There are 792 women in the City’s recreation and parks department, and many are excelling in previously male-dominated areas. Fish Hoek lifeguard Jeanne Topliss is one of them.
Ms Topliss is a competitive sportswoman, experienced lifeguard and an open-water swimmer, who is permanently employed by the City.
She says her career was inspired by her children, who wanted to volunteer as lifeguards.
In 2005, she attained her certification as part of the Fish Hoek Lifesaving Club.
Today, Ms Topliss boasts over a decade of experience, managing other professional lifeguards at Danger Beach, Clovelly, Fish Hoek and Glencairn; as part of Lifesaving Western Province for six years; and then as a City employee from November 2018.
“Lifesaving is a family passion and we see it as a way to give back to our community. Personally, I enjoy a challenge and motivate myself to get back up, no matter how difficult the season or how many times you fall,” she says.
The ratio of female to male lifeguards was 1:4 this past season, but Ms Topliss does not find this intimidating. Instead, she encourages more women to apply and be ready to pass the gruelling assessments.
Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, says women in the recreation and parks department do jobs that are still seen by some as men’s work, but they are “slowly turning the tide”.
“Women are making strides at all levels of the department,” he says, “they are breaking new ground and are leaders in their fields.”
Ms Topliss was involved with Waves4Change, a youth empowerment programme, and in 2016, from within her position in the Fish Hoek Lifesaving Club, she helped train the area’s first lifeguards from Masiphumelele.