When women support each other and work together, they can achieve so much more and make a powerful and meaningful impact. This was dramatically illustrated at the recent University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) Women in Business Conference last week.
After listening to the address by local businesswoman Shona McDonald, founder of Shonaquip, one delegate spontaneously offered to donate her subsidised conference parking allocation of R20 to Shonaquip, a company that provides devices and mobile community-based wheelchair solutions that have changed the lives of 74 000 children. This prompted other delegates to put up their hands, saying they wanted their R20 donated to the company as well. It was then agreed that all the parking subsidies would go to Shonaquip, raising R5 000 on-the-spot for the company.
Kumeshnee West, UCT GSB Acting Director of Executive Education and MC at the event was speechless. “I am not often lost for words,” she admitted, telling delegates how delighted she was at their decision to support Shonaquip.
McDonald was one of the key speakers at the 15th Women in Business Conference, which is organised annually by students in the Women in Business Society at the school. Profits from the ticket sales are traditionally allocated to a scholarship fund to support financially disadvantaged women to study at the GSB.
MacDonald’s story of how she as an ordinary mother and housewife became a successful businesswoman advising local government on policy and working with the World Health Organisation moved delegates deeply. She told how she became inspired to help disabled children after her second daughter was born with cerebral palsy and doctors told her to put her child in an institution. “How did I get to where I am today? Not without a lot of pain,” she said.
Some of the other speakers at the conference were Chief Investment Officer and founder of investment company Perpetua, Delphine Govender, TV and film company owner TV and film company owner Vuyokazi Matu, and renowned SA businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum.
All three spoke around the theme of the conference title “The Power Within – Living a Full Colour Life” and emphasisedhow important it is for women not to criticise and undermine each other but to create opportunities for fellow women in their various industries.
Another important message of the day was that success is not only about amassing wealth, but also about the legacy left behind and whether the world was changed for the better. This idea of creating meaning and adding value in addition to making profit was raised powerfully by Matu who was candid about past problems in her personal life and how this had helped her achieve successes.
“What you see as setbacks are really set-ups,” said Matu, who was the chairperson of the Cape Film Commission and was recently selected by the International Emmy Academy to be part of the SA Delegation of Judges for the Emmy Awards Documentary category.
Wendy Appelbaum, chairperson of the De Morgenzon wine estate as well as international philanthropist, told delegates that women inherently know how to run good businesses as this essentially is what they do at home when managing households and home budgets. She impressed delegates with her account of taking on microlenders in Stellenbosch on behalf of an employee, explaining that women inherently have the power and ability to do whatever they set their mind to.
Conference organiser Jani Branders said they were very happy with how the event played out. “What was especially powerful was seeing how women reacted to Shona’s story and inspiring each other to help her company. That was an example of how our power as women can really be used to help each other.”
“The Women In Business Society at the GSB is passionate about empowering women and seeks to provide a platform that inspires women to make and sustain positive changes in their lives that will accelerate personal and professional growth,” addded Thembi Butelezi, chairperson of the society.