August was a very important month for us women, but that doesn’t mean that any other month isn’t important.
Every hour and every moment of the day is important, but I think the significance of August as we all know 61 years ago, women of all races took to the streets, united in their quest to fight an oppressive system.
They were fighting a far bigger war, than their own. Typical of women, that’s how we are!
We are very empathic and take care of everyone around us.
As current and future leaders, we should never lose that value of caring as that’s what makes us tick as wives, as mothers, as community leaders, as friends and coworkers.
Much as we are in the corporate world, we should not lose that sense of humanity and humility.
We must empower ourselves with all kinds of tools at hand, because for us to make it in the top echelons, we need to place a lot of effort, develop good networks, be smart and knowledgeable. We should be hungry to acquire knowledge that can enable us to reach greater heights.
We should also not neglect to inform ourselves about the latest news on developments of corporate South Africa, and in particular our respective industries.
We must make sure we’re informed of changes and developments in our sector, because we may identify a niche for ourself in those developments.
But if we do not empower ourselves with that information, we may lag behind and find that our positions become obsolete.
So, we need to take action by upscaling ourselves through training so that we remain relevant.
We should also surround ourselves with a trusted and loyal team and not “yes men”. It makes all the difference. We should not fear failure.
There are people who fear failure, as a result they do not budge and inch from their comfort zone. They always say what if… I call them the “what ifs”.
We have to be bold, ambitious and have focus. Do not be shy to be ambitious and to aim for the top. You can’t be blamed for that, can you?
There are issues we must tackle head on as women in the workplace. And I am sure you observe them in your day to day lives – that unfortunately women are still lagging behind; certain positions in most industries are still male dominated; men are still at the helm! Irrespective of gender policies, they are normally overlooked or simply ignored or gathering dust.
We have pockets of women in leadership, senior management roles and executive positions. The percentages of women representation across all sectors are low; we are far from reaching the 50% gender parity.
What this means is that everybody has and is given an opportunity in the workplace. We have policies that support us. We need to build our profiles given the support that companies provide for women.
We will be failing in our quest if we don’t take advantage of that. Even our male counterparts are jealous that we are getting all the attention. It would be sinful if we don’t seize these opportunities. That’s why women’s month was for women only!!
In my case, whenever there are positions in the board, I ensure that I bring more women on board. I’ve had to put up a big fight with my male colleagues about this, but I am relentless and I don’t give up, to a point that they even say; “we know that you are biased towards women” and I agree that I am.
To make it in a male-dominated world, it takes determination, confidence and resilience. We should not complain about not being given opportunities, because to be a perpetual complainer will not get you anywhere but is rather exhausting, and again you may suffer from chronic “complainitis”.
Apparently, Pope Francis has a sticker outside his office door that says, “no room for moaners and complainers; find a solution to the problem”.
Lastly, we have different abilities, diversities and expertise. I do not necessarily believe in following in other people’s paths, because you might climb up the same ladder of success, and when you reach the top you realise the ladder was leaning against the wrong building or the ladder is too short, when you could actually achieve a lot more than others.
Disassociate yourself entirely from negativity. There is neither place for mediocrity nor pettiness in the corporate world. Be tenacious and refuse to be side tracked by setbacks.
As we work, we leave a legacy for future generations. Ensure that you leave an indelible impression in the company, because that’s what being an effective person means. You only get one shot at life, use it wisely.
If you have not started your journey, it’s not too late. Start with baby steps and you will get there. I started by selling handbags and today I own industries and have built my brand.
The worst thing is to remain where you are and have no development, and when you die your obituary reads: “she was born, she lived and she died”.
* Mokgokong is the co-founder and executive chairperson of Community Investment Holdings. This is an edited version of a speech delivered awomen’s weekend at Mount Grace.