Tracey Lange: Lift as you rise and realise your worth this Women’s Day

Business woman and media mogul Tracey Lange has risen through the ranks, from a determined, motivated intern to becoming one of the most well-recognised personalities in South African television and radio. On the 25th commemoration of National Women’s Day, she discusses the significance of the occasion and offers guidance on facing challenges that many women continue to face, in their homes and careers.

Tracey broke into radio production through perseverance and the drive to succeed. But it was support from her family and friends and encouragement to think differently that proved to be the catalysts in forging a career in the media sphere, while overcoming gender and racial barriers.

"My mom always said, ‘if you don’t ask, you’ll never know, and of course the answer will always be no!’”, said Tracey, reflecting on her community radio beginnings in Somerset West. "It’s vitally, vitally important to surround yourself with people who think like you and people who push you forward and keep reminding you about what your goals are.”

Tracey continues, “Even though I had no experience at that point, I called the station manager and set up a meeting for some unpaid work experience. The station manager said she liked my voice and asked if I’d like to read the news – at 10-minutes’ notice!”

Tracey accepted the challenge and took the plunge. Throwing her inhibitions aside, and following positive feedback, she quickly secured training at the station and began earning a salary.

"Getting your foot in the door can be much easier than people think – it’s about having the right attitude, believing in yourself and saying, ‘I can!’. You just have to take a risk outside your comfort zone and begin by working free of charge. I treated it as a hobby while earning money elsewhere to begin with, but it was the beginning of my career in radio,” she says.

However, Tracey’s quest for success and her ambition to climb met numerous speedbumps, in what is a typically male-dominated industry. Her promotion to station manager was met with resentment and disdain from some quarters.

"Some of the earliest challenges and battles I faced were purely because of where I was based in Somerset West. A lot of people despised the fact that this young woman of colour was taking over the management of the station – it was an issue of race and gender,” says Tracey.

While acknowledging that gender and racially-based discrimination shouldn’t have to be experienced by anyone, Tracey used the animosity directed at her as further stimulus to excel.

"It certainly wasn’t the most pleasant time in my life, but I dug in my heels and expanded the radio station’s success and profitability. I had a choice: either succumb to the force and pressure of prejudice or turn it into motivation. This is how we have to deal with bullies in all walks of life – the best revenge is success; there really is nothing better.”

Now with her own self-produced show on KFM, co-host and producer of Tussen Ons on KykNET and an ambassador for Relate Bracelets, Tracey uses her resilience and experience to inspire and uplift women struggling with adversity in South Africa. A frequent speaker at schools in Western Province, she reminds the next generation of young women of the importance of self-worth and self-reliance.

"My message to most women and young girls at school is to remember to lift as you rise,” Tracey continues. "There’s a whole ‘pull her down’ psychology that exists in our communities and workplaces, which is often instigated by women as well as men. I’ve been pulled down more often by the ‘boys’ club’ types but have been fortunate in that I’ve been surrounded by many amazing women who have helped me up and pushed me forward.

 With this in mind, Tracey urges women to support and spur one another on more profoundly, particularly in instances where the scales are tipped so horrendously to their detriment.

 "I’m all about women empowerment and I’m also about the best person for the job. Real empowerment comes from breaking down the barriers to opportunity and levelling the playing fields. Tokenism simply substitutes one glass ceiling for another,” she adds.

The opportunity to interact with schoolchildren and school leavers, as well as with vulnerable women supported by Relate Bracelets, has enabled Tracey to champion female empowerment to those who experience gender-based prejudice in their homes and communities. Mindful of the fact that many young women lack the support of positive reinforcement from friends and family, Tracey’s aim is to instil a consistent, resonating message: back yourself, take ownership of your worth and lift as you rise.

"One of the elements that attracted me to becoming an ambassador for Relate Bracelets is their not-for-profit stance in providing upliftment, access to education and employment opportunities to vulnerable women. If we actually open our hands and share our opportunities, our hands are open to receiving more,” Tracey continues.

"It’s vitally important that we as women do not inflict hurt on one another, not just on Women’s Day but through every day of our lives, in our communities and places of work. We have a responsibility to ourselves to mentor and teach other women, not lock them out for our own supposed gain. If you start feeling threatened by other women in the workplace, then work at becoming better but don’t become yet another obstacle. Create more opportunities in the most harmonious ways possible,” Tracey concludes.