Women in Print Event Celebrates the Industry’s Most Formidable Heroines
Industry leaders in South Africa share valuable insights
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Printing South Africa, an organization with 111 years of history, held its initial Women in Print celebrations in August. Because print is a male-dominated industry, I was humbled to be one of the honourees. As a moderator at the Johannesburg event, I formulated questions based on what I found challenging in my career. As a panelist in Cape Town, I had to answer those same questions honestly. Much of the conversation was focused on disruption and how best to not just survive but thrive in a production world.
The panelists discussed their biggest challenges, including one I’ve also faced: Fitting into the male-dominated print space. My advice was that you must toughen up, period. It's worthwhile and I love it, but it hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes you have to fight to be taken seriously by your male counterparts until you earn your stripes—or outdrive them on the golf course.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is something most of the panelists had experienced. They emphasized telling someone about your experience if you cannot confront the perpetrator. But most importantly, business owners must cultivate a company culture where sexual harassment is not tolerated. Due to the global focus on this issue, it has become easier to expose those who commit workplace sexual harassment, and there is more awareness of it. However, there are many more challenges in developing countries, where gender equality is lagging.
Can Women Have It All?
Finding a work-life balance is challenging. It takes many sacrifices, and you will feel guilt—especially when you have missed important milestones. I remind women that you can’t please everyone, and you might regret the choices you’ve made, but you just need to do the best you can.
What’s more, it was very nice that the second part of the event featured younger women, who are determined to make their mark, detailing their efforts into building a successful career in the world of production print that still seems to take its time in bringing more youth into the industry.
Changing the Image of the Industry
The printing industry can be seen as outdated and harmful to the environment, which doesn’t fit in with a new generation that prioritizes sustainability. The panelists discussed their companies’ commitment to a more sustainable future with their business practices as well as manufacturing printers that are more energy efficient.
An exciting technology is smart/connected packaging, which two of the panelists (Chantal Donnelly, General Manager at Hirt & Carter, and Kaylene Lloyd, COO at Offernet) are driving in the industry. It connects print and packaging with the consumer, the manufacturer, and the brand owner in a multidirectional way. The focus is on the circular economy and how retailers and brands can deliver real initiatives which solve business problems.
These cutting-edge, sustainable technologies make this industry very appealing. Therefore, printing companies need to target learners at a school-level—showing them early on the exciting possibilities in print, which is more than just paper.
The Importance of Mentorship and Anti-Mentors
Heidie-Mari Middel, Production Specialist for KYOCERA Document Solutions South Africa, made a great point about those in charge needing to be leaders instead of managers. Anyone can manage, but very few actually inspire and empower their teams.
I had some heartwarming moments at these events where a few young women who have followed my journey in print said that I inspire them, thanking me for the impact I’ve had on their lives. There aren’t a lot of women in this industry (there are even fewer in South Africa), so those in senior roles should be aware that many women look to us for inspiration and guidance. They are encouraged by the advice we give, the comments we make, and the chances we take.
Interestingly, panelist Kristin Mento (Creative Department Manager for Topinc Print Imagination) said you could learn from “anti-mentors,” too—those in senior roles who set examples of what not to do by not valuing their staff, being reluctant to pass on their industry knowledge, and who don’t apologize for their mistakes.
We shared a video by Deborah Corn, who runs the Girls Who Print network that has over 9,200 global members of women in the print industry. The organization’s mission is to help women connect with mentors, and it offers many services to women in the industry to create professional relationships, global partnerships, and a supportive community.
I also can’t help but mention that many younger ladies on the panel asked me for help with their biographies for the program—this made me realize that, as women, we need to improve our self-promotion, we need to celebrate our achievements, and we need to be bold and highlight our accomplishments on platforms like LinkedIn. Not only are you giving yourself the recognition you deserve, but you’re inspiring other women in the industry to do the same. My takeaway is that you must learn to put yourself out there.
Reaction to Printing SA
Said Abisha Katerere, Printing SA’s Marketing Manager and B-BBEE Specialist: “I am delighted to have been part of this industry-first initiative that saw close to 200 women and men attending our events in Johannesburg and Cape Town during Women’s Month. The insights of print mavericks and leaders who took part were priceless, and the guests stated how beneficial it was to have the spotlight on women in the industry finally. We will create many more opportunities for this initiative to blossom into something that will have a longstanding and far-reaching impact on young women in our sector.”
Dr. Abdool Majid Mahomed, CEO of Printing South Africa, added, “All the participants were amazing in their unique and special life journeys shared, and the audiences felt motivated and enthralled, and could not stop raving about the events. We can only grow bigger and better from these industry benchmarks that have been set.”
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
I hope Women in Print becomes a legacy event in South Africa, and that it sees similar events get held where women in the industry are recognized and able to share their experiences. We need these events, as well as mentorship programs and educational initiatives, to show young women how exciting the industry really is. Here’s to all the phenomenal women who make the printing industry so dynamic—we salute you!
Check out the quick video on Women in Print (Central Chamber).
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