(c) South Africa Institute of Chartered Accountants. Contact SAICA for permission to reproduce this article., Accounting, Careers

Women Changing the Business Landscape in South Africa

By Lynn Grala

Transformation within the profession can be likened to metamorphosis. It is not an overnight affair – we all know that.

Each stage has been unique in its development and has held its own experiences and challenges. Once the challenges have been conquered it means progress has been made and ground has been taken. It means we are moving forward and that things are changing, even if at times change feels intolerably slow and with seemingly obscure results. Yet, when looking back over the past 18 years, one realises how far we have come as a profession. Much still needs to be done and there are obstacles to overcome, but eventually a butterfly will emerge to spread its wings and fly.

SAICA statistics for the past five years reveal that, in this period, the total number of female CAs(SA) increased by 50%, but according to the 2013 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) on women in business, the percentage of working women in senior management positions in South Africa is still inadequate. Since 2009, only 28% of South African senior management positions are being filled by women and the statistic has been flat-lining for five years. Although, when one compares the 28% to a global average of 21%, we can commend ourselves for our progress.

Having women in top management positions is crucial as it leads to a more diverse decision-making body, which in turn leads to better quality decisions and solutions. More innovation is needed to make significant progress in this field, as women often have numerous life roles to play and business needs to adjust to accommodate them. One critical way in which South African business could make itself more appealing to women is by providing more flexible working hours.

In the past five years, SAICA statistics also reveal that the number of black CAs(SA) during this period grew by a massive 80%. It is good news, but there are still obstacles to be overcome, especially when seeking to recruit people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It comes down to education. We are not getting the numbers from universities, while universities in turn are not getting the numbers from schools in terms of individuals with high enough marks in Maths.

Another major hurdle occurs at high school level. Learners do not have the necessary numeracy and literacy skills, and are not always aware of the importance of choosing subjects that will allow them access to tertiary education institutions.

The few learners from disadvantaged backgrounds who do qualify for access to university studies face a number of additional challenges: not only do they require financial support, but also additional mentorship in the form of academic and ‘soft’ skills support to ensure their success.

An area in which substantial progress has been made is in SAICA’s Thuthuka programme. The pass rate for African and Coloured students in the Thuthuka programme has consistently been significantly higher than the national average for QE 1 applicants. This has been an on-going phenomenon since the first group of Thuthuka students, from the University of Fort Hare, wrote Part I in 2007. In 2011, the average for Thuthuka QE repeat students in the Western Cape was 50% above the national average. However, the lack of funding remains chronic, as Thuthuka is more comprehensive and costly than a simple bursary.

Many have laboured, sacrificed and fought for transformation. We applaud their efforts, for they have not been in vain. And now we would like to introduce you to 15 influential and inspirational women and leaders who have, each in their own unique way, contributed to transformation.

Bukelwa Bulo
Bukelwa Bulo CA(SA) says her greatest challenge was getting into private equity at such a young age. As a female she had to constantly fight against stereotypes of gender and race in the business world. “My confidence took a serious knock in the early years and I had to work very hard to stay positive,” she says. “Fortunately I had most supportive colleagues and an empowering manager and that proved to be very important in restoring my faith in myself. Some of these early colleagues and the manager from my early days remain a strong part of my support structure to this day.”

Bukelwa qualified as a CA(SA) on Investec’s Training Outside Public Practice (TOPP) programme and also completed her qualification towards a CFA Charter in 2004. This year will mark 10 years since she has been with Investec’s Private Equity division (later changed to Principal Investments).

“I have had the most incredible exposure professionally in this space, and have learned more about business across a diversified spectrum of industries than I ever could have imagined. From the engineering, construction and industrial services, quick service restaurants and hospitality sectors, amongst others.“

A few years ago, Bukelwa was selected to participate in the Harvard Business School’s Programme of Leadership Development and she describes it as one of the most treasured moments in her journey of professional and personal development. Presently, she also sponsors a few children from underprivileged backgrounds by sending them to better schools than they would ordinarily have had access to: “I am passionate about education,” Bulo says “I really do believe that it is the only truly sustainable form of empowering people at a grass roots level for generations to come. I also mentor, in my private capacity, young adults from all walks of life who need career guidance and advice.”

The legacy Bukelwa wishes to leave is one of better access to education for the underprivileged: “I hate to sound like a broken record. But if I can give as many children as I can afford access to a decent basic and tertiary education over my lifetime, I will have served my purpose in life. Educating even one child can have a profound multiplier effect on breaking the cycle of poverty in a single family unit.”

Kashveera Chanderjith
Trying to imagine what a world of utter silence is like would confound most of us, but for Kashveera Chanderjith CA(SA), it is a reality. Despite being born deaf she has gone on to achieve more than most will ever dream of.

Medical science stated that with a hearing disability as profound as Kashveera’s, she would never be able to learn to speak. Not settling for this, her parents bravely decided to go ahead and teach her the aural-oral method of communication rather than sign language. At the age of three, Kashveera said her first word – “flower” Proudly, she now says, “That would be my greatest achievement – to be able to conquer medical science and to prove that anything can be done regardless of
your disability.”

Taking on the next challenge, she attended a normal school, achieving five distinctions in matric and then went on to enroll to do her BCom (Accounting) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) where she qualified as UKZN’s first deaf graduate.

At the age of 24, after passing both board exams at her first attempt, she qualified as South Africa’s very first deaf CA(SA). It did not come without a tremendous struggle—she had to work twice as hard as anyone else and faced mockery and discrimination from fellow students and even lecturers.

Ms Chanderjith is now an audit manager in ABAS (Anglo Business Assurance Services) which looks after the assurance and risk of the worldwide mining giant, Anglo American plc. In 2012, she was a finalist in the Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year Award and was also a finalist in the Women of Excellence Awards for Durban Chamber of Industry & Commerce.

Kashveera now communicates with such ease and confidence that one easily forgets she is deaf – but she is quick to remind you if you do. “A lot of people do not recognise the fact that I am deaf because I am speaking,” she says. “Deafness is an invisible disability and that’s the biggest problem that we have.”

She is actively involved in promoting deaf awareness wherever she goes. From a young age Kashveera has had a heart that longed to serve the community, even going as far as giving up her matric dance so that she could use the money to help with a project for a disadvantaged school instead. “I am currently involved in a number of community initiatives, the most significant one though is the building of the Woodhurst Multicultural centre, which serves to help in uplifting the poorest of the poor.”

Val Davies
It was Val Davies’s mother who first inspired her to pursue a career as a CA(SA). “At that time, she said that as a woman you should pursue a career and if you are going to pursue one, pursue a good one!”

It appeared to Davies that being a CA(SA) offered a lot of options in terms of different careers. Ultimately this inspired her decision to venture from one role to another, even within the same company.

“An illustration of that is being at the same company, Ernst & Young, for a long time. As a result of the qualification that I got, I’ve done lots of different things. I’ve done audits, been a tax partner, been leader of tax business and I’ve now got a multifaceted business in a very complicated environment, which is the African continent.”

Mrs Davies started her articles with Ernst & Young and now holds the position of its Chief Operating Officer for Africa. Val performs the complex role of driving an integrated business across the African continent and is highly passionate about the whole Africa agenda.

“The profession has an enormously important role to play in making sure that we build trust in Africa as an important investment destination in the capital markets, both in the mature markets, but also in other emerging markets. We also have an important role to play in helping with skills development. Africa’s growth is not restricted by opportunity nor talent, as we have many talented and entrepreneurial people on our continent, but rather a shortage of skilled people. The profession needs to respond to this challenge.”

Davies believes the challenge to being successful as women in the profession revolves around a change of perception: “The common perception in that, as a woman, you don’t have the same amount of drive, the same amount of passion to actually achieve what a man would. It’s interesting – I met a group of woman entrepreneurs the other day and they were saying that sometimes the reason women aren’t as successful as men is because sometimes they get to the stage and say ‘I’ve got enough now and I don’t necessarily need to do more’. Things can stay the same size and they don’t push it on to be bigger. I think that is part of a challenge: women need to dream bigger and have confidence that they can be successful in an equivalent environment to men.”

Neo Dongwana
When Neo Dongwana CA(SA) failed her board exam the first time, a partner at Deloitte, Mr. Lester Cotton, encouraged her not to give up hope. He advised her to get her script and see exactly where she went wrong. She took heed, worked hard and the next year re-wrote the exam. She had hopes of passing well, but never imagined that she would be the first black woman in South Africa to be placed in the Top 10 of the Part II Qualifying Examination for Chartered Accountants.

Neo then went on to be the first African female partner in the Cape Town office of Deloitte & Touche and the second African female partner in the South African practice.

“Having done articles in the Cape Town office meant I grew up knowing the partners, the managers,” says Neo. “The Cape Town office was very accommodating. Deloitte is like home. It’s a very caring environment and I had a lot of support from the partners in trying to help me as much as they could. I didn’t feel lonely or isolated.”

In her career she has also experienced challenges: “Being taken seriously by white males! Unfortunately, it’s almost like you have to prove yourself over and over and over again. I think when you walk in the room, you may be a CA(SA) and … a partner, but they almost feel ‘I’m not sure she can do the job’. Until you show them you can do the job.”

“Open your minds to the possibility that a black person can do the job as well as a white person can. You must be willing to give people an opportunity and let them prove themselves,” Neo advises.

Mrs. Dongwana is also the non-executive chairman of PPC Ntsika Fund Proprietary Limited and a non-executive director of Barloworld Limited Mpact Limited and AVI Limited.

“I see a lot of young people coming through the profession and leaving it even before some of them qualify. They say it’s too difficult,” she explains. “It is difficult, but my advice is: persevere and hang in there! It is going to be hard, but it’s worth doing it. You’ve got to believe in yourself and you’ve got to pay the price, but ultimately it pays off.”

Adele Du Plessis
When Adel du Plessis CA(SA) was 11 years old, her mother made a courageous decision to leave her very abusive marriage. Adel says: “I respect my mother, a strong women who never gave up, who taught me the value of work ethic and to take responsibility for one’s life no matter the situation and to stay positive.”

Du Plessis completed her articles at Deloitte, qualified as a CA(SA) and holds a Masters degree. Over the last 12 years Adel lectured at WITS and Monash SA. She also managed a host of training projects and co-owns a small business, Themba Thandeka Leadership Institute (TTLI) with her husband. Adel’s role at TTLI is Director (Finance & Projects). She achieved 2nd position in 2009 in the MRS United Nations SA and the Lady ROCCI awards.

TTLI works in association with the Monash Africa Centre under the leadership of Prof. Dina Burger, Deputy PVC of Monash SA. TTLI received the silver award in the 2012 ROCCI FNB Education Business category, a great achievement for a small business. “There is no ‘I’ in success. Success is the sum of God’s Grace and a combined team effort where each member use their strengths”.

TTLI supports transformation in our country through leadership education and being social entrepreneurs. Adel states: “The sustainable future of SA lies in the ethical decisions of our young leaders and developing Social Entrepreneurs. TTLI address the demand for leadership development of 25 to 45 year olds in business who are fast tracked to leadership positions by offering over 100 customised products at personal, team and business leadership level.” Du Plessis was also a participant of the Goldman Sachs – GIBS Women Entrepreneurship Program.

She states that SA needs more practical high quality entrepreneurship programs like this one to help transform 1-man business owners into sustainable economy contributors. “As our BRIC partner countries shows, sustainable small businesses are the engine of growth and employment and critical to economic transformation.”

Jeanette Hern
For Jeanette Hern, CA(SA), gender equality within the profession is her greatest passion. Hern is often quoted in the media on her stance on gender equality. Jeanette met her husband at Grant Thornton while they were both still studying to become chartered accountants and they now have three sons together.

Jeanette joined Grant Thornton Johannesburg as a post graduate student and completed her traineeship at the firm. Following a highly successful career as an audit partner, she went on to launch its corporate finance business in 2008. Her appointment as deputy CEO on 1 July 2013 makes her the first woman to hold such a prestigious position within the firm.

Hern is also the first person to be appointed to the Grant Thornton national council and plays a key role in the Johannesburg leadership team. In 2012, she was elected chairman of the national partnership oversight board. Through her experience with her own family, she understands the incredible challenge women within the profession face when trying to balance both home and career.

“What businesses need to do is make sure that their environment is such that women can have a career and family and facilitate that. Then more women will stay in the profession. They give it up because it’s too difficult and it’s made too difficult because of the environment that they are working in. We’ve achieved great success in the organisation, with 50% of our senior leadership being females. That has been achieved through making it okay to leave at three o’clock because we know you are going to do your work and we know if necessary you’ll pick up your computer at six o’clock at night and finish the report and do what needs to be done. We don’t clock watch. You’ve got your work that needs to be done and we know you’ll do it in your time and as long as your clients are happy and you are delivering.”

She believes women are vital to the profession: ”Women have so much to add and there is such a lot of value a woman can bring to the table. Very often women bring emotional intelligence to the decision making process and have the ability to look at things differently. We provide solutions and come up with angles that people have not necessarily thought about.”

Claire Jennings
Claire Jennings CA(SA) describes herself as an A-type personality and a bit of a perfectionist. “It’s not always a good thing, but from the technical side of things, it’s an attribute. When I put my head down to do something – I’m going to do it. My goal was that I wanted to be a partner.” She accomplished what she set out to achieve and in 2012, at the age of 28, Claire was appointed as a director at Pannell Kerr Forster (PKF).

“I think I managed to achieve this with much support from my family. I joined the firm in 2009, and shortly after that fell pregnant and had my first little one, and two weeks after being appointed as a director I found out I was pregnant with my second. So pursuing my dream of becoming a director was only made possible by the incredible support of my family.

I feel I also owe it to the firm and particularly my boss, Theunis Schoeman, and our Chairman, Andrew`Hannington. They both supported my wanting to pursue this dream, whilst still having a family. They were incredible mentors and provided me with the platform to grow and challenge myself.”

In 2011, Claire started the integrated reporting division at PKF in Johannesburg and eventually went on to head up the entire sustainability and integrated reporting department. Claire also serves on the firm’s national technical committee, and is an observer at the audit practices committee.

Claire will be a partner in the newly merged Johannesburg offices of PKF and Grant Thornton, practising under the name of Grant Thornton. Her two little ones remain the apple of her eye and she tries her best to spend as much quality time with them as possible. Jennings believes much can still be done within the profession to accommodate women: “I think the biggest challenge is to change the perception that women, particularly working moms working flexi-time or half days, are not working hard enough.

In actual fact I am convinced these women work harder than most, having to cram in the same work load into less working hours whilst receiving less pay,” says Jennings, “I challenge all women to rise to the occasion and help change the face of the profession to one in which efficiency is key, regardless of how, where or when one works and women, regardless of family status, get to pursue their corporate dreams.”

Koko Khumalo
Independence has always been of great importance for Mrs Koko Khumalo CA(SA). A decision she took whilst growing up in a village, where she experienced and observed hardship faced by women. After completing her BCom degree, her career started at Standard Bank as a trainee accountant and she later moved to South African Breweries as a cost analyst, where she remained for five years. Here she met, and was greatly inspired by a black female colleague who had made a success of her life at corporate SA and then realised that it was possible to achieve more than just a junior degree.

In 1996, Koko started her accounting career as a trainee accountant. During her three years of articles Koko was involved with various public sector departments, local authorities and some private sector clients. She consequently spent 13 years focusing on internal auditing, risk management and consulting services.

Khumalo believes a person has to go through the pain of being the first and only one to deliver a message of hope for others. Although Koko experienced hardships as the first and only in most cases, she prefers not to use the word ‘challenge’ and perceives that it has a negative connotation.

She looks back with pride of what she learned and achieved in the accounting profession as a trainee and manager to a partner. To this day she celebrates the few defining moments, when she was made partner in charge of an office and region. This is of significant importance as it exposes you to the skill and diligence of how audit firms operations are run and managed.

This experience is far beyond just being a partner. Secondly, she remains honoured to be the first women partner to be appointed in the executive committee in her former audit firm.

“I will forever cherish this moment. This certainly refined my skills of sitting around the table and being part of the boardroom. Yes, boardrooms are hot for everyone, but women cannot only serve tea, they must also make and take decisions and have opinions, which must be heard and respected.”

“In my mind, I’ve gone through trial and error and I’ve been tested. The important thing is that I passed the test with flying colours and mastered the art and science of being a leader.” As a leader, Koko attributes her success to two factors: “First I strive to progress in what I do. Secondly, during the best moments in life, I’ve been alone. This gave me time to think and do introspection about where I really am today and where I want to be as the future remains uncertain. I also always looked at my life in two ways: how do I sustain my marriage, as wife and mother to three children, and how do I progress in the professional world?”

Mrs Khumalo is Deputy President of the Black Management Forum (BMF) and also serves on the following boards: Ernst & Young Executive Committee – Africa and South Africa; Limpopo First Lady Trust; Statistics Council of South Africa; Limpopo Premier Advisory Council. She also chairs the working group for Enterprise Development.

In 2012 , Mrs Khumalo was offered the position as Africa Leader for Quality and Risk Management at Ernst & Young. Prior to this she was a Partner at PwC. She smiles when she shares her current experiences at EY. This is because she now plays as an equal in Eurpoe, Middle East, India and Africa. A great achievement for a village girl.

Mpho Mogoba
“Your past does not determine your future – unless you allow it!” These are the words of Mpho Mogoba, CA(SA) — a young woman who defeated extreme poverty and abuse to achieve her dream of becoming a CA(SA). She is also the first person in her family to actually pursue a career.

Coming from an extremely tough background of herding animals, often going to bed hungry and owning no shoes and walking to school barefoot could’ve left Mpho completely hopeless, but instead she believed in a brighter future.

“My mentor always said to me that going through life is like being in a car,” Mpho says. “The rear-view mirror is smaller than the windscreen, symbolising that what’s ahead is more important than what is behind you.”

Dedication and determination are what saw her through. At the age of 24, Mpho qualified as one of the top ten CAs(SA) in the country.

“The Dictionary is the only place when success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success”. Mpho explains. “Unfortunately as a young aspiring CA(SA), sometimes you enter the corporate world blindly without any sort of support structure, under the impression that you know it all, and often you become faced with a lot of challenges, such as politics and discrimination. I have been discriminated against because of my gender and because of my age.”

Ms Mogoba has worked at Nedbank Business Banking, Wesbank, Econet Wireless International and was Senior Financial Accountant at Momentum. Currently she is Director at NAGE Accounting, Tax and Professional services.

After qualifying as a CA(SA) her greatest passion in life has become to uplift underprivileged communities. Her earnest wish is for every child to get an education.

“I am all for education, I believe when you educate a child you educate a nation. I am currently sponsoring a few learners out of my own pocket,” Mpho says. “It depends on what their needs are — whether it’s study guides, school shoes or uniforms. I’m also involved in mentorship programmes, both as a mentor and mentee. I’m mentoring kids and also tutoring at a high school, which takes up some of my Saturdays. It’s a sacrifice in time, but when you have passion and when you see the bigger picture, it’s all worth it!”

Tshidi Mokgabudi
Tshidi Mokgabudi admits that many people do not know that, although she is now strong and assertive, as a young girl it was quite the contrary. She was an extremely shy person.

First pursuing a career in Industrial Psychology and then finding it held limited opportunities for her, she went on to pursue a career as a CA(SA). It was here she found her true passion in life: “I want to leave a legacy that I have developed young African women into CAs(SA).”

Being one of the first black women to qualify as a CA(SA) was a great achievement, but it also brought along its challenges: “I had no role model. My counterparts being males, and at the time they gave you that impression that ‘ listen here you really don’t belong here.’ But, also at the same time, there were support systems”. she says. “And there were males who took it upon themselves to support me. A role model is Professor Hennie van Reenen.”

Tshidi has an illustrious career record that includes a number of appointments by high-ranking government officials. Among them, appointments by all three presidents of the democratic South Africa — Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

As founder of the African Women Chartered Accountants Forum, Mokgabudi’s goal was to increase the number of African women in the profession: “The reason being, there were very few African women and it was hard for us. To be exact, it was very hard for us and we had a mission and a goal that if it would mean funding potential women CAs(SA) out of our own pockets, we would do that.”

Presently she is chairperson of the KPMG Network of Women: “This is a support system for women who are directors and non-executive directors. Technical updates are offered for these women and a support network is provided where they can discuss technical director issues in a safe place with a support system.” Tshidi also served on the first Board of Directors of the Association of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (ABASA).

Despite her many achievements in life, the one she values most is her daughter. “I am very proud of my daughter. She has become a women of virtue herself and has succeeded professionally in her banking and financial career,” Tshidi says.

Chantyl Mulder
Chantyl Mulder CA(SA), or as the students endearingly call her ‘Mother Thuthuka’, is a woman who has an incredible amount of passion for uplifting underprivileged children. “My reward is to see the faces and witness the joy of the learners and students whose lives I am able to change for the better,” says Mulder.

In 1999, when SAICA approached Chantyl Mulder CA(SA) to head up the transformation of the profession, she jumped at the opportunity. It was a monstrosity of a task, but she took on the challenge. With many years of experience in the education field and in research into the profession and its issues, Chantyl understood the obstacles.

“I also knew all the stumbling blocks in the education and training of young CAs(SA) that under privileged people, especially Africans, were up against. I decided to use my collective experiences to help.”

At that time, African CAs(SA) accounted for fewer than 2% of CAs(SA) and the majority of professionals were still white: “They spoke transformation, but they didn’t always act it.”

Chantyl realised a comprehensive strategy was urgently needed. “It took me two years to understand the landscape and to understand what I was dealing with before coming up with the best strategy,” Mulder says. “So I went to all the regions of the profession and closed down all their transformation projects and said if you play, you play with us – otherwise we are not playing. It’s all about driving one comprehensive strategy for the profession.”

Choosing the most difficult province to start with, the Eastern Cape, she put in a project proposal for R67 million to the National Skills Fund, through the Fasset SETA, for the capacity building at the University of Fort Hare and a learner project. Many pessimists said she would not get the money, but she did. And in 2002, the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Project was born. Chantyl is now Senior Executive: Professional Development Transformation & Growth at SAICA.

“As a South African, I am so proud of our country and what we have achieved. My underlying principle is that if you aren’t doing anything: zip it. If you are not doing something you have no right to open your mouth because you don’t know what you are speaking about. If you are, you’ll be amazed how your attitude and your mind will change – you won’t be speaking about all the negatives. You will be involved in making a positive contribution. There is so much talent out there. We just need to untap it.”

Gugu Mtetwa
Although she was not quite sure what career she should pursue, Gugu Mtetwa CA(SA) was sure of one thing: she wanted to earn more than her mother was earning. At the time, her single mother was a nurse and was raising three young girls. Financially, it was tough. By literally paging through a career guidance book, eventually Gugu found a career that interested her.

“That is when I came across the big Four Firms and then started job shadowing,” she adds. It was appealing to Gugu that being a CA(SA) was not just about the numbers, but also required time when working in teams.

Mtetwa enrolled at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and obtained her B Com Degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting. In 2004, Gugu qualified as a CA(SA), passing both her Board exams in the first sitting.

In 2007, she was selected to participate in the PwC Global’s five month leadership development programme for high performing individuals in Berlin, Germany. It was instrumental in her development as a leader, as it was a safe environment to explore different leadership styles, as well as interact with people from various cultures.

At the age of 28 years, just three-and-a-half years after qualifying as a CA(SA), Gugu was admitted into the PwC partnership.

The leadership programme in Germany had proved to be so effective and instrumental for Mtetwa that she realised that there was a need for one to be implemented in South Africa. She envisaged a leadership programme geared specifically for senior managers on the fast-track to becoming executives.

“You become a CA(SA) but there is only a few experimental development programmes thereafter, to groom you as a leader,” explains Gugu. Being the second Vice President of the Association for the advancement of Black Accountants in Southern Africa (ABASA), she partnered up with the University of Stellenbosch (US) and developed the ABASA Executive Leadership Development Programme. It has been running annually since 2010 and has been described by participants as the single greatest experience to have influenced their careers.

Mtetwa is currently Transformation Leader for PwC South Market Area and is responsible for transformation across the firm. In her role, she drives the implementation of PwC’s retention strategy of black accountants. She is the only female in the management team – and another objective of hers is to improve the gender representation at management level.

Dineshrie Pillay
Her parents used to give her all her all the filing to do at home and when they went on holiday, as young as she was, she took it upon herself to take care of the budget. For Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) pursuing a career as a CA (SA) seemed like the most natural thing to do, and today she is both a chartered accountant and chartered management accountant by profession. Dineshrie also completed a life-coaching course with New Insights and is a registered member of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) and Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA).

Pillay’s biggest motivator in deciding to pursue life-coaching was after she failed the QE 1 exam for the second time— in spite of her academic history, that included passing Matric with an “A” aggregate and completing her B-Com degree with a Deans Commendation in her first year of studies. “What started off as passing an examination, turned into passing a test in my life. I learnt so many life lessons: about dealing with failure, about believing in myself and about keeping things in perspective – as opposed to focusing on the ONE thing that is going wrong in my life at the time.”

Dineshrie is a specialist in business skills training and professional development, and owns her own business. She speaks and trains on the subject of career and employability. Her training workshops include workplace readiness programmes, business partnering training and public speaking boot-camps. “I provide learning interventions to individuals and teams to help them become world-class professionals.”

“Continuous development and self-improvement is vital to staying young and to constantly stay on the growth curve – as the phrase goes, ‘If you are green, you are growing and if you are ripe you’ll start rotting.’”

In June 2012, Dineshrie had the honour of being the Master of Ceremonies at SAICA’s first ‘Women in Leadership’ conference. Her skill as an MC and personal style of presenting were well received by the audience, which was made up of over 200 Chartered Accountants.

It is well known that many peoples’ greatest fear is public speaking and as the newly appointed Area Governor for Toastmasters Clubs within the Sandton area, Dineshrie shares her advice on how to overcome your fear: “Join a Toastmasters club near you, it’s a globally proven system to get you to speak in public and build leadership skills. I’ve witnessed people transform from shy and nervous individuals to become confident, assertive leaders in business and society.”

Christine Ramon
Christine Ramon CA(SA) comes from a family of five children, four of whom studied part-time through UNISA and qualified as CAs(SA). Although her initial desire was to become a lawyer, being naturally analytical and logical, Christine decided to do the same and pursue the CA(SA) route through part-time study.

Studying part-time taught Christine to achieve great things the hard way: “It’s not easy to study part time, so I probably grew up a lot quicker than most students who went to university. I would say I have sacrificed my youth and carefree lifestyle a lot earlier than other people would have because I chose to work and study part-time immediately after I left school. But it’s definitely worth it and prepared me for the role I’m in now.”

Christine Ramon is Chief Financial Officer, Executive Director and a Member of the Group Executive Committee of Sasol Limited, an international integrated energy and chemicals company. She also serves as a director of various other Sasol subsidiaries.

In 2009, Ramon received the award for the Most Influential Woman in Business in South Africa in the Petrochemical Sector. Throughout her career, Christine has had to make countless crucial decisions and has mastered this art: “I’m naturally very spontaneous, but through the years and also getting older and maturing emotionally allowed me to just give myself time, so I’m not as reactive as I may have been before. In certain situations I am, because they do require speedy decisions and input to be given, but there are other situations where I then say ‘give me a chance to think about it and I’ll get back to you’.

So I don’t feel under pressure to actually give input or make decisions immediately when situations don’t demand that. This allows me to understand the situation and gather all the information I require before jumping to conclusions and making decisions.” Christine notes that she has not had formal mentors: “I tend to learn from different people for different things. My mother has been an inspiration to me in the sense that she was a very good caregiver and she gave us an exceptional foundation as children.”

Anthea Scholtz
Anthea Scholtz CA(SA) said she never wished to see accounting again in her life after finishing matric. But when the local newspaper interviewed her and her friend just before the final exams to find out which careers they would be pursuing, things took a rather drastic turn. She was advised by her friend (now her husband) to say she wanted to become a Chartered Accountant as it was a difficult career to pursue.

Then landing on the front page of the community newspaper put her in a tight spot. She explains, “Now the whole community knew what I wanted to pursue, so I thought I better go and achieve it!”

Anthea qualified as a CA(SA), but it did not come easy: “My mom and dad, who are also my role models, sacrificed a lot to give me an education. I had to take three taxis in my first year to get to varsity every day two- and-a-half hours to get there and two-and-a-half hours to get back. Then I still had to come home and study.” Her biggest challenge in life so far, came the day when she had to write her final accounting exam. She had to try and concentrate while her mother was having a brain operation. The doctors had said her mother had a 50/50 chance of survival…

Anthea is now a partner at Deloitte in Taxation Services and also serves on the board of Deloitte Southern Africa. She has over 16 years’ tax experience and specialises in corporate tax, personal tax and expatriate tax. Scholtz provides tax a services to a number of multinational oil and gas companies and to companies who service the industry.

She is also the national chairperson of Deloitte Women in Leadership (DWIL) for the South African firm – a body that monitors the firm’s strategies and policies relating to the advancement of women to senior levels in the firm. “At Deloitte, the advancement of women is 100% supported by our firm’s leadership, including by our CEO and Chairman. More importantly, as partners, we visibly demonstrate this commitment through our actions.

It is one of the reasons why I think it is such a great firm for women to work at. DWIL exists in all Deloitte offices country-wide and female leaders represent each service line.” As a leader Scholtz describes herself as being genuine with her staff, but firm: “I don’t take nonsense. They all know that. But I’m also fair and treat everyone equally.”

Referring to Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’, Scholtz believes strongly in putting in the hours at the beginning of your career in order to be successful: “You need the so-called 10 000 magical hours to be absolutely good at what you do.” When her staff say they are working too hard, she replies, “It’s all part of your 10 000 hours”.

This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of ASA.