The Women’s Empowerment Network of South Africa started a little over a year ago. The plan was to create a network of ambitious, Christ- centered, powerful women who were monomaniacally focused on their personal success as well as building empires and legacies which would outlive them.
Looking back over the year that has passed, I truly believe that we have evolved into something more than just a potential powerhouse network. There are signs of a sisterhood emerging. Deciding to buy into this idea was probably one of the greatest things I could have done for my 20- something year old self. Not only have I become a more confident and grounded woman; I have learnt countless life lessons and have acquired skills which would have taken me years to attain in my career path.
Now enough about me, onto the details!! This time around we decided on two main speakers. Our theme for the launch was “Building a Legacy of Transformation and Development for Women” which actually spoke to and encouraged diversity in leadership.
Dr. Mjoli is the founder and Managing Director of Hlati Development Services which is a research, consulting and coaching organization in Gauteng. Her passion lies in water and sanitation services, water and resource management, gender diversity in leadership as well as corporate coaching.
She was a recipient of the Fullbright scholarship for her post- graduate studies in Microbiology and this amazing opportunity took her to the United States of America. She has published several research papers in biotechnology, water and sanitation services and gender equality in the water sector. She has also served on boards of parastatal organisations in South Africa as advisory boards, nationally and internationally.
So because of this background and her open heart, Dr. Nozi Mjoli had nothing but wisdom to impart.
” for decades we have been stuck in intervention- mode creating strategies and campaigns and protesting; but now the problem we face is implementation- figuring out how we get into leadership positions. It’s all good and well climbing the corporate ladder but the truth of the matter is, the majority of working women are getting stuck in middle management due to gender stereotypes. We get male privilege… white privilege…. But, there are no privileges for women who are black, therefore; we have to work that much harder.”
She spoke with condemnation about her career in a male-dominated industry. She had to fight to constantly prove herself to people until she made the decision to stop. She realized the impact she could make if she went alone and started making a difference in an environment where she wasn’t constantly trying or having to prove herself amidst the gender stereotypes.
She went on to say that we (both men and women) need to find a way of getting to gender diverse leadership. Men should not feel disadvantaged because women are being advantaged. This and many more issues are addressed in her book. She writes about why there is a need for gender diverse leadership, which I believe is a no- brainer that pains me when I think that some individuals need convincing as to why a more diverse leadership style would yield more effective results that the traditional 70:30 ratio that we currently see. We are born in more privileged times and we should be doing nothing less than accelerating to change!
Another pain point Dr. Mjoli raised (which I also read in “Lean In”) was the fact that we have more female graduates, more than 60% of the people who are graduating are women; and if we are employing on education women should be landing these positions. Instead, women feel it is more important to prove they are hard workers but not possible candidates for strategy positions.
The greatest deterrent of women moving into leadership levels is the gender stereotype that men are better leaders. How this was proven, only God- knows because in the history of humankind, the greatest stuff- ups were made by men. Nowhere have I read that women started a war, the holocaust, apartheid, Jesus’ crucifixion for goodness sake! All male-made catastrophes! Seriously, it is time to bury this stupid myth.
Apart from the many barriers women have to fight externally, Dr. Mjoli mentioned that there comes a myriad of internal barriers such as self-made glass ceilings, fear, discomfort with power because it is an unfamiliar thing. We need to meditate on how we claim our power and she pointed out that Sheryl Sandberg says women must stand up, show up and take charge. We have to be confident and self-aware; we must know our blind spots (find people who can be honest and tell you how you are perceived).
What resonated most with me was when Dr. Mjoli said the following: “If you want a mentor, look around for the skills you lack, and approach them, be pro- active about your career. Start accepting challenging tasks don’t pass them on! Be brave. Believe that God is choosing you and that he is going to work with you.” Because the inverse of this proactiveness is how we find ourselves stuck in the same position for 5 years.
She closed off with some advice on how we should go about exercising our entrepreneurial muscle. The Huffington Post published an article about women who make it when they go out by themselves. The best way is to get experience in a corporate environment to gain some credibility, then go out and use your experience to build empires instead of aspiring to be a CEO of white organisations. Not all women are cut out for that environment just like not all men are entrepreneurs.
“I am the sky and nothing can stick to me. The sky is open and vast and stays unchanged no matter what; it is always the sky. A storm can roll through it, an airplane can roar through, and it is always the sky.”- Geralyn Lucas
Our second Speaker, Seapei Mafoyane, from the North West Province was born into a family so highly educated that she learnt from a young age, all the challenges and blessings of creating a next level legacy. In her 30’s, Seapei, has achieved what many people can only dream of, and I am certain that she has not only exceeded her family’s expectations but she has developed a firm foundation as she begins to elevate her legacy.
This is what Seapei had to say to us: “Transformation is evolving. My family gave me a different perspective on expectations. Sometimes being a graduate is not enough, expect more from yourself; as a black person. Think of it as that next level of legacy. Set a challenging bar for the next generation.”
Seapei also mentioned that just because you are women who is ready for transformation we feel like doors should be opened for us and walls should be brought down for us. The world owes you nothing, the battle starts from within. She said that at one point or another you are going to be a source of irritation. Someone won’t like the shape of your nose or the shade of skin, your hair might be too kinky or too soft for other people, it may be so big that it just makes other people so uncomfortable. But; at the end of the day the only person you are responsible for, is yourself.
She also spoke about the importance of confidence telling us to be clear about our messages with people. To me it speaks a lot to “speaking your own truth”. Tell people what you want and if it changes update people because people are not mind readers and nobody can help you if you do not know what you want.
In closing Seapei gave us a valuable tip for success: “In order to be successful, surround yourself with people who celebrate who you are. You need to have people around you who understand you. You are not a victim of your life, if you don’t like something grow a voice and speak.”
There were many truths and epiphanies that I experienced while listening to Seapei. What resonated with me most was her stating that you must never allow anyone to feel sorry for you because this is the life you chose. Its gonna cost to be the boss and the price you pay is something you personally chose. You know your goal and the price you’re paying for it so woman-up and werk!
The entire launch was just magical; one of my proudest moments. If you have not attended any of our events, I seriously am finding it extremely difficult to understand how you think you’re going to make it on that Forbes list you so desperately want to get into without a reformed mindset. It is fun writing these fomo-inducing posts but one day I won’t and then you’ll miss out on an update that could have changed the course of your life- FOREVERRRRR But seriously, come and join us next time, we cannot be the only ones winning and it’s for your own good really 🙂