Courage, passion and tenacity. These are the characteristics that best define the VWV Phakama Women’s Academy 2015 cohort who recently graduated. Following an intense mentorship programme, VWV’s initiative has released 32 young women, who all received the necessary soft skills coaching to begin their journey; one of conquering the corporate world. And in the future it is hoped they will break the glass ceiling to occupy their rightful place in the C-suite halls of fame, with some even sitting at the heads of boardroom tables. For these young women are without doubt the future and represent the marketing and communications industry leaders of tomorrow.
Not only was their graduation an inspiring evening, but it also gave mentors, parents, sponsors and academic partners hope. Hope that South African companies are yet to see a higher grade of women future leaders who are mature enough to understand that a sense of entitlement only means undermining one’s potential.
After 21 years of freedom, the vast majority of South Africa’s young people still need to internalise the fact that the entire nation is heavily dependent on them for innovation, technological advancement, and solutions to national challenges. A mind shift from the entitlement syndrome to a dispensation of merited, earned benefits. Any forward thinking and developed nation will apply this norm – to prepare its future leaders.
Phakama, which means “arise” in Nguni languages, is a fitting name for an initiative that is laying a foundation for a new breed of women future leaders, arising in a society that still has a large population of its young people trapped in the shackles of entitlement. The Phakama graduates bore testimony to this standard of progressive thinking and have displayed insights that will carry them forward to a brighter and more successful future where their EQ – and not their ego – will determine their success. Some of their most notable insights include:
Accepting that every action carries consequences
When one chooses to wait for provision from another source, chances are high that one will be disappointed. Feeling entitled comes with its consequences. Young South Africans who have a sense of entitlement can be assured they will be entitled to limited resources that millions of other South Africans feel entitled to. On the other hand, when young people work hard and actively seek to better themselves, they will reap enormous rewards that will be theirs alone – a fact the Phakama class of 2015 unequivocally embraced.
This breed of future leaders understands that the government doesn’t exist to solve their personal problems, but rather should be seen as an enabler for them to reach their goals. They realise that “toyi-toying” has reached its sell-by date and now is the time to focus more on self-improvement. The young Phakama graduates have shunned the entitlement syndrome and have chosen not to attach their success to any external force.
Appreciation for the sacrifices made by people before them
The Phakama graduates seized an opportunity to learn from phenomenal women who have more experience in marketing and communications. This year’s mentors included senior women leaders from organisations such as Unilever, Stuttafords, SAB Miller, Sun International, First Car Rental, Africology, Beyond the Dress, Destiny Magazine, SAFM and Estee Lauder. By not waiting around for parents or the government to tell them about another youth programme, these girls proactively sought this opportunity, a true demonstration of a vested interest in their own future.
Taking ownership and responsibility for one’s future
This year’s cohort took charge of their own development. They displayed a willingness to learn, a characteristic that does not exist in young people who have an entitlement syndrome. Those who are gripped by a sense of entitlement are convinced that someone other than themselves is responsible for their future. Before they know it, they become bitter, unemployable and destructive citizens. With more young people realising they are the author of their success and that the power and authority of their future is in their hands, the more they will choose a path that leads to self-made privilege.
Acknowledging that privileges come as a result of hard work
Finally, when one gets privileges because they were an entitlement, those privileges diminish unexpectedly, have a short life-span and bring the receiver much insecurity. Privileges should be enjoyed because one has worked for them and attained them with integrity. Young people have no excuse not to craft their own privileges and be successful future leaders.
The young women entering the workforce of tomorrow must therefore embrace the opportunities presented to them to take full control of their future.
According to Unilever CEO Paul Polman, research shows that 66% of the world’s work is performed by women, yet they earn just 10% of the world’s income. Additionally, a recent UN study of Fortune 500 companies found that companies with the highest representation of women in management positions delivered 34% greater returns to shareholders than their counterparts with lower representation.
With increasingly more organisations seeing the value of investing in women, the time is now for South Africa’s young women to start taking ownership of their future. This year, Unilever announced that it has committed to empowering five million women by 2020. The company will deliver on this commitment by building a gender-balanced organisation with a focus on management; by promoting safety for women in the communities where it operates; enhancing access to training and skills for women across its value chain; and expanding opportunities for women in its value chain.
Tomorrow’s women leaders need to aspire to greatness and go after their goals for there is nothing standing in the way of their success but the limitations in their own minds. Entitlement is out and opportunity is everywhere.