What would a world look like if there was (true) equality? That question opened the conversation at the W-Suite initiative for International Women’s Day, Lead Like Women, held on Thursday, 5th March at the Houghton Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Curated and executed by female entrepreneur and founder of Brand Fusion, Katie Mohammed, this morning business breakfast was focused on getting down to the business of women being encouraged to lead like themselves. At a time when the world has global impact female leaders such as Oprah Winfrey praising the way New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern effectively led a country in mourning during a time of crisis, WSuite’s conversational event raised pertinent questions around what their campaign narrative meant for women in South Africa.
Mohamed launched the W-Suite in 2019 in order to spark conversation, advocacy and action towards shifting the balance of power to the top as a platform towards bringing more women in key leadership and operational roles across the C–Suite, organisations, governments and markets. Referring to herself as a “WEO” or “Women Executive Officer” as opposed to a Chief Executive Officer, she’s particularly vehement in being deliberate in advocacy for women and has used that to drive her vision behind the Lead Like Women events. In an exclusive interview Mohamed said, “Lead Like Women is geared towards creating conversations about women leadership which are more intentional, robust, collaborative and transformational. Our vision is to make more room for women at the table by driving the acceleration of women leaders in positions of power and influence and to co-create a new culture of leadership that is inclusive and drives meaningful participation of women in the development of thriving communities, a strong economy and a globally impactful nation.”
The W-Suite movement encapsulated unparalleled opportunities as a platform for advocacy and action. Instead of events which take a while to get into the meat of things, Lead Like Women brought together a powerful table of unique men and women to have a dialogue regarding the acceleration of gender equality in South Africa and the responsibility of both men and women towards creating an equal future under the theme “Each for Equal”.
Guests included the likes of Charmaine Houvet, Group Head of Cisco Africa who spoke to the importance of inclusivity and how it drives and encourages full-spectrum diversity.
Also in attendance was Travel With Flair Group CEO Johanna Mukoki who spoke to the importance of women leveraging their femininity and utilizing confidence strategically in order to cement one’s presence in any given boardroom. One of the men in the room was renowned broadcaster and founder of Champions South Africa Ashraf Garda, who mentioned the importance of how the important conversations regarding inclusivity, diversity and unique feminine leadership qualities should begin in the home so that the girl-child is raised with this narrative. Founder of fashion-label Fundudzi Craig Jacobs spoke to the importance of men to monitor their own behavior as a conscious effort towards enabling the upliftment of authentic female leadership. Sandia Pillay who does Strategy and Consulting for the Bill & Melinda Grate Foundation spoke to the importance of embracing what women are naturally good at – a softer yet more powerful love-led approach towards leadership.
Other guests included Leanne Kistan-Dlamini, founder of the women-inspired businesses LDH (Life Designed By Her), End Girl Hate and Love & Light Apparel; Telkom’s Executive: Brand & Product Segments Gugu Mthembu; PR guru and founder of Tutone Communications, Melanie Ramjee and acclaimed actress and author of the best-selling African feminism-inspired autobiography, Unbecoming To Become (Protea), Ayanda Borotho.