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EmpowHER: Accelerating the develoment of women

EmpowHER: Accelerating the develoment of women

Now more than ever, the growth of women is hampered by gender-related challenges. Free To Grow is committed to the development of women, helping them to release their potential and thrive in all their roles, including that of a leader.

“Conventional wisdom says that women hit a ‘glass ceiling’ that prevents them from reaching senior leadership positions. In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is the first step up to the role of manager – the ‘broken rung’. This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry-level and fewer women becoming managers.“ McKinsey 2020 Women in the Workplace Report

The broken rung of the leadership ladder starts a domino effect that also stifles women’s progress further up the ladder. Since men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, there are far fewer women to hire or promote to senior managers.

The pandemic has intensified the challenges faced by women

Many employees are struggling to do their jobs. The boundaries between work and home are blurred – leaving many people struggling with being ‘always on’, dealing with loss and worrying about health and finances.

Women in particular have been negatively impacted. While working mothers have always worked a ‘double shift’, many of the supports that made this possible have fallen, resulting in more than one in four women contemplating either downscaling or resigning.

RCL Chickens SO MORE to accelerate the development of their high-potential women

RCL Food’s Chicken Division are acutely aware of the gender-based barriers faced by many women in their leadership development journey.

This prompted Ansa du Toit, Learning & Development Manager, to partner with Free To Grow to develop and deliver a robust accelerated development programme for women on the A, B and C job bands. Basadi Bereka (Women at Work) was born.

“This programme is a real gem and has tremendous impact. Year one was so successful that we are continuing the journey with these women for another year. We have also started the journey with the second cohort of three new groups geographically spread across SA. We are extremely impressed with how the programme is put together and presented. It is innovative, comprehensive, fresh, deep and meaningful. It can deliver a step-change in diversity management to ensure that RCL Foods has the right number of talented women available at all times,” says Ansa.

The tremendous impact of Basadi Bereka inspired Free To Grow to create a generic version of the programme – EmpowHER.

“EmpowHER is one of the most exciting developments in the 27 years of Free To Grow’s existence. It truly equips women to shape a different future for themselves,” says Alinda Nortje, executive chairperson of Free To Grow and the passionate author of the programme

Prof. Shirley Zinn, non-executive director of several boards and author of Swimming Upstream shares her views on EmpowHER

Well done on integrating a compelling experience for young women who have to do battle with the broken first rung of their career ladder. This facet of women’s career development is well researched and this programme is a thoughtful and insightful experience to ensure we enable young women to navigate the complexities of the broken first rung, and the many rungs beyond, through self-reflection, goal-setting, purpose, coaching and authentic support.”

Seeing is believing – the value of female role models

Studies show that role models matter, particularly for women. Strong female role models can significantly influence the motivation and goals of women on junior levels by expanding their horizons and showing what is possible.

Women’s Career Enabler Survey identifies aspirations and barriers

After extensive research, Free To Grow developed a comprehensive survey that provides organisations with a snapshot of the career aspirations of women. It also provides meaningful insights into their perceptions of the barriers that impede their career advancement – personal, interpersonal, organisational, cultural and family and household responsibililites.

Using Mindset Management’s powerful and user friendly platform, this survey enables organisations to drill down into demographics of their choice to understand the realities women in their organisation are facing so that they can mitigate those that are in their control or influence.

To explore how we can shape EmpowHER to work for your organisation, contact Alinda Nortje, Executive Chairperson of Free To Grow on +27 82 852 6323 or


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