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People And Culture In The Workplace

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Corporates must make a deliberate effort to accelerate the development of women and appoint them to senior positions, says KG Bako, the Managing Executive: People and Culture, at Absa Corporate and Investment Bank. Bako says this will inspire young and up-coming women professionals to have people to look up to. She feels it is time there are more female chief executive officers and others in C-Suite positions.

“I am passionate about women empowerment so I always make sure I am fully hands on when it comes to these matters. I mentor and coach a number of young women professionals, both at CIB and externally. I believe sharing personal stories of our professional journeys does open one’s eyes and empowers them with tools to choose from when faced with challenges. I believe those of us who are in the top have to create a path for the young professionals,” Bako says. “Having someone as your voice in key decision making forums is key and we need to see more and more women being sponsored.”

She narrates her own experience rising up the corporate ladder, where she faced challenges with gender-based stereotypes, where there were perceptions one could not perform at a certain level simply because you were a woman. “So most of the time, you are finding yourself having to repeatedly proving yourself and working twice as hard as your male counterparts in order to gain recognition,” Bako says.

She believes your immediate supervisor can have a significant influence on your career growth, because they are the first point of reference when you face work challenges. But it is not always that easy, especially if you are a woman. Being told you are not ready for growth or new opportunity is one example, when you are denied growth opportunities deliberately, Bako says.

“When I engaged my boss at the time, I was very clear what I wanted; I had done a self-assessment, so I knew I was ready. When the response was no, not this year with no explanation, I had to give them the benefit of the doubt, that they don’t know or have all the information required for them to make an informed decision,” Bako continues. “I decided to write a motivation with all the facts (no emotions) that led me to believe I was ready and that changed their perspective.”

Bako says one should take personal charge of their career growth as no-one is going to do it for you.  She says: “Surround yourself with people who will take you forward. Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. As Oprah Winfrey said, don’t fight them; just find a new way to stand.”

Bako holds a degree in Social Sciences from Wits University and also a Master of Business Administration General degree from Henley Business School. She believes her career choice was natural because from a young age, she has always been caught between the love for numbers and people.

“The more I worked with people, the more it became clear where my passion was. When my plan of becoming a Clinical Psychologist was not realised there was no better place to nurture the love for both worlds than being a Head of People and Culture in an investment bank,” she says.

Bako admits many people struggle with striking a balance between work and family, particularly as they rise up the corporate ladder. She believes it requires understanding and concerted effort from all role players; from the employer and the culture within the organisation to family members involved.

“Firstly, the employer has to be deliberate about an inclusive culture they create to ensure women are able to have work life integration. Secondly, the culture you create at home has to align to your ambitions to excel professionally. The family set up has to support this, understanding there will be days when you have to put in long hours and someone has to take care of household chores,” Bako says.

“With technology these days, you don’t have to be physically in the office to do your work. Not only is the ease of accessing your emails, but you can join meetings using technology, again this speaks to the culture of the workplace. Once you have both worlds set up to enable your ambitions, the main role player is yourself,” she says.

Bako advises that one has to be clear about their plans and know who forms part of your support structure, at home, work or socially. She believes these structures become useful while you also find time to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

“Make time for physical activities, whether it’s the gym or yoga class whichever works for you. We need to do a better job in putting ourselves first on our To Do list. It can sometimes be self-inflicted; we need to get our priorities in order and organise ourselves better,” says the mother of three daughters.

Her advice to young women is “If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you will be quickly and inaccurately be defined by others as Michelle Obama said.”

The post People And Culture In The Workplace appeared first on Forbes Africa.

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