South Africa is a vibrant country with incredible potential, which is why the organisation that I work for, Richmark Holdings, is an investment company that helps budding entrepreneurs to realise their full potential. It is becoming more and more clear that in an uncertain economy and fast-changing business environment that businesses shouldn’t be content to sit on the sidelines and focus only on profit. Instead, businesses can engage with their customers and communities to help create positive change and inspire others to do the same. I think that at a minimum, businesses should be leading the way by using honest and transparent best practices in the areas of human rights, labour laws, environmental awareness and eliminating corruption.
Initiatives such as the SheEO Sleepout are incredibly important, firstly because it forces you to take time for introspection. The actual act of sleeping out in the cold and stepping into the shoes of those less fortunate really highlights the inequality that still exists in South Africa and for me, as I prepare for the experience that lies ahead on the 8th of August, I am becoming very aware of how privileged I am. This makes me even more determined to take responsibility and work with my organisation, colleagues and people within the industry to encourage ongoing work towards social upliftment. The media attention around the Sleepout also puts the event in the public eye and gives us a voice to promote humanitarian work.
The fact that this year, the Sleepout is focused on female business leaders creates an interesting added dimension. Whilst it is becoming more common to see women in leadership roles, SA still has some way to go to address the gender imbalance. A report last year by Grant Thornton indicated that 39% of SA businesses have no women in leadership roles. I strongly feel that women can bring diversity and a range of different skills and experiences to the table and that we should be focusing on opening up opportunities for women in SA. Relating this back to Richmark Holdings, SA has a need for strong entrepreneurs who can create thriving businesses – and there are some phenomenally successful female entrepreneurs in our country. I hope to be a part of finding and supporting more of these incredible, resilient women to help pave the way for a better and more prosperous South Africa. This doesn’t just relate to women in high-profile business roles – in fact, as indicated by a report from Wesbank, it has been shown that women who run small businesses or operate within the informal sector do incredibly well as businesses owners. They simply need the correct professional support and encouragement.
So, when I am joining my fellow female colleagues at the Union Buildings on the 8th of August to brave the outdoors and the cold, these are the issues that will be at the forefront of our minds. The location is particularly significant, of course, because of the 1956 Women’s March. 60 years ago, tens of thousands of South African women marched to the Buildings with dignity and grace to protest pass laws, making history. As they told the current government leaders then: “Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo” - You strike the women, you strike the rock. Today these words still have resonance and the women at the SheEO Sleepout have a chance to demonstrate that same courage and civic pride by using the experience and our influence to make our own history. Perhaps not with grand gestures but simply by pushing and striving for positive change in every aspect of our personal and professional lives.
- Tanya Harvey, Head of Marketing and Events, Richmark Holdings