On 9 August 1956, more than 20,000 South African women of all races staged a march on the Union Buildings in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”

62 years have passed and on the 9th August we celebrate National Women’s Day annually, which draws attention to significant issues South African women still face, such as parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, unequal pay, and schooling for all girls.

With human rights having developed and transformed over the many years that have passed, women in business, sport and life have found their voices bolder and brighter and are stronger and more independent as a whole.

Plantronics South Africa is represented by some incredibly strong, diverse and extremely successful women who represent the true value of womanhood.

We asked them what it means to be a women in sport:

Kirsten McCann

I never saw myself as a hugely influential person or woman, mainly for the simple reason that Rowing is a small sport and not many people know of Rowing. I worked as the head of Rowing at my senior school that I attended (St Andrews School for Girls) and it was there where I realized how young school girls looked up to me as a sportswoman and as a woman in general.

I am a type of woman who lives by the motto ‘Be yourself, because everyone else is taken’. This is not easy in a world where we have different ideas of success and many stereotypical ideas exist, whether it be physical attributes of an individual or financial status including the car you drive and the house you live in.

I was brought up to be myself, pursue my dreams and be a strong independent woman who is able to think and act for myself. My mum is a very strong woman who has taught me many valuable life lessons and equipped me with tools to handle the hardships that may come my way. I believe I was able to share some of those tools with some of the young girls I managed when working at St Andrews. I feel passionate about being able to set a good example for the youth, and other sportsmen and women. Not only do I like to think of myself as a role model in terms of the way that I train, and race and from the successes of my sport; but I also like to set an example in the way I carry myself as a female, the way I talk and act. A very wise person once said to me ‘ Top athletes say and do the right things’. This statement may come across as a superficial statement, but to me that statement means so much. To me it means that I need to be aware of the way I behave- there is no room for arrogance or bad behavior (bad tempers) in any aspect of my life. An athlete chooses to win humbly and lose gracefully. I never throw success in my competitors face, nor do I cry in front of my competitors when I lose. It’s about being mindful and being aware of people around you.

Going back to what it means for me to be a strong, influential woman in sport, I can definitely say it is a dream to be able to help young women develop strong, independent minds. To inspire women to be able to think and act for themselves. As a successful woman in sport, I want to be able to use my success to get a clear message across to the youth and any individual. This message is that an individual can do anything they put their mind to. Individuals can can be successful if they are determined to put in the hard work and they perservere when challenges and obstacle threaten their dream or come their way.

Life is complex, but I have learnt to stand strong. I have learnt to stand up for myself and hold on tightly to my morals and beliefs in order to keep my two feet on the ground, to stay humble and keep working hard.

Ashleigh Buhai

P: How does it feel to be an influential women in sport?

A: Its a great honor to be thought of being an influential women in sport.

P: What is a highlight to you of this role?

A: I love when I see young girls at tournaments who have taken up the game of golf and how excited they get when they get an autograph or a souvenir from myself or other tour professionals.

Shredbetty’s 

Shredbettys started out as a small group of women reaching out to women riders who experience the difficulties of competing in and getting started
in a male dominated sport. Shredbettys began to receive an overwhelming desire from women around South Africa to have a company that acts as a voice
from a commonly ignored market to the motorsports industry

In 2013, Shredbettys pushed away from a simple Facebook Group, and began
the journey to become a well-known company that promotes women’s riding and
other extreme sports. Reaching out to women from every level of riding,
Shredbettys strives to give attention to the girls who are dedicating their
lives to a sport that’s industry hasn’t exactly dedicated to them. Through
featured riders, articles about health and exercise, fun monthly
competitions and constant feedback from the riding community, Shredbettys is
off to a strong start at getting these women the attention they deserve. Not
only that, but Shredbettys works with companies that support women’s riding
through marketing and advertising services.

Today, Shredbettys sits as the number one interactive social media avenue
for South African women’s off-road racing with an audience ranging from
13yrs of age to 65+.  Our most popular group is 18-44 years old. Shredbettys
reaches thousands of people a day through their website, Facebook, Instagram
and Twitter. Shredbettys top interactive countries include South Africa, The
United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Italy,
Brazil, India and the United Kingdom.

Our Annual Ladies Days have grown from strength to strength.  In 2013 we
had 55 ladies joins us for the day, 2014 there were 85 ladies and in 2015 we
had 130 ladies in attendance.  We have also now since extended the invite to
Junior Girls & Boys U15 which has also grown every year.

Being influential is essentially a relationship skill. Most of us have a
preferred way of working with others—ours is a collaborative style, a
team-oriented style where our aim is to involve others in the influencing
process and getting advice and help from many different avenues and people
with knowledge in areas we may not have.  Rather than try do it all
ourselves, we work with many different players in the industry and we try to
involve any other ladies group out there.  For example, we are not really
too experienced in MX as our preferred riding discipline is Enduro, but we
get requests all the time so we will get the help from the SAWMX girls that
are pro’s in that field.  Some relationships last and others don’t and you
have to cut the dead weight and move on with people that have the same
values and goals and together we can all do amazing things for Women in
Sport.

Shredbettys has grown into the number portal for women in xtreme sports due
to the dependability, integrity and sincerity of all the role players that
are involved.  We have started from the bottom, earnt our stripes in
whichever discipline we choose and can therefore give advice on experiences
we have had whether they were good or bad so people can avoid the places
that take you for a ride for example.  Our reputation has been built on
trust and experience and we are not afraid to speak out when we want better
things for ladies in sport like their own class or prize money or whatever
it may be.

I think resilience has also been an important factor of being influential.
There have been many nay sayers and bullies in the industry but we have
stood our ground, stood up for what we believe in and always been
transparent in all we do. We have respect for ourselves and others and have
learnt to say “No.” You don’t have to accept everything that comes your way
or listen to what the industry tries to dictate to you.  If you don’t like
the way things are being done, create your own and that has definitely
worked for us, just keep pushing forward.

The highlight for us is that the consumer power of Women is being
increasingly recognized and we are seeing more events and stores cater more
and more for women.  This has also spilled over into events where more
Ladies classes have been created.  We have also held all our riders up to a
certain standard and they only enter races when they are ready, there’s no
need for a special easier race class, train hard, earn your stripes and go
show them, no special treatment here haha.  That way girls are respected and
supported by everyone in the industry.

We are surrounded by so many powerful women daily. She may be your sister. She may be your colleague. She may be your mother. She may be your partner. She may be your best friend. She may even be a stranger you may never know, but SHE IS WOMEN and she is valued.

#SpreadTheShred

Happy Women’s Month to all.

Cover image curtesy of Penguin Books Limited