Women leaders essential for growth in Africa
Posted Thu, 14 Oct 2004
Press Release:Woman in many parts of Africa still do not have a voice despite, in many cases, comprising more than half the population. In their role as daughters, mothers and wives, there is little room for aspirations of leadership. Yet women who have achieved leadership positions bring a different dynamic to situations, since they manage intuitively and are equipped with emotional intelligence to manage the intangibles of society. “It is also this quality,” says Dr Yvonne Muthien, Group Executive, Corporate Affairs, MTN Group, “that makes them skilled negotiators who focus on creating win-win situations and harmonious collaborations – a much needed quality on the African continent.” When you educate a woman you educate a nation. Developing women leaders is part of true democracy. “Women have to have a voice in shaping those polices that affect them and channelling human and natural resources to create wealth. They must have a stake and serve as influential participants. This means not just political leadership but also leadership in business,” says Ndidi Nwuneli, Founder of Leadership Effectiveness Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa. At a time when it is essential to sustain democracy and build economic growth, a variety of leadership attributes is necessary. “Women leaders contribute to this diversity by bringing a different dimension to traditional thinking,” says Professor Adele Thomas, of the Wits Business School. Nwuneli confers, ”In Africa you need passion to solve problems. Women have that passion, they bring their hearts into the workplace and are highly committed.” It’s not to say that men are not, but again it is about introducing diversity in qualities and leadership style. But as long as there is little division of responsibility in the home, gender stereotypes prevail, abuse continues – often openly in communities - and males are still seen as more worthy of education than females, women are going to find it hard to attain leadership positions in government and the private sector. There are also too few women serving as role models to aspiring leaders. There have been developments in the past few years, however, that bode well for the future. The South African government has placed a strong emphasis on gender representation, with 13 women ministers and eight deputy ministers. The African continent has shown its own commitment to advancing women in leadership by electing a woman, Tanzania’s Gertrude Mongella, as the first president of the newly established Pan African Parliament. Women should play a pivotal role in shaping those polices that affect their lives. They must have a stake and serve as influential participants. Their involvement should not be limited to political leadership but must also include leadership in business. Women should channel Africa’s human and natural resources to create wealth. “In my country, I have seen a greater number of women owning major businesses in sectors you wouldn’t imagine, such as pharmaceuticals and information technology,” Nwuneli adds. “We are so excited about the inroads women are making in the business community. We now have a female Minister of Finance in Nigeria, doing very well in a pivotal role. We have hope here, and this kind of hope is evident on the rest of the continent.” By having just a few women doing good work we can change old-fashioned mindsets that have seen women succumb to other people’s choices for them. Gradually communities will realise that women can be the best they can be, can add value and are not just there to care for their parents in old age. Muthien, Nwuneli and Thomas are three of the speakers that presented their views on Africa’s development at the Eskom African Business Leaders Forum, that took place this week.
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