Do You Suffer from the PHD Syndrome?


Pull Her Down syndrome aka PHD, is holding back the careers of many women.


The Pull Her Down syndrome was first coined by Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, South Africa’s first black female talk show host and is used to diagnose the lack of support that woman have for each other, especially in the working world. It seems, when women are climbing their respective career ladders, everyone else disappears and if they have to shove another woman off in order to get themselves higher, they will not hesitate or worry themselves about the effects of the other woman’s fall.

Example Of The PHD Syndrome

Busi is a Partner at one of South Africa’s leading law firms and has worked very hard to earn her position. She is the only female partner in her firm and has always made sure that when stepping into the boardroom, her gender is not an issue. When the board presents the profile of another female, Lerato, whom they are interested in promoting to become a Partner, Busi feels threatened and votes against the candidate. Lerato’s promotion is favoured by most of the members of the board and Busi is out-voted. When Lerato joins the board, Busi makes it clear that there is only one female voice in the room and disregards Lerato on many occasions.

Lerato, who is a dedicated lawyer, is happy that the firm she works for has finally recognised her efforts and is considering a promotion for her as a Partner of the firm. Female colleagues whom Lerato thought were her friends, spread rumours across the office that she slept with two members of the board, which is the only reason she’s getting a promotion.

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry reports that only 24% of women worldwide, hold senior business positions while 79% of South African businesses do not have any mentorship programmes for women and are not even considering the start of one. We all agree that something needs to change. These statistics will not be altered from the office of one successful woman. All women need to support each other and make these statistics grow because our young daughters and sons, the future men and women of our nation, cannot be living in a world of PHD syndromes and in such high levels of gender inequality.