As a lawyer and leading businesswoman with a career spanning leadership roles in widely varied industries, Magomola has created positive change in her many spheres of influence.
Moipone Nana Magomola’s career has taken her to leadership positions in a wide variety of industries, and in each of them she has made a positive impact.
Currently the chairperson of GIBB Holdings, Magomola had an impressive education that’s served as the foundation on which to build her career: she first obtained a BSc from the City University of New York, then an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as executive development diplomas from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the National University of Singapore and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (University of Pretoria).
“I often say that I found my voice in New York. My time abroad emboldened me. When you’re outside of South Africa, you begin to see things from a different perspective. You see women making strides in their career and it inspires you.”
As far back as 1995, Magomola served as a board member for both major local and international companies such as Transnet, the Industrial Development Corporation and Reebok.
“I’ve been on boards for many years,” she says, “and chaired several of them, and I’m happy to see more and more women in positions of power, especially in industries that were previously closed to women, such as engineering.”
Having worked for Eskom in the late 1990s, Magomola saw firsthand how few female engineers there were in the industry, so to help make her workplace more equitable, she started a programme with some of her colleagues: “We started a programme to fill management positions with women. These women weren’t trained engineers, but were taught the requisite concepts they would need to manage a team of engineers. Half of these women were from rural areas and some of them now hold leadership positions in companies across South Africa.”
Despite the willingness of the public sector to employ a more diverse workforce, the private sector was slow to follow. “If you look at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, it’s still very much male-dominated,” she says.
This was confounding to Magomela, given her belief that diversity breeds innovation. “People from different backgrounds bring different perspectives, which ultimately affect the bottom line for the better,” she says. What’s more, several recently published academic studies support her statement. “When you see this, one wonders why the private sector has been so slow to adopt change, especially since it’s been proven to be more profitable.”
In 1999, she was honoured by President Nelson Mandela as a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and later as deputy chair of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust. More recently, Magomola has worked as the director-general for the Office of the Premier in the North West provincial government and subsequently as the executive director of the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation. Her career has seen her overseeing many diverse businesses and entities, in industries as varied as pharmaceuticals and athletic products.
Magomola has never faltered in her self-confidence, saying: “A credible business plan and an understanding of your customers is key to success in any industry.” After a moment of thought, she adds: “Ethics and integrity take first place.”
As a lawyer and leading businesswoman, Magomola has a career that speaks for itself. In addition, her work for the Business Women’s Association, which she co-founded and of which she is a lifelong member, and the International Women’s Forum (IWF), where she serves as global director, has established her as a significant voice in the South African business sphere. In 2012, the IWF honoured her and her work by selecting Magomola to be the recipient of their prestigious “Women Who Make a Difference” award.
When asked how other women can achieve her level of success, she’s remarkably humble. “My advice is to believe in yourself,” she says. “You’re here for a reason. Do not let people discourage you. Get a good education and work hard.”