Women in Leadership: The Powerhouse Behind Profitability

In July and August 2023, South Africa hosted the Netball World Cup. This premier event coincided with Women’s Month celebrations, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the strides made in the emancipation of women. But it got me wondering… With women in leadership making an even greater impact on business today, can we consider them the powerhouse
behind profitability and value creation? McKinsey suggests we can and provides the evidence to back it up.

Leaders to Look up to

Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum in South Africa; Nompumelelo Zikalala, CEO of Kumba Iron Ore; Mpumi Madisa, CEO of Bidvest Group, and Bertina Engelbrecht, CEO of Clicks Group; and Dr Nombasa Tsengwa, CEO of Exxaro Resources are the top 5 South African women in publicly listed companies and remind us that our nation is truly celebration-worthy. Here’s another achievement to admire. In 2023, for the first time in the Fortune 500 list’s 68-year history, more than 10% of its companies are being led by women. Sadly though, the African continent has fallen behind as female executives make up just 5% of the companies listed on Africa’s 24 stock exchanges. 

Africa needs to catch up and this is why…

McKinsey’s 2020 research says that companies with more gender-diverse executive teams financially outperform those with less diverse teams by 25%, while companies with more than 30% female executives were more likely to outperform companies with less, proving that women are powerful business assets, and are indeed the powerhouse behind profitability.

Make Women in Leadership a Priority

The lag in Africa reveals the barriers still faced by women striving to climb the corporate ladder. And more than 25 years into democracy they continue to experience discrimination in the public and private domain which contradicts the diversity and inclusivity values we believe in. Women in leadership require more than just an inclusion by numbers to reach the higher echelons of business. They need a physically and psychologically safe space to unleash their potential and a culture change where gender is no longer the first prism through which women leaders are evaluated. There is a need for a systemic change that creates supportive environments, promotes gender equality, and helps women build the confidence and strength needed to thrive on their leadership journey.

Overcoming Obstacles and Forging Ahead

Like Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf League that’s emerged as a disruptor in the world of professional golf, we all need to take ownership of and dismantle the patriarchal systems that makeup so much of the business world. In my quest to understand how the top 5 Women in publicly listed companies navigate corporate politics and charted their path to success, I read “Successful Women Think Differently,” a book written by Valorie Burton. Valorie, a certified coach, writes that successful women make decisions differently, they set goals differently and bounce back from failure in uniquely powerful ways. She helps women see who they really are and gives them the tools and knowledge to succeed. Accounting and auditing firm, Nexia International, launched a hugely successful Women in Leadership programme which demonstrates the truth in Valorie’s assertion. Their program, through peer-to-peer facilitated coaching and one-on-one mentoring, focuses on getting women to explore, identify, and validate who they wish to become and the leadership style
they want to hone. These are the initiatives we need more of.

Creating Opportunities for Women to Rise

Translating commitment to diversity into progress and gender parity requires a willingness to let women be their authentic selves. We need to help increase their influence and create enabling spaces for them to contribute. This will require a shift in mindset and new habits. Change Partners supports organisations with a holistic approach to female leadership development. Seven of our twelve partners are females dedicated to walking alongside women to help them develop their self-awareness, their positive intelligence, and their confidence. We also apply a transformational coaching approach with the organisation to develop a culture that acknowledges the restrictive patriarchal challenges of the business world, contributes to dismantling them, and supports women on their road to leadership excellence. This ensures that women are empowered with effective leadership skills that can help them advance their organisations, and that their working environments are transformed, inclusive and conducive to success.

As a leading provider with 25 years of experience coaching leaders in blue-chip companies and government, Change Partners is perfectly positioned to help you advance. 

 Tebalo Tomane is an International Executive Coach at Change Partners with a wealth of experience in business. She’s passionate about empowering women and helping leaders step up to become the best versions of themselves.

Contact her at tebalotomane@change.co.za or on 083 636 3120, and make your leadership journey a rewarding one.

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