8th Annual Women in Business and Leadership Conference

Kevin Mofokeng

Women in Botswana are redefining business and leadership, forging historical strides. The 8th Women in Business and Leadership Conference once again strived at empowering women and enhance their business and leadership credentials in Avani Hotel, Gaborone.

The conference is the brainchild of Urban Motion Communications Group. It’s Operations Director, Vince Mosimanewakgang stressed that the conference is not premised on gender but focuses rather on whether a woman has the potential to lead. NDB CEO Mrs Lorato Morapedi officially opened this year’s conference themed “Unearthing the power of partnerships” paving way for a panel of seasoned leaders and business women from Botswana and South Africa.

On her opening remarks she mentioned how the bank has supported the event because of the significant it plays on ensuring that women empowerment is an important element in our national agenda, “it plays a pivotal role towards mobilizing women to participate in areas of business and leadership”, Morapedi said. The bank’ support is consistent with corporate social responsibility which calls for action towards assisting marginalized groups. “We normally offer loans to literally everyone but mostly women who want to get a helping hand with their startups”, she added.

After Mrs Morapedi, the first session started off with lessons from the panelists. Ms Lynette Magasa, Founder of BONISWA Corporate Solutions in South Africa took the women through the core values of partnerships, and noticed how everyone was jotting down notes, feeding from her fountain of knowledge. She divided the core values into four. Equity and respect was the first, under this she explained how there’s need to acknowledge the value that each organization brings to the partnership. “The two parties first need to see what each of them are bringing to the table towards a common goal”, Magasa said. She further went on to stress on about how the organizational cultures of the two to be discussed first as well as individual motivations.

The second core value Magasa touched on was, Transparency; under this she discussed how sharing information is very vital in a partnership and clear lines of communication must be maintained at all times. “Without transparency trust can be easily lost, which means the partnership will somehow break”- she stressed. Thirdly she talked about genuine commitment, which really breaks down into entering the partnership with a shared vision and definition of success. Also, she advised to enter a partnership with good faith. The last core value she spoke of was Patience and Persistence; she mentioned that patience creates space for partners to break through not down, especially during difficult times.

Next on the podium to facilitate was Ms Neo Bogatsu CEO of BIFM, who took the women through ‘Establishing need for partnerships’, she firstly touched on defining the issue the partnership will tackle. Under this she looked at what the partnership is meant to achieve, who the partnership is helping, the desired impact intended beneficiaries will help ensure that the partnership is relevant and impactful. Secondly she discussed how to determine if the partnership is the right choice, ” This is really straight forward, you need to know your potential partner’s company background, how they can help you, how you can help them because in a partnership equality reigns”, said Bogatsu. “Common goals must also be established here, if there’s no common goal then don’t go into a partnership” she added. Thirdly and lastly she discussed the need to identify what the partnership needs in order to be successful. Most organizations have different abilities, from funding and technical expertise, to credibility with government and access, to intended beneficiaries. She advised the women on actually acknowledging what you can’t achieve as this will then make it easier for your partner to know where you lack and cover it up if possible. After her marvelous presentation a question and answer session broke down where women in the audience had the chance to comment and/or ask the first two speakers. Quite a number of women had questions which really show how attentive they were.

During tea break, women were treated to an exhibition of different products and services by local women.

The second and final session of the conference broke off after tea break. Things were now loosened up a bit.The session was dedicated to success stories of the panelists and/or advice on partnerships. It was quite a thrilling inspiring session. First to break the ice was Ms Lebo Gaobakwe, MD at Garona Group. She took us through her life journey to get to the top. She was introduced to managerial duties at an early age at her father’s company where she shadowed her father for 2 years. As the only female in the boardroom she emphasized that women shouldn’t be scared of taking duties that society deem as duties of a man “We live in an era where gender roles don’t mean anything, wearing a skirt doesn’t mean you can’t sit in a board room and direct an organization to success, it’s all in you as a woman, your ability”- she said.

Women were advised to do away with the ‘Superwoman’ syndrome, where she simply put it this way “as a woman, you’re human too, you’re not perfect, you can’t do everything on your own, if you can’t do something ask for help and avoid doing everything on your own”. Furthermore she acknowledged platforms like the conference, and urged women to go out there and network as it builds one a contact database, and if one feels the need of a partnership, it’s easier to know who to partner with as now you already know what they do. Lastly she strongly advised that whatever agreement made in a partnership even if it’s just word of mouth, it should be noted down and signed by both parties so as to avoid future legal problems if a situation breaks out.

Second speaker was Ms Marcia Mothelesi, CEO of Setso Premier Foods, who simply urged women to use NDB initiatives to help with their financial needs. Mothelesi is a true product of the NDB Loan scheme. She got funding from the bank to help with her business. She manufacturers and processes canned tripe and seswaa. And has Choppies as her number one distributor of her products. She urged women not to sleep on their dreams just because of lack of funds, “banks are available, just submit a well written business plan so they help out” she said. After this, the conference atmosphere went up a notch as now women looking at entering the business and leadership scene got free tips from those who already made it.

Ms Lily Taking, CEO of HATAB took center stage, as the only woman in the tourism industry to share a few tips. She firstly took the women through a background of tourism around the world and brought it back here home. Where now everyone realized how our industry hasn’t really developed compared to other countries. She emphasized on how women can come up with establishments in the tourism industry and pointed out how most hotels, lodges, restaurants, car rentals and a range of other establishments that sell the Botswana brand are mostly owned by men. Only a few are owned by women. Which she said needed to change.

They say ‘save the best for the last’, this was literally what Ms Thuli Mashaba, MD and Founder of Hula U Gude Projects in South Africa was. She took everyone through her challenging journey which comprised of lack of funds, family problems to doing the wrong thing. Urged women not to beat themselves up and go for something that really isn’t close to their heart. “Most women are stuck in 8-5 jobs, doing something they’re not passionate about, just because they need that money end of month to run the household, that’s why they are still holding on” she said, in a nutshell she tried to show women that it’s up to them to make a decision if something doesn’t make them happy. Quitting for a better job that you’re passionate about shouldn’t be a big deal as it will save you in future. In terms of family she spoke a great deal on how family can break you, but it doesn’t mean you need to stop. You have to go on, strive harder towards your end goal because at the end of the day it is what you want. She also applauded initiatives like the Women in Business and Leadership conferences as they help emancipate women in the business and leadership industries.

The conference ended on a high note. Women were motivated and from the look on their faces, it was evident that the 9th edition of the conference a few testimonials will be given by women who were attending. Women, WOMEN up, the time is now to take centre stage in business and leadership.