It was the cover image that captured my attention to pick up the book and lean in, the image of two black women in their beautiful black hair, smiling at each other. With closer attention, I learned that one of the familiar faces with one of South Africa’s most decorated woman in business and leadership, Dr Judy Dlamini. It was the third point of observation, the title on the cover “Equal But Different: Women Leaders’ Life Stories – Overcoming Race, Gender and Social Class” and paging through the pages and seeing the black powerful women leaders profiled that convinced me to eventually buy the book with much excitement.
“My interest in this area of study is based on my strong belief that people are born equal but different. It is a belief that equity across gender, race, social class and sexual orientation will be attained in my lifetime.”
This is the opening quote of the first chapter of the book, where Dr Judy Dlamini unpacks the motivation for choosing the social identities of race, gender and class to carry the narrative of the book and the genesis of the book’s conception. The strongly academic tone of this opening chapter (very well consistent throughout the book) is sweetened by a framework suggested by authors Dlamini fondly quotes Nkomo and Ngambi (2009), a meso-level approach to women leadership that is operational at Societal, Individual and Organisational Level.
I’m so incredibly excited to be affirmed every day I see a sea of women, and particularly for my societal identity, black women who are successful in business and technology. Representation matters, it does, and what matters within the confines and decoration of the politics of the image of your role models is also what they consume to inform their society. Taking into account the time period of Apartheid that these women grew up in, the socialism of not only gender but race played a role in how their lives turned out and ultimately, what class they managed to place themselves in, consciously and unconsciously.
In the chapter that followed, Dr Dlamini goes on to profile numerous leaders including United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, CEO of Barclays Africa’s Maria Ramos, Founder of Fly Blue Crane’s Siza Mzimela, and current President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa to name a few – this is where it got real for me.
The general consensus from the series of interviews confirmed this for me from the array of women leaders interviewed:
· Most of the women interviewed were black women, and the further education either in Europe or North America afforded them the entry point into the social class privilege that they enjoy today
· Men, and especially white men seem to be better mentors and sponsors to women at the start and peak of their careers
· Black women don’t see white women as allies, mainly because as Gloria Serobe puts it “…. White women are struggling to accept that they were marginalised; the fact is that they were. They benefitted from employment equity.”
From foreign perspectives of both women and men leaders, the consumption of feminism from both men and men to the strategy of quotas to enable more women into not only boards but also the transition from middle-level to senior-level management, this book peeled many layers to its honest core. The one unpleasantry of the book had to be the constant repetition of quotes from Chapter 2 “South African women’s life journeys” throughout the book from Chapters 3 onwards through to the final chapter. The reference of the chapters were written in a manner as though the reader started reading from Chapter 3 and skipped pages, instead from the beginning.
“There was consensus among the interviewees that women tended to work in support departments, which did not expose them to leadership positions. Cora emphasised the importance of being in a revenue-generating position within the organisation as a success strategy, while Tomatoe Serobe, co-founder and CEO of WipCapital, emphasised the need for women to understand the business of their company as a whole rather than only the small division where they worked.”
For a young woman starting out in her career and/or business, this is a book of great insights and a look at what not only successful black women representation looks like, but also a consultation on where and how one would draw the line in being an ableist of sexism, tokenism and other –isms in your career journey. Take heed of the strategies and advice supplied by these global leaders and do your best in your journey.
Images : Dillion Phiri.
On the 2nd of May, Thomson Reuters Labs – Cape Town, in partnership with The Durban Innovation Hub and The Makerspace, and supported by the World Economic Forum Global Shapers hosted an Africa 4.0 Innovation Breakfast Experience with a focus on The Power of Co-creation and Africa 4.0 as a pre-cursor to The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa 2017.
Unpacking Africa 4.0
The breakfast brought together corporate innovation panellists from Grinrod, Thomson Reuters and Kusini Water to unpack Africa 4.0 and provide insights into Africa’s data scarcity gap, how corporate innovation has its role to growing the continent and exploring where Africa is going. Thought leader of industry and founder of WEF, Klaus Schwab describes the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a revolution that is empowering and human centred that is driven by the convergence of new technologies with the physical, digital and biological worlds. It is a revolution that will impact economies and industries, and will stretch itself to challenge ideas in how we communicate, consume and produce.
What does investing in the Fourth industrial revolution mean for Africa - dubbed Africa 4.0?
In understanding what Africa 4.0 is and its impact, Thomson Reuters’ SVP, Head of Innovation for Africa, Saidah Nash Carter kickstarted the discussion by unraveling what was at the centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Humanity and the impact that technology has on people is the ultimately the heart of the latest revolution, and our role as Thomson Reuters can be to leverage its proven strength in data innovation to convene and empower the increasingly interconnected ecosystem.” Nash Carter expanded on the concept, talking to the opportunity that Africa 4.0 presents for inclusive growth for developing markets.
Tapping the opportunity of Shared Business Value creation through Africa 4.0
“It is possible to do good business, profit and social impact are not mutually exclusive.” Using the Port Maputo in Mozambique as a case study, panelist Cathie Lewis, Group Company Secretary of Grinrod, expressed the concern about shared business value creation when engaging in the commercial value of corporate innovation. Grinrod is a global holding company that operates in the freight logistics, shipping and financial services, and does so with the unique objective of servicing Africa trade flows.
Speaking to the company’s customer relationship with Maputo Port, Lewis expressed the opportunity to create a shared business value chain in Mozambique since the aid-reliant country’s financial aid cut by a couple of donors in 2016 meant unstable economic growth and activity. The opportunity in shared business value creation is in the World Bank’s Mozambique’s strategy in reinvesting the natural wealth and the country’s build environment asset of the Port and decentralize it for human and institutional capital and do good business.
The value created from solutions of such challenges lies at the intersection of Africa 4.0 and its technologies and recognizing that value add needs to come from the corner of multi-stakeholder engagement. This ecosystem is one that recognises the stakeholders at Port Maputo, the Mozambican government to workers, and immediate communities. The objective of Africa 4.0 should aim to look at how we can harness these new technologies to share business value creation for all stakeholders involved
Investing in multi-stakeholder cooperation across all industry
Bringing the conversation to multi-stakeholder investments, Nash Carter recognised the value of entrepreneurs in empowering communities and economies, just as Murendeni Mafumo is with Kusini Water. Using nano-technology and solar power to produce water, Kusini Water thrives on sustainable business models of lease agreements, pay per litre of water used and sale of the systems. A passionate water scientist and entrepreneur, Mafumo echoed his conviction of decentralization of resources in industries, and using the opportunity of collaboration as a tool of accelerating innovation, and shared business value.
Collaboration of startups, private and public sectors is at the heart of innovation, this value creation should not only be empowering, but be built on self-sustaining models like Mafuno's business.
Harnessing the power of Africa 4.0
With a defined term of Africa 4.0 for us to understand, how do we leverage the potential of this revolution of humanity to achieve SDGs, Vision 2030 and the agendas of all stakeholders involved? This can be enabled with disruptive leadership that is both responsive and responsible, and continued investments in push strategies of partnerships that share the same purpose in value creation and empowerment for everyone involved in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.