Noleen Ilunga Muleya is a business woman and keynote speaker at the House of Pearls Foundation South Africa. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband, daughter and little cat.
You have worked many years in the corporate world. What has been your experience with gender equality at the workplace?Through the years there have been small pockets of change. But unfortunately this has not become the norm. Take the IT environment – it is still very male dominated. And it is difficult for people to grasp that you, a young woman, know what you are talking about. It’s not easy to show the person, who has been doing a job for the last 30yrs, how to do it better and faster. Culture flows from the top. You may have an exec who believes in equality but that does not filter to his subordinates. Even worst is when the exec doesn’t see you as an equal. As woman we are in lose/lose situations most times.
In your opinion, what are the main factors determining gender gap in the workplace?
There are many! Stereotypes, cultural difference, ignorance, pay gaps, limited career advancements and the balance of work and home life.
What can be done to bring more equality and balance into the workplace?
Pay attention to the senior roles in organisation. Don’t fill them with junior people to meet quotas, but use proper criteria.
Closing the gender pay gap. Happier employees means greater profitability to the economy as a whole
There are NO men/woman work roles any more. We must have equal opportunities to all roles.
Proper practice and assessment of equality in the workplace. I’m tired of surveys that, instead of making an impact, are only there for ticking a box.
Woman in the workplace must be more outspoken. We must not fear intimidation or loss of job for coming forward about harassment of any form.
You recently left the corporate world to start a new venture. Can you tell us more about your choice and your future plans?
I was utterly unhappy with my working environment. When I could not drive the changes I hoped to see, I started making excuses for the organisation. I had to change my personality to make everyone else comfortable.
People said that I was too forthright. And I was called ‘the dragon lady’. I had to fall in line with the culture, not question anything, even if it was to the detriment of the company.
So I stepped back and considered my situation. I preached daily to my daughter about being your own person and fighting the good fight. And yet I was a boxer who was cowering in a corner.
I had gone completely out of my comfort zone. Things had to change.
Now I help organisations reduce retrenchments, as well as improving learning and training. And doing it all without putting a dent in your profits.
I want to fight the equality battle on my terms. I will continue to push the female agenda in the workplace and make my voice heard. As woman we need to stand up and we need to stand together. Only then will our voices be drown out the noise.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to those working mums who want to grow into a leadership role?
Be bold and do not dim or dumb yourself down for anyone.
You have one daughter. What do you wish for her life and career?
I wish that she has a career and not a job. I hope she gets up everyday and loves what she does. She has that mind set and I hope it never changes. Most important of all – I hope she never has to prove herself, just because she is a woman. But rather that she is judged on her skills. And of course, that she has every opportunity the world has to offer.
Please complete this: Success is…
… knowing that the ceiling only exists in your mind.
More about Noleen Ilunga Muleya
Award-winning business head and tactical planner who creates and distributes profitable solutions in new and growth-oriented companies in a variety of industries.
Through innovative strategies, the implementation of change and recovery campaigns that create organizational stability and prosperity Noleen became an active leader in her field.
She has led hundreds of simultaneous high-stakes programmes by creating clear strategies for their successful conclusion. She thrives by making difficult but necessary decisions that promote the use of enhanced solutions, consultative engagements, and cutting edge technology, for increased revenue and overall profitability. Noleen has the proven ability to generate business and offer technical expertise worldwide, including the United States, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa. She is a motivated and confident leader who believes collaboration, unwavering dedication, and positive change are the keys to business success.