Women in Leadership

by Nakedi Phala


South African women are striving to reach the top, be it in politics, agriculture, engineering, humanities even in the financial sector. Since the dawn of democracy, women’s success in reaching leadership positions was moving at a snail’s pace; possibly due to sexism? Patriarchy? Or historic norms?

However, there many young and old South African females striving to excel, dominating positions were generalised to only be held by males. Some of these women range from politicians, directors, managers, creative artists and developers. Here are the top five on our list:

Mamphela Ramphele

As a doctor, struggle icon, academic, author, top businesswoman and outspoken champion of the oppressed, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele’s achievements are impressive enough; that she attained many of them as a black woman during apartheid is astounding.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a formidable and widely respected politician. So much so, that when the ANC wanted to take over the presidency of the African Union earlier this year, they chose Dlamini-Zuma as their candidate.

Graça Machel

Graça Machel is not strictly a South African – but with her grace and passion for social justice and having married our favourite citizen, we love to claim her as our own.

Machel is the only woman ever to be the first lady of two countries. She was born in rural Mozambique. As a schoolgirl, she won a scholarship to study in Portugal.

Futhi Mtoba

Ntombifuthi Mtoba has garnered a range of firsts in her career. She became the first woman on the board of Deloitte, the first black chair of that firm and the first black woman to hold such a position at any of the country’s ‘Big Four’ firms. She was also the first woman to be president of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (Abasa).

Bridgette Radebe

As Africa’s richest black woman, Bridgette Radebe has come a long way. Her money is made in mining, yet Radebe is a champion of the poor and an outspoken advocate of the nationalisation of mines.

Radebe wanted to study law at Wits but was barred because of her race (though her younger brother Patrice Motsepe managed to get in and graduate. It was apparently Radebe who persuaded him to go into mining).

What one learns from these powerful women is that they perused their success at a time when South Africa’s political-social-norms perceived it taboo for women to lead or administrate. However, wherever you are, strive to develop discipline in your professional (and personal) life in order to be an effective leader, and to inspire others to be disciplined as well. People will judge your capacity to lead by the amount of discipline you display at work.

Furthermore, a true leader has no problem yielding control to another person when appropriate. You should not feel threatened when someone disagrees with you, questions your thinking, or puts forth ideas of their own. Keep an open mind and give merit where merit is due. It won’t always be easy, but if you learn to value and respect others on your team, they’ll be more likely to step up to the plate for you.

Empower others. No one is the best at everything, and the sooner you realise that the sooner you can learn to be a good leader. Delegating tasks to others not only frees you up for things you do well, but it also empowers other people on your team.

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