Building on the success of previous years, the South African Chamber of Commerce’s annual Women’s Day event continues to be a highlight of the Chamber’s calendar. This year we had the privilege of hosting three highly esteemed African business women, Justina Mutale, Debbie Thomas and Viola Ncube on a panel chaired by a founder and former chair of the SACC UK, Mary-Anne Anderson.
Sponsored for the second year by board member Standard Bank, the evening was opened by current chair, Melissa Powys-Rodrigues, who reminded the audience of the history of Women’s Day in South Africa. Held annually on 9 August, it commemorates the 1956 national march by more than 50,000 women on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act (commonly known as the pass laws) of 1950.
The evening was filled with laughter, the imparting of great wisdom and even a few tears. The panellists each shared their personal experiences of how they had managed to achieve the great things which they had. Possibly the most revealing comment of the evening was made when Justina Mutale was asked about how she overcame challenges which she had faced and she replied saying, “’I don’t see obstacles, I only focus on the goals.”
Each women was at pains to point out that they had never seen their gender as a disadvantage, and Debbie Thomas explained how it had, on occasion been to her advantage to stand out as one of a few women working in the male dominated mining industry, and the fresh perspective which she was able to bring. Viola Ncube pointed out the importance of having good mentors and proactive mentality.
The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by the 70 attendees, with many members requesting to hear from the speakers again.