Sonja de Bruyn Sebotsa combines an impossibly elegant exterior with a tough-as-nails business reputation. Co-founder of prominent investment firm Identity Partners, she says that her high-energy level is one of her greatest assets.
“My high-energy levels translate into hard work. It’s important to have the attitude that there are no limits. Always try to overcome things smartly. It’s an inherent female strength on which women don’t capitalise enough,” she says.
On mentorship, she says that she’s inspired by the possibility of making sustained impacts, especially in poorer households.
“In our spheres of influence, we need to remember that each poor woman actually pulls us all down as women moving forward. So we have to use where we’re sitting as a means to pull her up,” De Bruyn Sebotsa says.
Judi Nwokedi is a former criminal psychologist who founded advocacy organisation loveLife and more recently, was a senior executive for French nuclear firm Areva. She’s currently COO of the Tourism Investment Corporation.
Never one not to speak her mind, Nwokedi says she readily accepts being called a radical feminist and businesswoman. “I don’t mind being called radical. When you’re driving change, being radical is implicit in that agenda. It delivers global phenomena that change the world,” she says.
Nwokedi says she’s often asked how to remain inspired. “If you’re at a crossroads, reinvent yourself. It will take serious reflection, but, as Es’kia Mphahlele said: ‘The most painful thing in life is thinking.’ Take stock of your life, do an inventory and unfriend people, if need be. Another way to explore your passion is to become involved in NGOs in the spaces you’re interested in.”
Wendy Luhabe is a serial entrepreneur and the ultimate off-the-cuff motivational speaker. An hour with Luhabe and you’re guaranteed a good airing of your personal travails and boardroom embarrassments. She dishes out solid and methodical solutions to the kind of everyday pitfalls that many ambitious, career-oriented women go through.
“Rule No 1,” she says, “when it comes to finding your balance, is that we don’t have to do anything; we don’t have to be married or have children, or work, or give up work. What we must do to be clear about what aspects of our lives are really important and invest in them.”
Luhabe adds that positive affirmations are incredibly powerful tools for success. “We’re each powerful beyond measure and every challenge is an invitation for us to discover our magnificence,” she says.
Dr Anna Mokgokong has a medical background, but is also co-founder of Community Investment Holdings, a firm with a wide footprint of interests. She’s a firm believer in thick skins.
“You have to put up a fight and be thick-skinned. Sometimes, men will say things that make you angry, but you just step over them and focus on your ultimate goal.”
On the entrepreneurship front, she says failure is inevitable. “What it’s taught me is that you can’t take it personally. Also, if something isn’t working, let it go. Don’t allow bad money to bring your good money down. Today, my business ventures are very diversified and are all stand-alone.”