“Women’s Month is a very powerful month,” says Sindiswa Mzamo, affectionately known as Madam President or simply Sindi. “We are celebrating mam’ Charlotte Maxeke’s 150th year, a gentle giant, the first black woman graduate from South Africa. We stand on her shoulders. If mam’ Charlotte didn’t sacrifice, then I shouldn’t be speaking this English that I’m using now. Her legacy must rise and live on through us as women and leaders,” she says. And so it does, through Mzamo. She was the ambassador for African Utilities Week for four years, travelling across the continent, attending conferences and building networks. A conversation with Patrice Motsepe and an experience at the World Economic Forum encouraged Mzamo to start her own venture.
“When you attend international platforms, you are often asked to speak on a particular agenda as an expert,” Mzamo says. “When you are an expert in finance, you must go and speak about finance. You cannot speak about developmental issues because already the programme is designed to include people who can speak on that. Every time when I’m sitting on these international platforms, African women know very little,” she says. The underrepresentation of African women on international platforms is multifaceted and Mzamo believes that mentorship is important in equipping African women for these spaces. Mzamo has mentored more than 100 women across the continent and encourages gender inclusion rather than gender equality. “When it’s gender equality, I’m in my position and I’m not going to go and ask anybody. You’re given an opportunity, that’s gender equality. You fail sitting in your chair,” she explains. “At the Circle of Global Business Women, we speak about gender inclusion. When you speak about inclusion, it’s easier for me to say to you I’ve been trying to speak to my team, but I see you are thriving in your own division. What is it that you are doing right that I am doing wrong? And then you’ll empower me to help my team,” she says.
Recently, Mzamo has led the collaboration between the Circle of Global Business Women and the Directors Association, an organisation that provides training for executive positions. Together, they have developed a programme, Madam Chair, which trains women exclusively for executive positions. “Our trainees have to do a practical by serving on the board of an NGO for one year so that they can understand the ins and outs of a board to qualify as a board member,” she says.
Launched last year, the programme has already trained 20 women and will train a further nine starting in mid-August after the Directors Association and the Circle of Global Business Women agreed to extend their partnership for a second year. “Women were badly affected by Covid, but when you go through a storm you must take an analysis of everything that you see in the storm itself — these are lessons that will strengthen you after. We got a financial management webinar, marketing and business development webinar and an international trade webinar and from these sessions, understood that we’re in a global village and collaboration is the new competition,” she says.
I choose to challenge women to take their rightful positions in the marketplace, and lead with integrity and dignity.