WOMEN, your time has come in the business world.
Consultative leadership, humaneness and other
"feminine" qualities are now valued in business.
Boldness and the ability to make difficult decisions are
still crucial, but you don’t have to play golf with the boss to get ahead these
days. That isn't my experience, and it doesn't have to be yours.
The qualities that used to be decried as women's weaknesses
are what is now required in business – sincerity, the ability to be vulnerable,
and the desire to consult others.
Women are more consultative by nature, and people want to be
consulted, engaged with. I believe there has never been a better time for women
to rise to the top.
And when you get there, manage like a woman, not like a man.
I have a law degree but only practised for a year. The
bureaucratic processes seemed very tedious to me, and I found absolutely no job
satisfaction in law.
The turning point was defending a guy charged with assault
to do grievous bodily harm, getting him off, and seeing that only a few months
later, he was charged with murder.
I was greatly inspired by my sister, who left school after
Standard Four but had become a formidable businesswoman working for Table
Charm, a direct sales company.
I had excelled at corporate law at university and when the
vacancy came up, I applied to be manager of the Cape Town branch of Table
Charm. It was a phenomenal ride, an opportunity to nurture and inspire
salespeople who had little education, but wanted to make something of their
That was where I cut my teeth in boardrooms and conferences,
and I travelled extensively. I had a mentor, my inspiration, with a profoundly
ethic approach to business.
Reading the Sunday Times one morning at my kitchen table, I
saw an advertisement for a "lawyer with a sales and marketing bent"
at the Arbitration Forum (now called Equillore). The job was meant for me.
There is a strong and growing culture of mediation in South
Africa, and many other countries. I am utterly convinced by, and passionate
For me, it integrates all the most important values in
business. It is about finding solutions to conflict that are sustainable for
both parties, rather than the winner-takes-all approach of litigation.
It unearths the dynamics that cause the conflict in the
first place, and deals with these. It acknowledges the feelings and needs of
both parties, empowering them to find their own solutions.
It incorporates the values of our most venerated religious
leaders and political leaders, from Mandela to Ghandi. The values inherent in
this approach are traditionally feminine ones.
It is time for us to acknowledge and celebrate them, for the
profound value they add to our lives and our businesses.
*Wahida Parker is a director of Equillore. She is the third
guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women’s Month campaign celebrating women
in business. Fin24 welcomes your
participation in the campaign. Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org and you
could get published.
Women a force for change – Amelia Jones, CEO of Community
Four tips for working women - Glynnis Jeffries, head:
business development at Futuregrowth
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