6 leadership lessons from inspiring women
08 March 2019
Investec's women leaders share their advice to other women on the rise.
7 min read
B.Bus Sci (Finance Hons) from UCT; CFA
National Wealth Management Joint Head
Having spent the first ten years of her career in investment banking at Morgan Stanley on Wall Street, Ali is well versed in navigating a male-dominated environment. Since joining Investec nine years ago, she’s had two children – now aged five and seven – and at the same time has worked her way up to becoming National Wealth Management Joint Head.
I look after wealth management strategy for Investec Wealth & Investment, which ultimately defines what we offer clients and their families, so they can preserve and grow their wealth across generations. In addition, I have my own clients that I look after directly. I love my client work as it makes me better at what insights I can provide on the strategy level.
My mum, Janice Ashby, was a career woman and one of the pioneers alongside publishing doyenne Jane Raphaely in the 70s and 80s. She and my dad divorced when I was young, so I grew up with a mum who was out all day at work, and flying to Joburg every week on business trips. To this day, whenever I smell A1 jet fuel, I think of her! My early imprint was that of a working woman, and I think that may have made it easier for me – a lot of other women in the workplace have not had that, and so they’ve had to work harder emotionally to get to where they are today.
My early imprint was that of a working career woman, and I think that’s made it easier for me.
Investec has really allowed me to follow my own path of growth, where I work but am a mom at the same time. I can be a woman at work. In my mum’s day, working women could never mention that they needed to organise play dates, let alone breast feed babies! I find Investec embraces women being women, which is great.
One often hears a lot of how working moms (with working husbands) continue to carry the mental load: like being on school WhatsApp groups, organising extramurals, or supervising homework. I think working moms need to stop wanting to do it all. As the well-known saying goes: “We expect women to work as if they don’t have children, but to raise children as if they don’t work.”
I think it’s important to find a “natural” mentor, rather than someone who’s set up artificially. My first mentor was my boss at Morgan Stanley. He was a perfectionist and the strictest mentor ever, but very patient.
I also worked for a fabulous woman who was one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked for. She had an incredible mind with a great sense of humour, but she made no apologies for being a working mother: after she came back from her maternity leave, she still shot the lights out. She also brought all of her female self to work, and wore the most fabulous dresses. It was very inspiring.
If you have something important to say in a meeting, don’t be afraid to speak up. And even if you are afraid, take a big breath and speak anyway. For women who do choose to have children, be gentle on yourselves when you have little babies. Take the time to love them a lot: before you know it, they’ll suddenly be older – and there will be more time to “lean in” again when it comes to work. And lastly please bring your fabulous female selves to work, we need to celebrate all diversity in the workplace – both women and men alike.