CHAMPIONS of change
The annual Investec Women in Leadership Conference was a gathering of great minds – and deeply personal lessons
The conference was themed “EnAct”, in reference to the champions of change it assembled on stage in honour of both the late President Nelson Mandela and Ma Albertina Sisulu’s centenaries this year. Hosted by Investec’s Head of the Public Sector & Black Business Portfolio, Peggy-Sue Khumalo and Katy Katepodis, the panel included businesswoman and incoming Chancellor of Wits University, Dr Judy Dlamini, consultant, entrepreneur and author Dr Shirley Zinn, director Lauren Segal, outgoing Investec CEO Stephen Koseff and self-proclaimed “entrepreneurship activist” Matsi Modise. Powerful lessons of personal and institutional change arose, although Koseff pierced the serious air with self-directed jabs about his “easy life”.
Dlamini was hugely inspiring, describing how much joy it gave her to enable those around her. “Changing yourself is also about changing the people within your zone of influence,” she said. “Because I’m so passionate about self-development, I ensure that the people I employ are given the opportunity to change too. One of the women I employed as a receptionist is now in charge of a warehouse.” She added, almost unbelievably, that she struggled to overcome painful, inherent shyness to become a public speaker because “life changed me”.
“When your context changes, it influences you and it’s up to you to go with the flow. That’s where you get opportunities to grow as a person.”
Zinn spoke of the heartbreak of losing her seven-year-old son in a car accident in 2003. “I tell you this because we all have a story. We all have difficult times and for us, that was the most devastating time,” she said. “I had to get help – which is
something we often don’t do because we think we’re superwomen, so we keep going. But sometimes we have to put our hand up and ask for help because we need to find ways to work through things. Certain things you can never get over. For me, it was about living life with meaning and focus after that experience because it couldn’t be business as usual.”
Modise, MD of SiMODiSA, recalled being a junior Investec staffer in the client service centre and, on her second day at the organisation, walking up to Khumalo’s office and asking to be her mentee. The two remain firm friends.
“I was exposed to a lot of big numbers in that job and I remember saying to myself: ‘I want to be on that side, making all this money!
“The one thing you must constantly remember in your career is why you make certain decisions. For me, it’s my mother. She’s sacrificed and lost a lot and through all of that, I’ve gained a lot. So the main thing for me now is empowering her so she doesn’t have to struggle any more.”