
Says Mutambiranwa: “Ulwembu recognises the importance of self-understanding and development and how this has an impact on interactions with other people and has created a space for women to build one another up.
“The lines between our personal and work lives are more blurred now than ever – after all, we can’t compartmentalise our personal selves when at the office – and this is something that more organisations must realise,” she concludes. “A whole person comes to the office and so the full self must therefore be incorporated into the workplace, which includes growth and development.”
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