BWA urges women to drive leadership

Thulani Gqirana

“IN business, what is important is not just the quantity of women who are there, but the quality. It’s not just about where we are as women – it’s who is there.”

This is according to Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) of South Africa president Liepollo Lebohang Pheko, who believes it is important to build a discourse on ethical leadership that should be based on a principled value system.

“It is essential for the BWA to help build ethical organisations; ethical workplaces where we are able to be honest and truthful. We are fortunate to have such powerful women as members, and great men as allies, who can take this message forward.”

The soft-spoken Pheko, who in 2010 was at the centre of the “don’t touch me on my studio” debacle with Andre Visagie, said it was not enough having women in strategic places in business, but the quality of the discourse they carried forward was what counted.

“Continuously counting and doing the maths while not really looking at the structural defects isn’t going to get us anywhere. Every year we are going to keep saying there are only seven directors in this sector that are women, only four engineers. We can’t keep on repeating what we know; we need to go beyond that,” she said yesterday.

“We need to ask ourselves . . . are the women in power leaders of women’s interest? Are they leaders of their own interests?”

Pheko was in Port Elizabeth this week for the BWA awards held at the Boardwalk Conference Centre on Tuesday.

She believes the country should have organisations that ensure a good working environment for women.

“For example, there should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is something every women has gone through.”

She said it was important to build ethical and empowering organisations and companies “for ourselves to work in”.

According to Pheko, who was elected president of BWA SA in April, the association and the awards have become a platform to illustrate and showcase to men and women across the country that the “impossibilities” are in fact possible.

“The mandate of the BWA is to provide a forum and a space for the exchanging of ideas, mentoring and recognition. It is now becoming a space to shift conversations regarding where women are located in the economy and also where they are in developmental issues.”

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