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.
Around this time, a month ago I was landing back on South African turf at Cape Town International Airport coming from an inspired few days at the One Young World summit hosted in Bogota, Colombia at the Agora Bogota International Convention Centre. I was at the summit as a Thomson Reuters delegate and there was no preparation for the monumental few days it had been getting an opportunity to represent the continent and women in technology and innovation. I’d landed at El Dorado International Airport with 2 unnecessarily large (my mother’s words) grey bags and a brown purse ready to be a woman in technology with style, and to network and minister impact while getting and exchanging the tools of the social intrapreneurship trade.
Founded by David Jones and Kate Robertson in 2009 with the vision to invite young leaders across the global to formulate and share innovative solutions for pressing world issues, the summit has grown to be one of the largest has grown to be one of the largest gatherings of young global leaders. This year brought over 1500 delegates from 196 countries, all with the goal in mind to share stories and the work that our peers and their organisations and businesses are doing, and so that we may connect and be empowered to create greater social impact and add value.
The first day of the summit allowed me to meet with other Thomson Reuters delegates from all over the world, who are doing incredible social impact work inside and outside of the company, and to register for what was going to be an unforgettable experience. I had been connecting with one incredible colleague from the Philippines via social media prior to the event, Emmanuele Marie Parra, a Publishing Specialist by trade at Thomson Reuters and currently the Thomson Reuters Foundation Ambassador. It was great to connect with Emmanuele and hear more about her passions outside the business as an Anti-human trafficking advocate. If one thing is certain, it’s that it’s great to be with a company that values what you value, and invests in one's ability to make you even better at what you're technically skilled at and are passionate about , and at Thomson Reuters, there’s many millennials who take heed to that!
The unofficial second day, and first day of workshops and speaker engagements started at 08h45 with a session highlighting Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ objectives on the impact and giving the delegates insight into the work that he does. Yunus’s talk was bedded in his work in financial services innovation to alleviate poverty and build economic development across Asia. The talk was followed by a series of other engagements that unpacked case studies and actions that fellow delegates are undertaking to drive change in their communities, which undoubtedly was the most inspiring part of the program. The day stretched to cover topics ranging from anti-corruption, to using social media for good and powering sustainable development in communities. The workshop that left me underwhelmed and I was really looking forward to was hosted by The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, with a prime focus on "How to Create a Public Private Partnership". It was more of a presentation with a Q&A session afterwards than being workshopped the tools of the topic at hand, engaging with the content and delegates at hand.
It was day two’s programme that was the one that I was looking forward to learning from and engaging with. There’s a clear dependency of innovation and profit from global companies driving diversity and inclusion as a business agenda. What policies need to be implemented to plant a seed of urgency in the public sector? African youth and women are still marginalized groups who are not as active economically as their men and senior counterparts, what actionable conversations are being had and actions implemented? These were some of the questions that I was hoping to get answers from, and more particularly, shared case studies from the corporates on how they’re holding themselves accountable for the actions of their businesses. I didn’t get all my answers.
Themed on private and public partnership and corporates doing business in alignment with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the content was promising. It was the “Fighting Racial Injustice” panel that included Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson, Apple’s Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Denise Young Smith, reporter Aamna Modhim and moderated by KPMG’s Global Head of Citizenship Michael Hastings that was one of the most transparent conversations on the main stage. The discussion unpacked using social media as tool to not only fight racism but create awareness around it, while Denise highlighted on need for the ascension of black women corporate and her role at Apple. The crux of the conversation brought out how technology, journalism and intrapreneurship are empowering people with the potential to disrupt societal structures.
Hosted by The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs looking at “How to Profitably Do Good: Social Intrapreneurship?” was a workshop that I’m happy I attended. The moderators really looked at some of the issues that we were passionate about, and imparted tools and techniques, and the network to be able to be supported and do the work. And recently, a Circle of Young Intrapreneurs -Johannesburg chapter powered by fellow delegates at PWC was launched, which was incredibly attended, sharing One Young World anecdotes and imparting intrapreneurial learnings for the aspirant intrapreneur and the corporate millennial who's an innovator at heart or by trade.
So, a month has passed, now what?
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the summit and be exposed to a global network of my peers who are doing incredible and inspiring work in their companies and communities. As a One Young World Ambassador also working on a project that focuses on the business value of having millennials as part of the workforce by creating sustainable innovation through the backbone of SDGs – I’m very excited about this one. The other goal to go back in 2018 as a coordinator, mostly with the intention of connecting the Africa delegates and growing that community and connecting it with the opportunities that we all have to create positive change.
Until next year One Young World!
“Spirituality is an inner fire, the mystical sustenance that feeds my soul. My spiritual journey drives me into myself, to a sacred flame at the centre of my being. This journey gives me my eyes to see, and the inner strength to be mystery of the real.”
This quote is in one of my favourite author’s book, A Year of Miracles written by Marianne Williamson, one that’s constantly reminding me of how being and staying prepared is more important than the blessings that we ask of, of God. It’s the landing strip of the blessings that should be ready to receive them (blessings) whatever time they land, at God’s unpredictable timing. My landing strip is Age 23.
July 24th came and went and I’m finally on the other end of the age line of 23 years, and it’s been such an amazing past few weeks into this age.
Before the clock had struck midnight on July 23rd for the next day, I’d made sure that I had made a list for the coming age (Secret List of 23), and that it was covered by not only prayer of confidants and loved ones, but I’d accompanied it with an action plan for the 12 months that followed. This plan would be one that required me to work on what I’d prayed for, and to let go and let my faith take control so as to receive what I’d desired, and more importantly, what He’d be deploying that would add value to my purpose.
I won’t share with you all that I’m expecting God to pull out of heaven’s secret stash for me, but I will add that it was categorised into five sections which are namely Career, Finance and Investments, Leisure, Business Passions and Relationships, essentially how to add value to these pillars of my life. A few boxes, by grace and being intentional in my actions have been actualised, and when you accomplish something that you said you would, the feeling of being triumphant never gets old.
The secrets (blessings) of this age are coming out, and they include being selected by the company that I work for to be part of a dynamic global leadership development program for emerging female technology leaders with 199 other leaders in the organisation, to attend One Young World Summit in Bogota, Colombia as a Thomson Reuters Delegate and young leader this year and selected as one of 100 Bright Young Minds across Africa. Going to Colombia with One Young World also means that I get to travel to a new continent and country, which was on my Secret List of 23. Complementing these accomplishments are also means that my relationships need to align with the list, meaning that what and how I say it, as well as who I say and do it with (professional, spiritual or personal) , I need to be very intentional about those relationships. This means protecting, covering and investing effort into the relationships that I commit to.
I think one of the best experiences that I’m colliding into at this moment of my life is in understanding that I need to become what I desire. That I need to prepare for the head winds that will stand in between what I’m praying for, and move forward with speed. I’m not the most patient human (God is dealing with me in this, lol), and I’ve come to understand that there’s a reason why God allowed all of what’s happening in my life in this season to unfold like this, so that I may have the ability to receive in His style of abundance.
I cannot wait to see what is to be ticked off my Secret List of 23 next, and I thank you for coming along to share in my journey. I’m so inspired and motivated by your words, and I pray nothing but covering of God’s grace and the patience for you to await heaven’s secrets over your life. And this will be, our Secret!
From the 3-5 May 2017, the world had their eyes on South Africa as the coastal city of Durban hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa with over 1000 global leaders from across the world. This year, the forum explored the theme of harnessing the opportunity to enable access and to empower the economically excluded in Africa by Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership, an economic opportunity that has bypassed millions of Africans.
The Future of Africa, Booming Youth
In attendance were young and old executives, entrepreneurs and WEF’s Global Shapers community whose presence was an opportunity in answering how we can employ one of the continent’s most valuable asset of its booming youth, and African leadership. As a young person, I cannot express how discouraging it was to see an overwhelming number of youth delegates who were in attendance, not having many seats at the WEF speaking series of panel discussions, I’m hopeful that 2018 will orchestrate a different story.
The 2015 UN Department of Economic Social Affairs, Population Division report revealed that the youngest country in the world at present is Niger, with half of the almost 20 million population under 15 years old. The country, with Somalia, Angola and Zambia will by mid-century be the youngest countries. Fast forward to 2050, and the continent of Africa will be youngest continent. In fact, as we speak, Africa has the youngest population worldwide.
I’m of the belief that in order to unlock the potential of Africa’s economic growth and development, the appropriate policies, strategies and investments must be employed to empower women and youth, as to complement the concept of inclusive growth and shaping Africa.
How do we include women and youth in the design of policy and solutions that’ll empower them and the continent? ONE Africa highlights the theme of the Demographic Dividend as an opportunity to employ the appropriate policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment, particularly for women and youth. To take it a step further and expand on the idea, ONE Africa hosted a WEF panel discussion that was moderated by their Africa ambassador, Bonang Matheba, shining the ONE Africa Inclusive Growth strategy of equity and equality of education and increased budget spend on education, and finance flows and transparency of it.
Unpacking Inclusive Growth
“For growth to be inclusive, it needs to touch the lives of many African people. For us to have inclusive growth, we need to ensure that people from the rural and urban areas, and informal and formal are also benefitting from growth. And we know that from a social and economic point of view, women across sectors face harder hurdles in getting education opportunities and work twice as hard in the workplace. For ONE Africa, growth that does include and recognise women, is not inclusive growth.” says ONE Africa Interim Director, Nachilala Nkombo.
In my conversation with Nkombo, the underlying theme of the exchange acknowledged that in order to achieve inclusive growth, it won’t be a silver bullet. Certain frameworks will not necessarily create jobs, but will create enabling environments for job creators and creations, as well as owners and drivers of production.
The Demographic Dividend at Play
In order to achieve the objective of the Demographic Dividend, to be in a position where the working-age population (also are economically engaged) have fewer dependants and more capital in the household, the stakeholders need to be they who have their objectives set on the opportunities of the African challenges with lesser lip service and more action.
Quite prominent in the ONE WEF panel discussion was the call to action from government, and the pot of gold promises they have, with lesser accountability strategy. Inclusive growth needs responsible and responsive self-organising leadership who have a sense of urgency, and an agenda and strategy of implementation and communication, to mitigate movements like #FeesMustFall . In my conversation with Nachilala Nkombo, the conviction of an empowered, skilled and knowledgeable youth population that’ll drive growth, create opportunities and drive change echoes is what ONE Africa has done, and the work and engagement being done at present.
For the ecosystem, investing in young people should be no afterthought but, instead, an opportunity to co-create with stakeholders (between corporate, private and youth sector) in policy creation and discussions that are centred around the real needs of young people.
This can be achieved with self-organising stakeholders that are building an environment that is conducive for creation of means of production and empowerment of lives through sustainable inclusive growth measures.