They say your network determines your net worth and that a degree is "just a piece of paper".

It appears the Democratic Alliance's (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen is living proof, sitting pretty as a member of parliament with only a matric qualification to his name, as was revealed this past weekend.

A Twitter spat between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the DA soon ensued, where Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and his colleague Floyd Shivambu were quick to put the spotlight on white privilege at play. 

To which Steenhuisen clapped back that he would rather be "degreeless and honest" than be a qualified dishonest person.


Twitter reacts

Aside from the qualifications required to climb political ranks, this spat sparked conversation around how much more difficult it is for black people in this country to get employment in high-earning positions, let alone any position despite their multiple degrees. 

When fiction mirrors reality

US TV series Suits' story line may have been fictional, but it can actually be applied to a number of scenarios in the real corporate world, where black people find out out that their white colleagues in senior positions or who are earning significantly higher salaries than them, are not as qualified as they are. 

See, Mike Ross (Patrick Adams) was not a Harvard law graduate (or a graduate at all actually), yet he landed himself a permanent job at a firm that exclusively hires graduates from Harvard Law School.

He cheated his way into the system, and it was easy for him to do so because the divine combination of white privilege and male privilege grants you access to a plethora of opportunities that are cordoned off to lesser privileged groups – black women in particular. 

READ MORE: Is it really about who you know and not what degree you have?

Conversely, Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) – a black woman – remained a stagnant paralegal at this same firm for years, despite her legal acumen and education. 

This may seem like a mere fictional example, but it's the reality of so many black women vying for good jobs and promotions, but lose out to underqualified white candidates who "have a knack for these things".

While so many black graduates remain unemployed, it's not rare to bump into an anecdote such as the one below on social media, where what I'll dub Ross-Steenhuisen Fortune is highlighted:

Twice as hard for half the reward

In October 2017, Forbes released survey results conducted by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, which revealed that in the US, "from entry-level hires to the C-suite, there are simply fewer women at every level, with the disparities between men and women becoming more pronounced the more senior they become". 

These results further revealed that black women experience the lowest average for job satisfaction in comparison to their white women colleagues. "Moreover, black women tend to think that the workplace is unfair in terms of growth opportunities and the awarding of promotions," Forbes added. 

READ MORE: Want the big job? 4 women on top of their game tell us how to get that seat at the table

Back here at home, our universities cap far more black female students on graduation stages than male students, yet young black women are the demographic that is most vulnerable to unemployment.  

In 2017, the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Nelson Mandela University, University of Pretoria, Wits and Rhodes University all reported higher numbers of women who graduated than men.

But in yet another case of "we have to work twice as hard just to get half of what they have", black South African women's unemployment rate sits at 34.2%, irrespective of education level – the highest across all demographics, Mail & Guardian reported.

So educated black women continue to break their backs to prove themselves in the face of white privilege, which continuously shifts the goalposts against their favour.

Sign up to W24's newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.