WOMEN TO WATCH

ON THEIR WAY TO THE TOP

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - BY LISA ILLING­WORTH

IN SOUTH AFRICA, the month of Au­gust is ded­i­cated to recog­nis­ing the proper place of women in so­ci­ety. In this first of two parts, Fin­week looks at five women who are climb­ing the lad­der of suc­cess and who are pos­i­tively im­pact­ing so­ci­ety as they do so. Each of these women have moved be­yond what is se­cure and com­fort­able. They are risk-tak­ers and look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to serve their com­mu­ni­ties. These women are well on their way to chang­ing the land­scape of busi­ness for every­one around them.

1 Char­maine Smith Direc­tor and co-founder of In­fundo Con­sult­ing

Born i n Lady Sel­borne, a town­ship north- west of Pre­to­ria, Smith spent her early s chool ca reer at a small Chi­nese school in Pre­to­ria and ma­tric­u­lated at Pre­to­ria High School for Girls. Af­ter this, she stud­ied at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand where she com­pleted a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Hu­man Move­ment Stud­ies.

“Teach­ing was a pro­fes­sion I fell in love with and re­mained in love with for 15 years, fi­nally leav­ing the class­room but not ed­u­ca­tion in 2005 when I felt it was time for me to do more and not set­tle for where I was com­fort­able. I am a nat­u­ral dis­rup­tor; I have the heart of an ac­tivist and teacher and al­ways wanted to make a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives. I feel a strong con­nec­tion to this coun­try and con­ti­nent. Heal­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tions peo­ple work in; of­fer­ing heal­ing on an in­di­vid­ual and team ba­sis; hence of­fer­ing peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to em­brace more for them­selves is a calling for me. I def­i­nitely feel an affin­ity to my work from a spir­i­tual point of view; com­mit­ting to liv­ing a life with greater pur­pose while know­ing that there is much work to be done,” says Smith.

She co-founded In­fundo in 2007 af­ter pur­su­ing some work as an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant. Soon af­ter that she found her­self run­ning the com-

“I DEF­I­NITELY FEEL AN AFFIN­ITY TO MY WORK FROM A SPIR­I­TUAL POINT OF VIEW; COM­MIT­TING TO LIV­ING A LIFE WITH GREATER PUR­POSE WHILE KNOW­ING THAT THERE IS MUCH WORK TO BE DONE.”

pany alone and man­ag­ing its f irst project, which was to bring ex­perts from Aus­tria to train district ed­u­ca­tion officials in KwaZulu-Natal funded by the Dutch govern­ment and in part­ner­ship with cor­po­rate engi­neer­ing f irms.

“I learnt through this ex­pe­ri­ence what is re­quired be­fore mean­ing­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion can take place on a skills level. I iden­tif ied the need to cre­ate a readi­ness for the peo­ple and sys­tem to take on new op­por­tu­ni­ties, and have since fo­cused pre­dom­i­nantly on deep ed­u­ca­tional trans­for­ma­tion in ru­ral ar­eas, town­ships, dis­tricts and across en­tire com­mu­ni­ties who part­ner with us to en­sure that whole sys­tems un­dergo deep, sus­tained change,” Smith ex­plains.

She and her new part­ner Gail Wro­ge­mann have now worked to change the way ed­u­ca­tion is de­liv­ered in five prov­inces. Their aim is to im­prove per­for­mance and re­sults as mea­sured out­comes. Their work has been so suc­cess­ful that paras­tatal util­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions are now ask­ing In­fundo to as­sist in their trans­for­ma­tion.

In­fundo aims to as­sist in the trans­for­ma­tion by tak­ing racial di­vi­sions and deep conf licts into ac­count, and heal­ing his­tor­i­cal lega­cies which will change the way in which these or­gan­i­sa­tions can per­form in fu­ture. Smith de­scribes how this is pos­si­ble: “Many or­gan­i­sa­tions are f in­d­ing that is­sues of pro­duc­tiv­ity, missed pro­duc­tion dead­lines, a re­duc­tion i n num­ber of con­tracts se­cured and not keep­ing up with mar­ket de­mands are in many cases a re­sult of poor team­work. This is usu­ally a re­sult of un­re­solved racial splits, long-stand­ing and deep conf licts; in­ter-de­part­men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems and loss of trust – which is some­times the out­come of his­tor­i­cal lega­cies that are yet to be healed. This can im­pact an or­gan­isa- tion’s abil­ity to re­spond, ad­just, and be­come healthy and in­no­va­tive. It can lead to or­gan­i­sa­tions func­tion­ing at an in­creas­ingly slug­gish pace. Sys­tems trans­for­ma­tion pro­cesses are there­fore chang­ing the way these busi­nesses do and can per­form.

“The in­no­va­tive use of sys­tems tools, based on strong foun­da­tional sys­tems prin­ci­ples, has opened the door for us to re­ally im­pact a range of or­gan­i­sa­tions. We lis­ten to what is needed and ad­just our method­olo­gies and fo­cus to iden­tify and then to work with the spe­cific dy­nam­ics which need res­o­lu­tion. This has a sig­nif­i­cant ripple ef­fect across the rest of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

Smith pre­sented this work at the African Lo­cal Sum­mit in Ghana three years ago as a means to ad­dress­ing the achieve­ment of the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals. She now reg­u­larly co­p­re­sents their work at a num­ber of lo­cal con­fer­ences as an in­no­va­tive and proven model of sys­tems trans­for­ma­tion.

Out­side of work she has a full life as the proud mom of two boys, aged 17 and 18, and step­mom to three young adults (aged 20, 23 and 26). Her fi­ancé and fam­ily are her sup­port struc­ture,

of­ten tak­ing care of her boys when she is trav­el­ling. This al­lows her to fo­cus on what she has to do and leaves time to be a mom as well. “One of my great­est joys is sup­port­ing my boys at the side of the sports field. I try my hand at tak­ing pic­tures of them in ac­tion but this is a tal­ent which re­mains dor­mant!”

Kennedy Maxwell, Smith’s men­tor, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Jo­han­nes­burg Con­sol­i­dated In­vest­ment Com­pany Lim­ited and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Mines of SA, says: “Char­maine Smith is one of South Africa’s game-chang­ers. She has come to un­der­stand and deal with the root causes of dys­func­tional schools and or­gan­i­sa­tions. Only by in­ten­sive en­gage­ment with the in­di­vid­u­als in such struc­tures, to ex­am­ine their in­ner­most fears, trau­mas and prej­u­dices, is it pos­si­ble to men­tor and coach them – thereby free­ing them to en­hance per­for­mance and col­lab­o­ra­tion with their col­leagues. As a re­sult, she has suc­ceeded in nu­mer­ous in­stances to turn around seem­ingly ‘ im­pos­si­ble’ sit­u­a­tions into highly suc­cess­ful in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try. To­gether with Gail Wro­ge­mann she has es­tab­lished a for­mi­da­ble team to bring about sig­nif­i­cant turn­around and em­pow­er­ment in­ter­ven­tions that bode so well for South Africa.”

Smith says: “I am very aware of the priv­i­lege I live with and the in­equities around me. It would be a sin to know how to of­fer bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties and not share this knowl­edge. The close re­la­tion­ships I en­joy when walk­ing on jour­neys with our or­gan­i­sa­tions, teams and com­mu­ni­ties en­er­gise me; know­ing that I am mak­ing an im­pact fu­els my re­solve. What an hon­our to be able to work with di­verse peo­ple across our coun­try and cel­e­brate their suc­cesses with them. It al­ways feels like a re­union when we meet our com­mu­ni­ties again: we com­mis­er­ate; grieve and cel­e­brate all the vic­to­ries with the peo­ple we work with. It doesn’t feel like work; much more like large in­ter­con­nected fam­i­lies who sup­port each other on the jour­ney to us all liv­ing the best lives we can.”

2 Thuli Sibeko

Co-founder of An­glo African Events and Cam­paign Man­age­ment and founder of Girls In­vent To­mor­row

AN­GLO AFRICAN EVENTS is a com­pany that de­signs and ex­e­cutes events and cam­paigns. Sibeko has de­signed and pro­duced many suc­cess­ful events for ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions in­clud­ing HP, In­tel, Mi­crosoft, Nokia, Absa Cap­i­tal and Unisys. Prior to start­ing her busi­ness she was a mem­ber of a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion called Com­mu­nity Youth Em­powa’ment, which was com­mit­ted to so­cial up­lift­ment through com­mu­nity-based ini­tia­tives.

In 2013, she founded Girls In­vent To­mor­row, an ini­tia­tive cre­ated to ed­u­cate, em­power and en­cour­age girls to pur­sue ca­reers in tech­nol­ogy. Since its in­cep­tion, the not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion hosted three ‘Girl in ICT’ ca­reer days, one in Jo­han­nes­burg, Dur­ban and Cape Town. The ca­reer days pro­vided a plat­form for lead­ing women in tech­nol­ogy to share their jour­ney and ex­pe­ri­ence in work­ing in a male-dom­i­nated field while pro­vid­ing real life ca­reer guid­ance to the girl learn­ers.

In March 2014, Girls In­vent To­mor­row hosted its first In­tro­duc­tion to Cod­ing Work­shop and held two more such events in July. Natas­sia De Vil­liers, Sibeko’s part­ner at Girls In­vent To­mor­row, com­ments: “Sibeko is one to be taken note of for the sim­ple rea­son that she is an ac­ti­va­tor. She not only talks the talk, but ac­tu­ally makes sure that she and oth­ers around her walk the walk. I have known her for over a decade now and have al­ways known of her ac­tivist role in ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tives and outreach pro­grammes among the youth. She con­nects and in­spires peo­ple. She is not full of empty words but full of words bub­bling with pas­sion and ac­tion. We live in a so­ci­ety where ac­ti­va­tors and do­ers are needed more than ever. We need to see peo­ple join move­ments; we need to be in­spired and mo­ti­vated to move moun­tains and reach out to oth­ers. Sibeko does this ev­ery day.”

As a mem­ber of a large fam­ily grow- i ng up i n Soweto, Sibeko has been taught, in her mother’s words that “we do not ex­ist in this world alone”. As she strives to achieve her own per­sonal goals at An­glo African Events, she is also mind­ful of those that are watch­ing her from below and she never wants to leave any­one be­hind. Through­out her en­ter­pris­ing ini­tia­tives, Sibeko has al­ways found ways of up­skilling oth­ers in her com­mu­nity or giv­ing back in some way so that the ben­e­fits she re­ceive can be felt by her cir­cle of in­flu­ence, such as do­nat­ing school sup­plies in Diep­kloof, Soweto, or school uni­forms in New­cas­tle, KwaZulu-Natal.

“Even if we get briefed on a big project that’s not in my space, I never say I can’t, I al­ways get my­self in­volved and see what the project en­tails and spend time do­ing re­search to en­sure that I can de­liver. I’m al­ways get­ting out of my com­fort zone by try­ing and do­ing things that I would not or­di­nar­ily do,” says Sibeko.

She is also work­ing on a health and well­ness ini­tia­tive in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, and in her spare time she par­takes in events like the Cape Ar­gus Pick n Pay Mo­men­tum Cy­cle Tour or the 94.7 Cy­cle Chal­lenge, all in the aid of nom­i­nated char­i­ties. Her sole pur­pose is to make an im­pact in the world by chang­ing lives and in­spir­ing oth­ers.

3 Shireen Chen­gadu

Ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Lead­er­ship and Di­a­logue at Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Science (Gibs)

SHIREEN CHEN­GADU IS the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Lead­er­ship and Di­a­logue at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria’s Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Science. The cen­tre aims to cre­ate a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers armed with the ca­pac­ity and in­sights to lead their busi­nesses, pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and so­cial en­ter­prises in an in­creas­ingly com­plex and am­biva­lent world. The cen­tre aims to strengthen mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and re­spect in South African so­ci­ety.

“I have a gen­eral rule: ev­ery year I must learn and ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing new, and this is usu­ally in an area that makes me most un­com­fort­able. In this way I con­quer my fears and strengthen my con­fi­dence and I get to learn some re­ally cool things and ex­pe­ri­ence many epipha­nies. The world is chang­ing at break-neck speed and if I am not con­stantly cu­ri­ous and in­ves­ti­gat­ing new paths, I will be­come ir­rel­e­vant. Dis­rup­tion and curiosity keep me vi­brant, rel­e­vant and alive. When you are a life-long learner, dis­rup­tion is a given. I am blessed that my fam­ily is my spring­board and my safety net, and that gives me the li­cense to dream and do new things,” she says.

In the decade prior to 1 April 2013, Chen­gadu car­ried ex­ec­u­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for the aca­demic pro­grammes port­fo­lio at Gibs. Un­der her stew­ard­ship of that port­fo­lio, the Gibs MBA de­gree be­came a highly soughtafter qual­i­fi­ca­tion and achieved global ac­cred­i­ta­tion and rank­ing.

Prior to join­ing Gibs, Chen­gadu taught English at se­nior lev­els in pub­lic and pri­vate schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Gaut­eng.

She holds an Ex­ec­u­tive MBA from the Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness, Univer­sity of Cape Town, as well as a Bach­e­lor’s in Ped­a­gog­ics (Arts) f rom Uni­ver­sit y of Dur­ban Westville, a Bach­e­lor’s in Ed­u­ca­tion (Hon­ours) and a Mas­ter’s in Ed­u­ca­tion from the Univer­sity of Natal.

“When I was at school,” she says, “I wanted to be a jour­nal­ist, but there the funds to send me to study at Rhodes Univer­sity weren’t avail­able, nor would I have been ac­cepted be­cause of the apartheid ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies. So I stud­ied his­tory, drama and English in the field of ed­u­ca­tion be­cause it was a sub­sidised f ield. My mother in­cul­cated into us this no­tion of be­ing a life­long learner and so teach­ing was a nat­u­ral fit.”

It is her hope that through her knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence and re­la­tion­ships with lead­ers in busi­ness, Govern­ment and so­ci­ety, she will be able to be the cat­a­lyst for an ac­tio­nand val­ues-based com­mu­nity that will con­trib­ute to the per­sonal and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment of fu­ture lead­ers.

Adrian Sav­ille, CIO at Can­non As­set Man­agers, says: “My ex­pe­ri­ence in work­ing with Chen­gadu over the last 10 years is of a person who is clear-sighted, de­ter­mined and com­mit­ted. She is con­sis­tent in her goals, which she ex­presses clearly. She is un­wa­ver­ing in her com­mit­ment to a set of clear prin­ci­ples, and she will ex­press am­bi­tions, con­cerns and reser­va­tions with­out com­pro­mise. While these at­tributes give t he i mpres­sion of a tough ap­proach, in the many years I have worked with Chen­gadu I also have come to know her of be­ing thought­ful, car­ing and pa­tient. These dif­fer­ent at­tributes are hard to bal­ance – but she gets this right, which sets her apart. She is a cham­pion of di­ver­sity and, in this way, demon­strates why di­ver­sity is an in­valu­able at­tribute in all or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

Chen­gadu’s com­mit­ment to t he strug­gle for repo­si­tion­ing the agenda for women to the strate­gic fore has led to var­i­ous ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing se­cur­ing the spon­sor­ship from Stan­dard Bank for the Her Story monthly lec­ture se­ries and the for­ma­tion of the Women in Lead­er­ship clus­ter of aca­demics and prac­ti­tion­ers at Gibs. She also does in­for­mal lead­er­ship coach­ing and for­mally men­tors a num­ber of young men and women ev­ery year.

“The cen­tre and Gibs drive cru­cial con­ver­sa­tions that women need to have with each other and them­selves, to en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion and not an un­healthy level of com­pe­ti­tion. The truth is that by un­lock­ing the po­ten­tial of women, who make up 52% of our pop­u­la­tion, you are un­lock­ing the po­ten­tial of the coun­try, be­cause women are very apt at cre­at­ing wealth and shar­ing it. If I am able to be a part of that gen­er­a­tion of women lead­ers, then I will have left my foot­print in the sand, but watch this space, the next ten years will be my best.”

“DIS­RUP­TION AND CURIOSITY KEEP ME VI­BRANT, REL­E­VANT AND ALIVE.”

4 Kim Gib­son-Van der Walt

Direc­tor of dotFNB at First Na­tional Bank (FNB)

DE­SPITE A BACK­GROUND in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, far re­moved from bank­ing, Gib­son-Van der Walt is now the youngest mem­ber of FNB’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Col­leagues speak of her strong ser­vice ethic, en­grained by long hours at a ho­tel in St Moritz, a re­sort town in Switzer­land. She con­sid­ers her­self a typ­i­cal gen­er­a­tion-Y in­di­vid­ual, who wants to “mix bank­ing up”.

The bank­ing in­dus­try has seen a num­ber of changes in re­cent years, most sig­nif icant of which is the con­ver­gence of bank­ing and tech­nol­ogy, and the sub­se­quent changes this has brought to the way peo­ple bank. This brought about the ques­tion of what the fu­ture of branch bank­ing will look like, keep­ing in mind that cus­tomers want to be able to do more in less time with­out hav­ing to visit mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions.

“I un­der­stand the re­tail en­vi­ron­ment and those that work in it. For ex­am­ple, the need for shift work, so that ser­vices are avail­able out­side of tra­di­tional bank­ing hours, or when do­ing a stock­take. It suits me per­fectly be­cause I like to be at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy trends. I en­joy re­search­ing the fu­ture of life­styles and bank­ing through tech­nol­ogy.

“Our coun­try’s dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion has been too slow and this re­sults in many peo­ple not hav­ing ac­cess to faster, cheaper bank­ing ser­vices, but in the next 10 years tra­di­tional banks will cease to ex­ist. I hope to a part of bank­ing the un­banked with a re­tail of­fer­ing be­cause I have skills in the dig­i­tal age that many of my older coun­ter­parts don’t,” says Gib­son-Van der Walt.

“I set time aside to in­no­vate, which causes dis­rup­tions to both my­self and my team. I of­ten do re­search be­fore these ses­sions to make sure that the dis­cus­sion has an edge to it. I push my team to be creative and they push me. Some of the ideas we come up with are great con­cepts, some are not. It is about be­ing coura­geous enough to put new ideas to the fore and be­liev­ing in them.”

5 Elna Smit

Co-founder and mar­ket­ing direc­tor at Co­lu­mi­nate

ELNA SMIT IS a mar­ket­ing re­searcher with ex­per­tise in both quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive method­olo­gies. Smit holds a Bach­e­lor of So­cial Science in Psy­chol­ogy ( Cum Laude), a Bach­e­lor of So­cial Science in Psy­chol­ogy (Hon­ours) and an Mas­ter’s in Re­search Psy­chol­ogy from the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria. Her pa­per on us­ing Mar­ket Re­search On­line Com­mu­ni­ties (MROCs) as a re­search method among big cor­po­rates’ em­ploy­ees won the Best Pa­per Award at the 32nd South­ern African Mar­ket­ing Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion (SAMRA) con­fer­ence in 2011.

Aside from re­search, Smit is also pas­sion­ate about tech­nol­ogy, mar­ket­ing and client re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment. This led her to co-found Co­lu­mi­nate, a mar­ket re­search com­pany that specif­i­cally fo­cuses on on­line re­search meth­ods.

“Start­ing the busi­ness as the 2008 re­ces­sion hit was cer­tainly a chal­lenge be­cause we didn’t get a cent from the bank. But in some ways it helped our clients look for cheaper, faster ways of do­ing mar­ket re­search, which we of­fered. The jour­ney was slow un­til mid2009, but since then we have seen 600% growth. To this day when a sale comes in I feel like ring­ing bells be­cause I know how much hard work it has taken to get to this point,” says Smit.

“I’m acutely aware of my strengths and weak­nesses and of­ten my in­stinct is to del­e­gate the tasks that aren’t in my wheel­house. But in order to grow, I some­times just jump in and do it – and learn how to do it while I ago along. It might sound counter-in­tu­itive, but it is best not to think too much and to just jump in and do it.”

Smit’s pas­sion, bor­der­ing on ob­ses­sion, is cre­at­ing mean­ing­ful, im­pact­ful and prac­ti­cal in­sights for clients from ev­i­dence-based re­search. Her drive to mod­er­ate and man­age MROCs (mar­ket re­search on­line com­mu­ni­ties) to­wards gain­ing clever con­sumer in­sights has seen her con­duct var­i­ous MROCs for var­i­ous in­dus­tries. “I want to see ex­po­nen­tial growth for this busi­ness and ul­ti­mately try my hand at some kind of ven­ture-cap­i­tal busi­ness. I know that I am not a mul­ti­tasker – I do one thing and I do it well – so I plan to make this busi­ness self-sus­tain­ing be­fore mov­ing on to the next thing,” she says.

Smit ded­i­cates time and fi­nan­cial sup­port to many wel­fare in­sti­tu­tions and finds re­ju­ve­na­tion by spend­ing time with her pets. She trav­els ex­ten­sively and de­scribes her­self as a ‘se­rial rater’ as she up­dates her TripAdvisor blog.

Oresti Pa­tri­cios, CEO of the Or­nico Group, says: “Smit has a pas­sion and in­tel­li­gence that few peo­ple share. This quiet pas­sion has made men­tor­ing her a plea­sure and has helped in the suc­cess of her busi­ness. En­trepreneur­ship is a large por­tion of per­spi­ra­tion with a huge dol­lop of im­ple­men­ta­tion. Co­lu­mi­nate has been very suc­cess­ful, but this has not gone to Smit’s head. Her fo­cus on peo­ple and skills is another strength that helps her drive the busi­ness for­ward. I have no doubt that Smit is some­one worth watch­ing in busi­ness and that her busi­ness will grow from strength to strength. Watch this space!”

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