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Managing Director of Black Like Me, Connie Mashaba, professional golfer Lee-Anne Pace, BakedOnline fashion blogger Aisha Baker and Danni Dixon, head of SA marketing for Investec, recently shared their stories about what it takes to get to the top of your game. The panel, hosted by Investec in their Cape Town office, was facilitated by the inimitable TV and radio presenter Redi Tlhabi.
The top five takeouts from the conversation included:
1. Know your worth
According to an EY study, there is overwhelming evidence that links gender parity to innovation and improved financial performance. Businesses with women in top management roles experienced an increase in “innovation intensity” and were worth, on average, about US$40m more than companies with only male leaders.
Although this is great news, in most industries, the speakers agreed that there is still a glass ceiling that needs to be broken. And that women need to be the ones to break this glass ceiling.
Know your worth. Don’t be afraid to demand your value.
Mashaba noted that there are ways to navigate this barrier, without having to be aggressive. Women can articulate their worth by recognising what their talents are and knowing the value they bring. “Know your worth. Don’t be afraid to demand your value,” she said. “Everyone is fighting a unique battle under different circumstances. Find ways to command the respect you deserve and communicate your strengths without fighting.”
Dixon is a firm believer in holding up your talent and being clear in what you are good at and what you are not. “Hold the knowledge that you are enough and don’t try to be anyone you are not. Belief in your abilities is what will shine.”
In golf – a male-dominated sport - female professional golfers are paid 10% of what their male counterparts are. Pace is of the opinion that although this is unfair, women’s golf has grown exponentially in the past five years and will continue to do so, closing this pay gap.
I think it is important not to be aggressive in our approach to breaking the glass ceiling. It is difficult, yes, but in the last five years, there has been a massive improvement in the support of women's golf.
2. Take strategic risks
In any career, planning is essential in order to achieve your goals. What do you want to do with your career? What do you want to achieve in your life? Baker has built her career by taking carefully planned calculated risks.
Before she started her blog, she saved for two years in order to be able to afford to live while getting her name out in the industry. Everything that Baker does is based on one question: “what do I need to do to become what I want?” All decisions made are considered in relation to how they help her achieve her goal. “As someone once said, it takes years to become an overnight success and I am not there yet.”
Mashaba added that one should always expect the unexpected as a champion. “Put yourself out there, open yourself up to possibilities, even if scary.”
Find a way to help other women get an opportunity to succeed. The world is big enough for many champions, we can all win in this game of life.
3. Leave a legacy
Be aware that everything you work towards and achieve is for others to watch and learn from.
By being the first to monetise her platform, Baker opened doors for others to follow. After earning her stripes a few years ago when the word ‘blog’ was unheard of, Aisha broke down barriers in this female-dominated industry and hopes that her legacy will be one of pioneering the movement in a South African context.
“Find a way to help other women get an opportunity to succeed. The world is big enough for many champions, we can all win in this game of life.”
We have daily opportunities to make an impact and embrace change. The future is a part of us, so see the opportunity in it.
4. Educate yourself continually
This does not mean that you have to sit in a lecture hall every day - if you don’t know something, read up on it. Ask people questions. “Learning every day is exciting and inspiring, allaying fears about the future. We have daily opportunities to make an impact and embrace change. The future is a part of us, so see the opportunity in it,” said Dixon.
Mashaba is the first to admit that she is addicted to educating herself. Having recently returned from Harvard, this mom of two has not stopped studying since her now adult children were babies. “Ongoing learning allows you to go on a new journey and opens spaces for you to grow.”
Baker believes that stories are a form of education. She constantly talks to people and asks questions about their experiences, allowing learning from others. Although she is inspired by the likes of Serena Williams, she believes that women don’t only have to look to those who have ‘made it’ for inspiration.
Sometimes just knowing that being a successful women is not about being perfect all the time and that hard work can be very inspirational. “Anyone can change your life, your perspective, your views – be open to this and available to meet new people.”
There is universality in what we as women go through. We have shared values and experiences across the spectrum, so we know and understand what the other person is going through.
5. Show support
Even with the overwhelmingly positive research and open discussions taking place, a lot still needs to be done to further gender diversity. All the speakers agreed that the conversation about building women champions needs to include more people having discussions every day.
Open yourself up to others and the challenges you face as women, seek out those who inspire you and form communities.
“There is universality in what we as women go through,” commented Tlhabi. “We have shared values and experiences across the spectrum, so we know and understand what the other person is going through.”
She went on to advise women to “read books that motivate you and set you on your path to greatness”.
By removing the barriers to entry and driving advancement, we will continue to see the growth of women, ultimately achieving the goal of a truly diverse economy.
More about Building Women Champions
The #buildingwomenchampions panel was convened to celebrate Investec’s sponsorship of the 2018 Investec South African Women’s Open taking place at Westlake Golf Club, Cape Town from 8-10 March and in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on 8 March. Through its sponsorship Investec hopes to shine a spotlight on how women can contribute towards the progression of the gender agenda.
Commenting on the sponsorship, Dixon said: “This sponsorship is the intersection, between three strong elements (women, golf and brand) and the tireless pursuit of Investec to enable each to be the best that they can be. Female golfers are already brilliant, determined athletes. They got there through persistence, sweat and hard work. As a brand, we are here to champion them and give them the platforms to excel further.”
Read more about the Investec South African Women's Open
About the author
Caroline Edey-van Wyk
Colloquially known as Investec’s “storyteller,” Caroline curates and produces all the content that underpins Investec's Out of the Ordinary brand promise. She works across the business but specialises in the areas of Sustainability, CSI, Sponsorships and HR. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree in Political Science and Broadcasting - cum laude. Before she joined Investec she was a broadcast journalist at Sky News and eNCA.
About the author
Lead digital content producer
Ingrid Booth is a consumer magazine journalist who made the successful transition to corporate PR and back into digital publishing. As part of Investec's Brand Centre digital content team, her role entails coordinating and producing multi-media content from across the Group for Investec's publishing platform, Focus.