TUT’s Women in Leadership forum at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria recently.
The impressive line-up of guest speakers included, Ms. Zipporah Maubane, Group Marketing Executive Altron SA: Prof Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of the Witwatersrand; Ms. Kass Naidoo, Cricket commentator and Founder of the Gsport Trust; and Ms Tatiana Cross, Founder of Red Pencil Consulting, Co-Founder and Director of the EVE Mentoring Program.
In a special message, Prof Lourens van Staden, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said, “I could not but notice the profound message in the theme Self-mastery: Towards Empowering Women. It ties in with the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, famous 14th Century artist and philosopher, “You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself...the height of a man's success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. ... And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.”
He added that Women’s Month is all about celebrating women’s ability to take control of their lives without being blown off course by circumstances or feelings, “It is about saluting them for their strength, tenacity, endurance, flexibility, as well as treasuring their heart, love, dedication, care and unbreakable softness.”
“Many women has fought hard for Gender Equity, which is a vital element of the South African Constitution, is also interconnected with TUT’s view that the development of women must be a strategic priority within the University,” Prof van Staden concluded.
Speaker after speaker had the 130-strong audience captivated by their journeys to success.
Ziporah Altron talked about the impact of the Harvard University study – the power of the pack – on her own way of work. “I found that women who support women are more successful. Women in senior positions has impact in society in business and could make all the difference in the lives of younger women.”
“Everything begins with the self, how you combine the authority inside yourself with everything you do. One must have self-mastery as a core principal in life to go to the next level in life,” she added.
Quoting interesting statistics on the appointment of CEOs in big corporates, she said she realised a certain pattern, “Revlon is 86 years old and the majority of its customers across world comprises 99.99% women. The company only appointed a female CEO in 2019. The same goes for the 110-year old General Motors who appointed its first ever female CEO in 2019.”
Prof Habib explained how Wits practically dealt with issues of Gender Equity. “The established of a Gender Equity Office and implementing institutional policies, play a vital role in ensuring compliance,” he said.
The Gender Equity Office (GEO) is a holistic, autonomous and integrated office that deals with all aspects of gender-based harm and the advancement of gender equity, he added.
Forty-year old Kass Naidoo, revered female cricket commentator took the audience on her 27 year-long journey to become the Donna Simmonds of South Africa. “When I told my parents about my dream at the age of 13, they thought I was ridiculous. But u know what? When your kids have ridiculous ideas, get ridiculous with them. We, as women, must tap into our own potential and help our children to do the same. No institution is going to do this for you. No boss is going to open the field for you,” Kass said.
“I became a walking cricket freak. Every time anyone said no to me, I said yes. It was that simple for me,” she added.
She also talked about the price she paid for fame, the depression and how she had to bounce back, “I became famous during the World Cup but crashed and burnt in 2007. I was the most experienced person on the team, but I did not feel like I was a leader. I had to handle that I have lost it, but I also had to handle that I could bounce back.”
“I had to learn to accept the failure; something else is waiting for you. Then opportunity to become commercial manager of cricket SA came up, another opportunity for me to unite SA,” she continued.
She concluded by sharing her six success routines with the audience, also inviting young women in the audience to contact her for advice and mentoring.
There was probably not a dry eye in the house when Tatiana Cross, a Fortune 400 Alumna, shared her story of getting out of the cycle of fear and into the cycle of freedom. “It has become my mission to help woman to have the life and career they want to have,” she said.
“I have never shared my story as I will with you today. I hope it will touch and inspire you in some way. I was a successful businesswoman, married to an equally successful surgeon, with a 13-year old daughter and 2-year old son. I have been abused for about ten years and it has taken its toll on me. As I lay on the floor being beaten up again that day, I knew this time it was different. I had to do it different, I had to do something for my children,” she continued.
She obtained a restraining order against her husband, which resulted in a nasty divorce. She said although she lost everything, what she gained was more than material things, “I gained freedom, my own power for myself and kids and mostly I started to love and value myself.”
“Mastering my mind-set, I realised that my strength was to show people their value, from CEO’s to young people, especially young women. Mentoring was something I saw having a tremendous effect in my life. In addition to starting my own business I also registered EVE mentoring for young girls to be of service to and mentor them,” Tatiana continued.
In conclusion, she reminded the audience, “Your uniqueness is your power!”
The TUT Women in Leadership Forum (WLF) strives to motivate, inspire, innovate and develop women to drive initiative, while simultaneously improving their own abilities.