Cape Town - Rania Habiby Anderson is the author of the award-winning book Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies. She is also a global speaker, an executive business coach and an angel investor in women-led businesses.
Anderson visited South Africa earlier this year and shares her impressions with Fin24:
The research findings are irrefutable: companies with diverse teams and leadership — especially ones that are gender-balanced — produce better results than homogeneous businesses.
The data from around the world is clear: Women make the vast majority of consumer purchase decisions, they’re graduating from universities more than ever before and they’re doing this at rates higher than men.
The current challenges in South Africa are complex. They are economic, social and cultural. To solve complex problems, we need our best and most innovative thinking from the people who best understand those issues.
Before I arrived in South Africa earlier this year, most of what I’d recently been reading had to do with the country’s faltering economy. When I returned home, I read excerpts from McKinsey’s new released book Reimagining South Africa, a compilation of essays from twenty-two leaders.
The contributors proposed strategies that South Africans can take to improve their nation. What is missing from the discourse is the central role that women can play in unleashing the economy.
Your most valuable resource
What I saw in South Africa is not very different from what I see in most emerging economies (an many advanced economies) - a county not fully utilising its most valuable resource: educated, talented and ambitious women.
At my speaking engagements at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) in Johannesburg and the Graduate School of Business in Cape Town (GSB), I was incredibly impressed with the young women students and alumna.
At PwC, Barclays and T-Systems, I met corporate women and women entrepreneurs, some who are just starting out others who are at the very top of their fields. At the International Women’s Forum conference I met women community and political leaders. They shared novel visions and ideas that are different from those brought forward by men, providing a fresh leadership and problem solving approaches.
Yet companies continue to rely predominantly on the leadership half of their available talent pool — men. Of course, men are capable. But solving complex economic and social ills will take the joint leadership of men and women.
After spending four years of research and interviewing more than 250 women in emerging economies to learn more about how they succeed, it is clearly evident that women are ambitious, they are leaning in and they are ready to lead.
So instead of not fully engaging women at the highest levels of business leadership, companies can:
- Specifically and personally reach out to women who are not “100% qualified” (is anyone ever totally qualified?) and urge them to apply for assignments, jobs, promotions and board seats. Some women don’t do so on their own;
- Engage an equal number of women as men when trying to solve complex business or economic issues;
- Do more than mentor women — sponsor them. When we mentor, we give advice. When we sponsor, we use our power and influence to put them into roles where they can make a difference;
- Don’t assume that a woman, especially one with a family or a successful husband, is not willing to take on an opportunity. Ask her.
Just like ending apartheid took women having an active role, working along with men, realising the full potential of the South African economy will take the full participation of women.
The economic and social challenges in South Africa — and indeed, all over the world — are too complex to solve with just half the population. We have the talent pool to solve these problems. We just need to look toward our daughters, sisters and mothers for some new perspectives and answers.
WATCH: Anderson talks to 24.com during her recent visit to SA.