“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rocks the world.” This line, from a poem penned by William Ross Wallace in the mid-1800’s, speaks to the decisive influence mothers have on the direction society will take in the future, as they are ones who nuture, and set the moral compasses of, the children who grow up to be leaders. And there is no doubt that, as the same poem goes on to tell us, “mothers [are] first to guide the streamlets, from them souls unresting grow.” But it is also true that mothers themselves make excellent leaders, transferring many of the skills they learn raising children into a professional environment.
Think about it for a moment. Mothers are experts at planning, collaborating, networking and executing. They manage budgets, use the individual strengths of family members to ensure all necessary tasks get done, manage time, delegate responsibility, leverage available resources and deal with bureaucracies. Mothers lead by example and know how to get the best out of people. They rally troops and make difficult decisions every day. They are excellent multi-taskers, developing endless strategies for effectively tackling many things at once, thanks to instictively knowing how much time and energy each task needs.
If the CV of a candidate applying for a leadership position displayed all those qualities, you wouldn’t hesitate to employ them on the spot!
This woman’s month, we’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate not only the vital role mothers play – both at home at and in the workplace – but also the leadership of women in general.
Shining The Light On Some Of South Africa’s Oustanding Women Leaders
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new Cabinet in late July, South Africa became only the 11th country in the world to have at least 50% of government ministerial positions held by women. It was the first time in our country’s history that we have had so many women in the cabinet. Compare that to the United States, for example, where only three of President Trump’s 15 Cabinet ministers are women.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that we outpace the US when it comes to women in government. Throughout our history, we’ve been privileged to have many inspirational female leaders – in both corporate and government positions.
Professor Thulisile “Thuli” Madonsela
It’s impossible to cite all Thuli Madonsela’s credentials within the confines of this article. Currently the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice and Law Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, she has devoted her adult life to campaigning for social justice, human rights, good governance, constitutionalism and the rule of law. She was also one of the drafters of South Africa’s constutution, and co-architect of several laws aimed at safeguarding our democracy. She held the position of South Africa’s Public Protector for seven years, and was instrumental in rooting out many incidences of corruption, ethical violations and maladministration within the State. In 2014, she was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world, and was Forbes’ Africa Person of the Year in 2016.
In the year 2000, Mamphela Ramphele was the first African to serve as a managing director of the World Bank, a position she held for almost five years. As a prominent South African activist, academic, businesswoman, physician and political leader, In addition to her position at the World Bank, Ramphele has also held senior positions at Gold Fields and Circle Capital Venture Limited, among others. She is also the mother of two children from her relationship with the late Steve Biko.
After holding the position of Deputy CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange for nine years, Nicky Newton-King stepped into the top role in January 2012 – the first woman in its 124-year history to do so. She is also the Director of the World Federation of Exchanges, and serves as a member of the King Task Group looking into insider trading, as well as on the Financial Markets Advisory Board. A lawyer with an BA LLB from Stellenbosch University, and an LLM (first class honours) from Cambridge, Newton-King helped draft South Africa’s Insider Trading Act in 1998 – one of the only statutes in the world that compensates those negatively affected by insider trading.
After a decade at the helm of ABSA, South Africa’s third-largest bank, Ramos has announced she’s stepping down. But it won’t be to relax into her retirement (she’s 60). The former non-executive director of AngloGold Ashanti has just been appointed to the interim Board of Directors at the Public Investment Corporation by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. It’s not her first involvement with Government – she was our director general of finance under the late President Nelson Mandela. Together with her now husband, Trevor Manuel, she is widely credited with “effectively guiding South Africa toward a free-market economic model.”
A political and investigative journalist probably most well-known for taking on the Guptas and not backing down, Dlodlo has worked at the SABC, OFM Radio, Volksblad, TNA Media and, most recently, for Media 24. “As a student you visualise your future and career in a certain way,” she says, “but then reality then kicks in and it’s often not what you expected. I’ve had the good, the bad and the extremely ugly, and I’m still dreaming.”
What Can We Learn From These Powerful Female Role Models?
Perhaps the most important lesson these and other inspirational women leaders teach us is the value of honesty, ethics and patriotism. Maria Ramos, for example, was often described as “the most value for money CEO” in all South Africa’s banks. She was quoted as saying she was proud to be a civil servant, and felt as though she had been given the chance to play an important role in the development of our country.
Thuli Madonsela fought what was often a very lonely fight, but she never swayed from putting our country above her own needs. She was motivated purely by a sense of duty and civic responsibility. She is a true patriot.
These, and others like them, fly in the face of the model we are so used to seeing in so many leaders – the one that puts the individual above the people. South Africa is grateful to these exemplary women leaders, and we desperately need their example to inspire the next generation of leaders in our country.
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