As Namibia celebrates International Women’s Day 2020 on Sunday March 8th, statistics show that there has been a marked improvement in organizational policies that allow women to excel.
As part of our feature on women rising to the top of their institutions, we caught up with GIPF’s Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Morna Ikosa (MI). Below she shares her views on the day and growth opportunities for women in Namibia.
WO: Kindly introduce yourself and your area of responsibility at the GIPF?
MI: I am Morna Ikosa, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at GIPF.I manage our corporate communications and stakeholders.
WO: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
MI: It is a day that has been selected to celebrate the successes and silent victories of unsung heroines, who are doing amazing things every day, and do not always receive the recognition for what they are doing. I have not yet felt the effects of that celebration in Namibia yet. So the day personally does not mean anything for me. Perhaps across the world the day is better celebrated.
WO: What is your view about opportunities for women in your sector?
MI: My sector is dominated by many women. Some have risen to executive level.
WO: Would you say women are getting equal opportunity when it comes to certain roles in organisations?
MI: No they are not. There are a myriad of factors at play. In some instances, we are our own worst enemies. We don’t adequately prepare for executive roles when an opportunity presents itself. Fear, insecurities, self-doubt, lack of confidence, and failure to take risks, are some of the deterrent factors that prohibit us from getting equal opportunities. Other instances are due to women who have reached risen to higher levels and are reluctant to empower, mentor and assist other women to reach their own potential. Various companies’ corporate cultures are not ready to allow women to lead or take up executive roles. This is a huge deterrent to women receiving equal opportunities in the workplace.
WO: Personally, what have been the challenges as women in your current role and how have you managed to overcome them?
MI: As a woman, I have to work twice as hard compared to my male counterparts to be taken seriously. I am fortunate to have a General Manager and CEO who value my contributions and efforts. When I started work in this role, I was nursing a three months old baby. At times I could travel with him, sometimes not. Although our policies allow a nursing mother an additional hour to nurse, no other provisions are made to fully accommodate mothers of new-born babies. Perhaps because most policies are developed and approved by men.
Fortunately, I love my work, and I read quite a lot. So I am always prepared and ensure that when an opportunity avails itself, I am ready. With the nursing mother dilemma, our acting Human Resource General Manager is a woman, and she too recently had a baby. When I engaged her on policies that are friendlier towards millennial mothers, she heard my request and I am sure she is working on it.
WO: Do you have any regrets regarding your career choice, being a woman?
MI: Not at all. Stakeholder engagement is very relational and so are most women. The role requires one to be intuitive, analytical, perceptive, empathetic - qualities that many women have. I could not have dreamed of a better job.
WO: What do you think are the top challenges for ANY working woman in today’s world?
MI: Their hard work is not being recognised, as the executives above them who are usually men, take credit for most of their work.
The men then get promoted at the expense of the women.
Ladies who are in executive positions, are not empowering the next generation of women, because they are either feeling threatened by them or are fearful or insecure that they jobs will be taken.
Another challenge is that women are not getting flexi time, especially when they are nursing babies. I am fortunate to be in a company that is a bit more friendly towards nursing mothers,- other companies are not, and it should be stopped immediately.
Sexual harassment, workplace discrimination
Women getting lower salaries than men, although they are doing the same thing.
WO: What have you learned about yourself and about the industry while working at the GIPF?
MI: The opportunities are there. You just need to position yourself well. Build networks, because you can’t achieve success, if you work alone. The more you give of yourself, the more you learn. If you are teachable, you can learn from anyone, because every person has something unique to contribute.
Stay out of gossip, just focus. Give whatever task you are given your best. Eventually you will gain rapport if your work is excellent. It is not difficult to notice excellent work.
WO: If another woman was considering a career in your field and sector, what advice would you give her?
MI: Emotional intelligence, patience, empathy, diplomacy, analytical skills to mention a few are very important. You need to be able to work with people from different backgrounds and diversities. You need to be teachable and adapt to change quickly. You need to be well read. Understand what is happening in your macro and micro environment. Be at the forefront of issues and proactively try to manage them before they become a crisis.
WO: Would you like to add anything else?
MI: Women make the best leaders. Let us give them the opportunity. Let us empower them. To the other women: encourage and empower your fellow sisters. Don’t not gossip, negatively criticise, or become jealous of their progress. When women work together, the world becomes a better place. There is a blessing in unity.