Beyond the Dress is proud to announce the launch of Real Models, an exciting and thought-provoking programme specifically designed to identify, evaluate, reward and celebrate woman role models in the workplace.

What defines a 'real' role model? Is it possessing passion and the ability to inspire others? Perhaps it's having a clear set of values. Maybe it's commitment to community, selflessness or acceptance of others. Or is it the ability to overcome obstacles. Every day we encounter women in the workplace who are real models. Women need not be at the apex of their careers to be effective role models: wisdom and the sharing of best practice can be timeless and valuable at every rung of the corporate ladder.

Beyond the Dress is the brainchild of Lori Milner, a savvy, engaging facilitator, thought leader, and mentor that South Africans have come to love for her real and honest, but insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. The initiative is specifically aimed at corporate women and acknowledges the lifestyle, challenges, and ever changing roles of the working woman: ‘The Professional’, ‘The Individual’, ‘The Home-Maker’, ‘The Wife’, and ‘The Mother’.  Through various workshops held across the country, Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to manage their work-life balance.

Beyond the Dress has now evolved its services to include a Real Models programme, which provides a cost effective solution to create 'Real Models' in the workplace through a series of customised panel-discussion events. These will feature selected women chosen within a business and will not be limited to senior leadership roles alone. Beyond the Dress will facilitate and coordinate the event in conjunction with the company's team ensuring that pertinent issues and relevant challenges are discussed during the panellist discussions. Beyond the Dress will also provide staff access to a growing and high-level networking forum featuring prominent business men and women. The network creates opportunity for learning and growth and provides a platform for companies to showcase accessible real role models within their business.

"A very real challenge facing South African companies is the perception that there are not enough female role models in business," says Lori Milner. "For the average working-woman, this consistently becomes a major barrier to success. After all, if women aren't represented at the higher levels of an organisation, it becomes increasingly difficult for others to identify themselves as capable of getting a seat at that table. But here's the secret - role models don't have to be unattainable and they don't need to be limited to the scarcely famous female business leader. These are real-life role models identified and cultivated within your company. All around us are people who will have traits that are worthy of admiration and respect (both men and women) at all levels. By cultivating 'Real Models'  in your immediate surroundings, the Real Models programme can and will open up a range of possibilities within your company."

Milner explains the programme will include interactive discussions involving the audience to ensure all views are shared. "The objective is to provide knowledge sharing and thought leadership among employees. It is all about inspiring other woman to succeed in business and encouraging ladies across company structures to reach for their greater goals," she says. "Together, we identify admirable qualities in co-workers - be it a skill or behaviour. We then make it our goal to find out how that person attained it and how others might in turn acquire it, refine it and re-apply it."

Milner adds there has never been a greater need to identify, evaluate, reward and celebrate Real Models within companies. "The more women in visible positions of responsibility, the better the indication of the possibilities of an open and fair society. The more senior the position within the business, the more visible that position becomes both internally and externally, encouraging others to follow this lead," she says. "The Real Models programme encourages others to higher levels of self-esteem and greater aspirations. women make a conscious effort to cultivate more 'real' role models the lack of senior figures becomes less of a barrier. Plus we also learn more on the way up!"