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by Alex Kinmont

On Friday we hosted a panel of phenomenal women to share their stories of succeeding in male-dominated industries. In science, aviation, construction and security, four women gave us advice and messages of motivation for forging your own path.

Tanita Ramburuth-hurt is a Masters student in Astrophysics from Wits University. She is also a first degree Black Belt in Tang Soo Do, a Korean Martial Art. As a young women entering the workspace, Tanita gave valuable insight on what it means to be represented.

Tanita recently attended the Physics Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany, where Nobel prize winners in physics and 600 young scientists meet. She explains how if Einstein were alive she would have told him that he should have credited his wife, Mileva Marić-Einstein, for contributing to the work on relativity.

Most people didn’t even know Mileva’s name.

To emphasise her point, Tanita also asked us, “Did you know that black women were largely responsible for getting Americans into space?”

The young scientist explained a very important point: Men dominate the history books, thanks to our patriarchal culture. Tanita emphasises the difference it would make if more women were credited and noticed.

She explains, “If there are young girls out there who see that they are represented, they will know that they can get to wherever we are and wherever they want to go.”

Poppy Khoza is the Director of Civil Aviation at SACAA, the South African Civil Aviation Authority and has over 15 years of experience in senior management positions, including time at South African Airways and two years as the Chairperson of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Aviation Security Panel, a historical achievement for a black woman. Khoza was named South Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business & Government in 2012 and again in 2018.

Poppy shared her wisdom gained from working her way to the top of the aviation industry. She, too, commented on the need for encouraging more young girls in her sphere. Boys and girls must be socialised from when they are young to seek power equally. Young girls should be encouraged to want to be a pilot just as much as an air hostess and know that both are within their reach.

Khoza explained how 6 years ago, she was the only female executive in the company. Today, that number has risen to 50%. She worked hard for her CEO position, explaining, “I gave them no reason not to appoint me. It was clear that if I didn’t prove myself, no woman will ever be given this position again.”

Thobekile Ndlovu is the Managing Director of her own highly successful Construction and Design company Thobethulani Trading. Her clients include KZN legislature, Metrorail, the Department of Trade and Investments and PRASA. Thobe is a qualified Interior Designer and Project Manager who is an Executive Board Member of the Master Builders Association.

Having also conquered a traditionally male industry, she shared her insights on how she made it big.

Thobe said, “Your attitude is like your price tag.” The key to finding success lies within us and how we approach challenges. This will shape our experience and our progress.

Her tip for staying relevant in an industry which is not always consistent is to remain relevant by knowing how to communicate; be a good listener and listen to what your clients’ dreams are. This is how you learn to “make the society rely on you.”

Thobe was awarded Best Woman in Construction in 2015 by The Master Builders Association. She concluded, “Write down your vision, and patent it.”

Thando Selanto is a Communications Manager at MeMeZa Community Saftey.

Covering a topic known all too well, Thando struck home by reminding us about the high levels of Gender Based Violence in South Africa. MeMeZa is a security innovation company run by two women: Thuli Mthethwa and Elmarie Pereira.

MeMeZa provides affordable connected community safety technology, aimed at giving women, children and the elderly a voice to call for help in times of distress. MeMeZa won 3 awards in 2018 alone, including the South African Premier Business SMME Award, the People’s Choice Award in the Google Impact Challenge and the SITA Top IOT Award. Some of MeMeZa’s Inventions include a personal keyring with a 140 decibel alarm and lipstick pepper sprays.

Awareness of domestic violence can only go so far. MeMeZa promises to provide women with tangible and immediately effective security products.

Powerful women are defined as women who help other women. Thando and MeMeZa provide a solution to a problem that plagues our country and others. Thobe and Poppy have achieved success where the odds were against them and share their advice on how other women can follow. Tanita emphasises that representation of women in typically male sectors is vital to changing the mindsets of young girls. It is fair to say that all four speakers are changing the game and shattering stereotypes by being women in Science, in Sport, in Aviation, in Construction and in Security. Not only are they brave enough to be in these industries, but they are succeeding, and helping others to follow.

This is how we can move South Africa forward, invest in our business, improve our company’s standing and change lives all at the same time.

Leadership relies on heavily on one’s personal mastery. Our executive leadership development programme supports a focus on values companies intend to cultivate in their people, together with leadership competencies and development opportunities. For more information on our executive leadership development programme, click here.