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Creating Platforms To Celebrate Women

Farzanah Mall

South Africa is a country ripe with opportunities for women, for men, and especially for our children. It is also, however, a place of widespread uncertainty, deep-rooted inequalities and high barriers that prevent individuals, organisations and particularly women from reaping the rewards of hard work, says Farzanah Mall, President of the BWA.
Farzanah Mall Farzanah Mall

As a parent, a professional and president of the BWA, one thing is clear to me: it can’t be “business as usual”. We can’t continue blindly on our current path if we wish to unlock the true potential of our nation, our women and our future generations.

The BWA, through our recognition, profiling, mentoring, training and networking programmes, is not only creating an enabling environment for women to succeed from a business and personal perspective, but we are also exploring new ideas, thinking and solutions to support a productive, high-performing economy and country. Our new strategy includes a Boys2Men programme, greater
focus on leadership development strategies and entrepreneurship, and an enhanced Women in Leadership Census publication.

The various BWA awards programmes are also close to my heart, as we get the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of great South African women. Too often, women do not take the time to celebrate themselves. What we sometimes also tend to forget is that success is achieved only as
a collective. For each person, the countless “silent angels” (as I like to call them) that stand behind them along their journey are all important to the success of a leader or an organisation.

The BWA dedicates this year to all those who volunteer their time to give back to humanity, in whatever way. We celebrate our volunteers, partners, sponsors, supporters and our fellow women (and men) for contributing to the success of our projects. In particular, we are grateful to our headline sponsor, Sasol, for their partnership and shared commitment to support transformation, nation-building and socio- economic growth. With their help, we are able to create sustainable change and continue to impact, grow, develop and support women in SA to achieve their goals and dreams.

I believe that the development and inclusivity of women is one of the key business
focuses of our time. The reason for this is simple: one of the core differentiators to economic and business success is people optimisation. The International Labour Organisation estimates almost 50% of women’s productive potential globally is currently unutilised (compared to 22% of men’s productivity). In my mind, people are our greatest asset. Tapping into what women can offer in the workplace (and outside of it) is therefore simply a shrewd business strategy that will impact on the bottom line and overall performance of organisations.

This understanding of the key role of women is shared by the World Economic Forum, which highlighted the importance of gender inclusivity in its 2014 Gender Report, which states that we will have to wait until 2095 for workplace gender parity. 81 years is not acceptable!

I want to stress that equality is not just a women’s issue; it’s a human rights issue and the responsibility of men too. At the BWA, we are blessed to have numerous men who work towards equality alongside us. They lend us their skills, their networks and their perspective, and we celebrate them for it. As BWA board member Mthunzi Mdwaba likes to say, “Transforming all parts of society requires recognition that all of us must be change agents.”

With Women’s Month behind us, I want to
say to our women that celebrating yourself is a healthy habit. Reflecting on what you’ve achieved is not only a way to fight self-doubt, but to gain clarity around how you have used your time and energy, paving the way for better future decision-making.

For every step taken, every crisis averted, every smile brought about, every tear you wiped and every triumph, big or small – my fellow women, I salute you and I celebrate you.

** About the author:
Farzanah Mall is the National President of the Businesswomen’s Association of SA (BWA), and Director: KPMG Advisory Services.

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