As the director of Stellenbosch University’s Transformation Office, Dr Zethu Mkhize not only embodies the #EmbraceEquity theme of this year’s International Women’s Day but also has strong views on how equity should translate to the workplace.
Zethu, who studied Social Work, majored in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Zululand and obtained her Honours, Master’s and Doctorate in Social Science at the University of South Africa. She also completed her Master’s Diploma in Human Resources Management at the then Rand Afrikaans University, which became the University of Johannesburg.
She started as the director of the Transformation Office on 1 November 2020 after a stint at Rhodes University in its Equity and Institutional Culture Office, an equivalent of SU’s Transformation
“The reason I made the switch is because Stellenbosch’s Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework as well as its Restitution Statement indicated to me that the University is on a path of transformation and change and I wanted to be part of that process.”
As the director of the Transformation Office she is mandated to provide strategic direction for the implementation of SU’s Transformation Plan. This includes facilitative, developmental and advocacy roles, as well as coordinating programmatic interventions towards a transformed institutional culture.
The Transformation Office has a number of interventions, which includes critical engagements and dialogues. It provides support to transformation committees in faculties and support environments whose function is to advance the implementation of the SU Transformation Plan within their faculties and/or environments.
Transformation committees help the Transformation Office to understand the unique needs of their faculties and divisions, thus informing the Office how best to co-create programmes that are responsive to those needs. The Division for Student Affairs is a significant partner in the critical engagement forum created for students.
Zethu says her aim is to make a success of the rectorate’s mandate to revise the Transformation Plan, ensure that it is successfully implemented, and that individuals are being held accountable for their failure in achieving the key deliverables as identified in the plan. She would also love to see the University accelerating relational transformation where individuals treat one another with respect and not along racial lines.
But what she enjoys most about her job is ensuring that practices within the institution are equitable for staff and students.
“Practice is ideally informed by policy. Any inequitable practice signals a need for the policy change and the role of the Transformation Office is to engage with the policyholder concerned to make that change happen.”
With regards to the sentiments expressed through this year’s International Women’s Day theme #EmbraceEquity that “equal opportunities are no longer enough and can in fact be exclusionary, rather than inclusive”, she had the following to say:
“In 2002, the office of the Status of Women developed a national policy framework for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
But we haven’t seen organisations and employers following the provisions of that framework. There is a disconnect between the provisions of the framework and general practice. The field has never really been levelled for women in the workplace.
“Organisations boast about their cohort of women employees, but the fact is that there is a lot more that needs to be done to accommodate the unique needs of these women, especially young, up and coming professionals and academics who need to develop not only their careers but also their families.
“Falling pregnant, for instance, is a setback for these women’s career development and that is the reason why men climb the corporate ladder faster than women. There is also a need to review maternity leave as unpaid leave.”
She says a solution is for universities and organisations to carry out an impact assessment that will look at promoting guidelines to ensure that women’s needs are taken into account, especially with relation to maternity leave policies and promotion criteria.
- To commemorate International Women’s Day that is celebrated across the globe on 8 March, the Stellenbosch Women Alumnae Network (SWAN) is shining the spotlight on our remarkable women, not just for a day, but for the entire month of March.
- Read more here: