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SPECIAL REPORT: WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION

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Introduction

The social, political and economic inequalities of women throughout the world are well known and well documented by interest groups and lobbyists alike. So when you read about women who, throughout history, have made significant impacts in the sciences, business, political and environmental fields, you cannot help but want to celebrate and laud these women for their tremendous contributions. And we celebrate these women, not just because they’re women, but because their contributions stand out.

Women such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Africa’s first female president), Marie Curie (pioneering physicist and chemist), Wangari Muta Maathai (the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her significant contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace), Nadine Gordimer (Nobel Prize laureate for literature), Bessie Coleman (the world’s first female civil aviator), Florence Nightingale (pioneering nurse), Mother Teresa (world humanitarian), Gloria Serobe CA(SA), Wendy Luhabe, Louisa Mojela, and Nomhle Gcabashe (they set up the women empowerment company WIPHOLD which becomes the first company headed by women to list on the JSE), Dr Mamphela Ramphele (the first black female to head up a South African University), Maria Ramos (first female to be appointed as the director-general of Finance). Judge Jeanette Traverso (the first woman appointed deputy judge president of the Cape High Court), Ferial Haffajee (the first woman editor of a major South African newspaper), Cynthia Carroll becomes (the first woman to take up the position of CEO of a South African mining company), and all the women from the trade union federations who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria during apartheid for equal rights for all, are all trailblazers within their given fields of interest. Despite their financial circumstances, political and social environments, and gender, they stood up and made an indelible mark on society during their generation, and on those to come.

So in this issue of Women in the Profession, we in the chartered accountancy profession can also not ignore the trailblazing triumphs of our own female CAs(SA).

 

Accelerating the Advancement of Women Chartered Accountants

Background
The African Women Chartered Accountants Forum (AWCA) espouses the vision of accelerating the advancement of qualified and aspiring African women CAs, recognising the difficulties and obstacles that confront them in their profession.

With African Women making up but approximately 3% of the 26 000 CAs(SA) in the country, AWCA is aimed at redressing this gender inequity. Launched in 2002, AWCA is a forum committed to accelerating the advancement of black women that have qualified as, or are aspiring to be, CAs(SA), through the provision of support and access to opportunities. Around the concept of mutual support and personal development, by four African women pioneers in the field of accounting (Sindi Mabaso, Sindi Zilwa, Zodwa Manase and Tshidi Mokgabudi).

Currently, AWCA has 13 board members under the leadership of Ms Tryphosa Ramano. Its philosophy is to adhere to strict corporate governance with dedicated sub-committees (Professional Development, Strategic Alliance, Marketing and Communications, Finance, Secretariat and regional representation).

AWCA motto is to “Develop as we Lead”. The board of AWCA has approved the three pronged strategy as follows:
• Identify and Develop Young Girls at Schools
• Nurture and Train
• Leadership

The strategy is being executed through various programmes as detailed below.

1. Identify and develop young girls
1.1 School Visits
The aim of this intervention is to create more awareness of the profession, particularly in rural South African schools. AWCA members are encouraged to identify a school of their choice, either in a township or a rural area, whereby they can go along with other AWCA members to give a talk about career awareness in accounting. This serves as a great motivation where students can interact with other young women, who can also serve as their role models; also who come from a similar background to theirs, and who have gone on to achieve their dream of qualifying as CAs(SA).

In addition, AWCA believes in collaboration, because working together you can achieve more results than working alone. In association with SAICA, AWCA participates annually in Maths and Science Camps run by SAICA in five provinces (Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Gauteng). In 2009, AWCA started partnering with WIPHOLD on its career advancement programmes in schools, and visited five schools in three provinces.

In addition, AWCA is registered with Mobile Network, Cell C with take a girl child programme whereby an AWCA member identifies a school, and ten learners are taken from the school and spread among AWCA members in their places of work and job shadowing for the day, providing guidance and exposing young girls to the accounting profession.

Throughout this programme, it gives AWCA members an opportunity to give back to their own communities, to mentor the young learners in high schools and to start developing leadership skills through the wisdom of their maturity.

In 2008 and 2009, more than 5000 learners across the nine provinces benefited from the above programme and one learner has been provided a bursary by WIPHOLD to study towards the CA(SA) profession.

1.2 Bursary Funds
AWCA has three types of bursary funds:
1.2.1 Woman of Substance Bursary Fund in partnership with Thuthuka.
The bursary fund was launched in 2006 from net proceeds of the Woman of Substance event (fundraising event). In addition to bestowing the Woman of Substance award, the event is the fundraising platform for the AWCA Bursary Fund, which is intended to assist previously disadvantaged African women that aspire to become CAs(SA). The AWCA Bursary Fund is administered under the auspices of the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, operated by SAICA.
1.2.2 Vodacom Bursary Fund
In 2009, AWCA launched an administration of the Vodacom Bursary Fund valued at R900,000 over three years. This has funded five students from disadvantaged schools that have been identified through the process of school visits.
1.2.3 South African Forestry Company Ltd (Safcol) Bursary Fund
In 2008, AWCA has facilitated four students to be funded by the Safcol in respect of their university education. Effectively, AWCA is administering the bursary fund of Safcol for young women learners that are from areas around where Safcol is operating.
Overall there are approximately 18 learners who have benefited from the initiatives of the bursary funds launched by AWCA, which will continue to add more learners going forward. AWCA believes in the development of human capital for the benefit of our country.

2. Nurture and training
In order to enable the further development of the young girls identified from schools, who have expressed an interest in the accounting profession, and for which AWCA has managed to facilitate further their studies at tertiary institutions, AWCA has programmes for mentoring them. Mentorship is very critical towards the development of young girls, to ensure that when they encounter problems, either academically or socially, they can be able to have somebody to talk to.

When students pass their tertiary exams and enter the training programme either through commerce or the auditing profession, AWCA has the following programmes to ensure that they are better equipped to write their board exams.

2.1 FQE preparatory and FQE workshop
Launched in 2007, the professional development subcommittee developed this programme (FQE Workshop) in order to assist those studying Part I and Part II of the Qualifying Exam to prepare mentally for this all important step. The workshops are highly informative, focusing not only on technical aspects of how to succeed in this exam by providing the candidate with tips, strategies and exam techniques, but also looking at the emotional aspects, such as how to cope with failure and stress.

2.2 FQE celebratory dinners
Launched in 2007, AWCA believes that for every success, there should be a celebration themed “Celebrate Success through Leadership”. The purpose is to mark the achievements of candidates and also to profile AWCA among newly qualified candidates. Standard Bank has been a major sponsor for this event over the past three years.
We believe that through these initiatives more than 500 black female CAs(SA) have been celebrated by AWCA over the past three years.

2.3 Mentorship
Launched in 2008, hosted by WIPHOLD, the purpose of this programme is to provide support to already qualified CAs(SA) and trainee accountants, as they seek to advance their careers.

In 2009, AWCA launched the “Power Tea” concept whereby it was centred on five elements of a woman, being Passion, Inspiration, Strength, Destiny and Dedication. The purpose is to provide the platform whereby the mentor and mentee can have opportunity to interact with each other in a very relaxed environment, whereby the interactions are focused on hard core issues (leadership issues – from personal development to leading a team) and also women issues (e.g. focus on breast cancer awareness). Our belief is that, whilst we are women who aspire to be in leadership positions, we must not forget our feminity and our womanwood, and that we are mothers, sisters, wives etc.

Already we have had two “Power Teas” in Cape Town and Johannesburg, sponsored by Distell and Quartile Capital.

AWCA prides itself in building and nurturing relationships, hence, the events are sponsored. “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion”, East African Proverb.

3. Leadership development
This final aspect of the strategy of AWCA is focused on developing effective leaders for the country. It’s based on the premise of building a pipeline of leadership that will be required by industry, both commerce and the profession. AWCA has developed various programmes in identifying the needs of members in meeting leadership requirements.

3.1 Out to lunch
Launched in 2006, the aim is to maintain and raise the profile of the forum with key decision makers and tap into their leadership insights and successes. The targeted audience is the broader AWCA members, but mainly the ones already in management positions but who aspire to be in leadership positions, and the forums are limited to a maximum of 15 people per session.

The three key issues to learn from key decision makers is their history, experience and wisdom. We believe that there is nothing that can replace experience, which it is better to learn from the experts.

Already eight sessions had been held with the CEOs of the First National Bank, MTN, Mvelaphanda, DBSA, Landbank, Edcon etc. More sessions are planned for the current year and the next years.

We believe that we will continue to share the leadership lessons with inspirational leaders in corporate South Africa, who are passionate about transformation.

3.2 Leadership Development Programme
In 2008, AWCA along with IWFS Leadership Development Programme run by Gibsa, provided assistance to one of the board members to attend the leadership programme for one year at Gibs valued at R40,000.00. AWCA is pleased to report that Sindi Dlamini, our board member has already graduated in 2009. This is one of the alliances AWCA values and nurtures, and we believe ensures the development of our human capital.

Now in 2009, AWCA has started discussions with USB-ED to develop a “Young Woman Leadership Development Programme” because AWCA believes that issues of leadership for young women are perhaps different than for normal business people. As a result, discussions are ongoing in terms of both structuring and supporting the programme.

In supporting AWCA, USB-ED has already sponsored three AWCA members with courses at their Bellville campus, and also with leadership development programmes

3.3 Woman of Substance
This is the flagship event, whereby AWCA identifies a woman that has achieved a leadership position, and also has shown a giving heart in communities, and support for young girls and women in the accounting profession.
The women that have been honoured in the past as Women of Substance are the late Minister Stella Sigcau, Sindi Zilwa, Glorai Serobe and Wendy Luhabe.

Already the past recipients are mentors to the existing members of AWCA, and have made significant contributions towards the development of young women in our profession.

3.4 Careers Workshops
In its objective of preparing aspirant and recently qualified CAs(SA) to understand what awaits them in the corporate environment, and how to deal with circumstances and situations in an assertive manner, AWCA runs these workshops annually.

WeCAre
AWCA encourages members to give back, by contributing to its weCAre programme. This is a SAICA initiative, and AWCA contributes to it by sponsoring food parcels to Noah’s Ark in Yeoville.

In 2008, AWCA committed to running the “weCare” project of food parcels, whereby members contribute R200 per month to buy the food parcels. Already, AWCA together with the Nedbank Foundation, Sasria, Mvelaphanda and WIPHOLD, has delivered food parcels to a value approximating R220, 000 since April 2008 to about 125 families, and continues to do so through the efforts of its members and the partner companies.

Strategic Alliance
We believe that partnerships are very important in building strong organisations. A successful organisation cannot run without effective administration. AWCA prides itself that Ernest and Young has committed to providing its offices and sponsorship towards the administration of AWCA for the next three years, as it has done so for the past three years.

Already, we have partnership with SAICA, ABASA, Absa, Standard Bank, Vodacom Foundation, Reserve Bank, USB-ED, IWFSA, Ernest and Young, National treasury, WIPHOLD, ACSA, Auditor General and many other entities.

We believe that our spirit will continue to flow and that the organisation will continue to grow stronger, and with that we will be able to see more younger women entering the profession. We will never be able to see the acceleration of young women CAs(SA) if we are not investing in human capital development and also not rolling up our sleeves and reaching out to our schools. How can a school child learn if he/she is hungry!

 

SPECIAL REPORT WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION

Sustainability in the Petroleum Industry

Sasol Limited is an integrated global energy and chemicals company, represented in some 30 countries. We add value to coal, oil and gas reserves using feedstocks to produce liquid fuels, fuel components and chemicals through our unique proprietary technologies. Whilst there is a lag effect of the global economic crisis on the South African economy, it is nonetheless concerning. Both locally and internationally, Sasol has felt the effects of this crisis through the impact of comparatively low oil prices and reduced margins, as well as the prices of our other energy and chemical products and fluctuations in the rand/US dollar exchange rate.

The volatility of the oil price experienced in the past 18 months is at this stage not showing any signs of abating. Prices have risen recently as policy measures have attempted to stabilise the financial system and acheive a global economic recovery. Oil prices are affected by the same optimism driving the equity markets. Market sentiment is generally more positive, with the return of risk appetite more visible. The recent run on oil prices and other commodities is based largely on the expectation of an economic recovery. Factors that pushed the oil price up last year have returned, including supply concerns in the market, particularly both renewed violence in the Niger Delta and political instability in Iran, which could hamper exports from these countries. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has, however, contained production to such levels to keep prices from declining. We, however, remain more cautious on the short term outlook, and believe that that we could see prices rising again in the medium term.

We believed that the rand was somewhat undervalued at the beginning of 2009, the strength driven by significant capital inflows related to recent corporate actions and US dollar weakness, which pushed the rand to below levels that South African fundamentals could support. We expect a weaker rand in the short term.

The volatility in financial markets has resulted in a lack of liquidity in the debt market and, consequently, an increase in the cost of debt. It is imperative, therefore, that our strong balance sheet is maintained in order to execute our long-term growth programme and keep our long-term shareholder value proposition intact. Our strong balance sheet enables us to maintain a flexible approach to our capital expenditure programme, taking cognisance of the current economic climate.

To ensure that our value proposition to our stakeholders remains intact and that we are able to deliver on our growth strategy, Sasol has had to take measures in response to this crisis to ensure our sustainability. These measures are not dissimilar to those taken by companies globally. During 2008, at the onset of the economic crisis, we entered into a cash conservation mode. We have strengthened our focus which has remained on sustainable unit cost reduction and efficiency improvement through our operational and functional excellence initiatives. We have begun to realise benefits from opportunities that the current environment presents in our procurement strategy, and in the renegotiation of contracts. Working capital improvements across the group are positively impacting the group’s cash flow. These measures, together with a reprioritisation of our capital expenditure programme, are enhancing our strong balance sheet. However, the capital expenditure reductions, which mainly relate to smaller projects, will not affect our pipeline growth projects, where our pre-investment studies will continue unabated. Our projects are rigorously reviewed to ensure that all the risks are appropriately identified and managed accordingly. Growth is essential to sustain the business into the future.

However, a business cannot succeed and be sustainable in the future without the appropriate governance measures being in place. Our business is supported by comprehensive compliance and risk management processes. Good corporate governance, strong business controls and high ethical standards are an essential for sustainable business in today’s environment. Recent years have seen the lack of strong internal corporate governance and internal controls, which is the downfall of many companies. Inappropriate behaviour cannot sustain success, and will not deliver stakeholder value in the long term. It is non-negotiable that all employees, officers and directors comply with these minimum standards. How we get the results is as critical as the results themselves.
In our industry, the legacy we leave for future generations is becoming increasingly important. With the debate on climate change heating up, we continue to receive questions from our stakeholders on our carbon footprint. Our management of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions continually emphasised to acheive sustainability. It is vital that we reduce our environmental footprint through collaboration with international industry peers and interest groups. We need and do set challenging targets for reductions, and continuously monitor our progress against these targets. Our industry is also on a drive to find new and innovative sources of renewable energy to supplement our existing technologies and to improve our energy efficiency.

We would, however, not be able to achieve what we have without attracting and retaining the exceptional talent that is required to take our company from good to great. Our diversified workforce is drawn from across the globe and is multidisciplined, which provides us with a competitive edge. The success and sustainability of a company requires the discipline of highly technical and capable leaders in the industry, who are able to steer the ship through the rocky waters which we face at these difficult times.

 

SPECIAL REPORT WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION

Sindi on Mentorship and Leadership

In a profession that is mostly perceived as a men’s world, Sindi Zilwa is heading up one of South Africa’s top black owned firms. She qualified in 1990 and became South Africa’s 2nd black woman CA(SA). She is the co-founder and current CEO of Nkonki Inc. Having been previously nominated as ABASA’S most active member, we talked with Sindi about mentorship.

Who would you say is your mentor?
What I have learnt from a young age is that in mentorship, you focus on the key qualities you aspire to have from another person. For that reason, I had a variety of mentors, depending on what quality I aspired to have. I would then engage them on how they managed to achieve what I still aspire to achieve.

Who had an active role in you becoming a CA(SA)?
My mother and my brother, Mzi Nkonki, played an active role. My mother decided that we found work in the office environment, then my brother, who had more career guidance than I did, passing on the knowledge and practically choosing courses for me, and sometimes paying my fees.

How important is it for upcoming CAs(SA) to have mentors?
Every young professional needs to take responsibility for his/her destiny. Once they get that right, they will identify their weaknesses, and then identify those qualities they aspire to have. They can then identify those mentors who possess these qualities, and seek guidance from them.

Would you say CAs(SA) are doing enough in mentoring young people that aspire to be in the profession?
The amount of mentoring in my world depends on how many potential mentees are proactively wanting mentoring. I could be a mentor to anyone that wishes and I have responded positively every time I have been approached but that has not been more than three requests per annum. So, mentoring is not about how many can mentor but about how many willing mentees there are as mentoring cannot be imposed.

Within the profession, which woman do you regard as your role model and why?
Because of my passion as a practising professional, there is no role model for me in this field. I normally approach some of the 40 year olds black successful audit firms in the USA. Unfortunately, however, they are led by men.

As a woman in leadership, what challenges did you come across and how did you overcome them?
Being in business and being a professional is a challenge in itself. So, being a woman might bring more challenges but that does not mean men are having a good time. So, sisters must take the heat and not think they are struggling just because they are women.

What would you say to young women CAs(SA) that aspire to be leaders in the profession?
They must set a goal for themselves and understand that it takes time, tough times, to achieve one’s ambition. They must not look for “happy ever after” scenarios, as they are non-existent in the business world. They must focus on depth rather than breadth of expertise, and be generous in transferring skills to others.

 

SPECIAL REPORT WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION

A Tribute to our Trailblazers

Elizabeth Kruger

Born in 1890, Elizabeth Kruger first applied for membership to the Transvaal Society of Chartered Accountants as a trainee in 1912, and was admitted as a full member in 1918. Pioneering in a new era for female professionals, Elizabeth will forever be lauded as the reason many women decided to follow the CA(SA) route.

On passing her final examinations, Elizabeth was awarded a special book prize by the Transvaal Society’s library committee, and on 12 June 1970, when celebrating 52 years of membership, Elizabeth was given honourary membership of the society.

Aged 90, on 14 March 1980, Elizabeth passed away, and was, at the time, considered the most senior member of the society and was lauded for her dedication to the growth of women in the profession.

Nonkululeko Gobodo

When her parents wanted her to do medicine after matric, Nonkululeko decided to take a gap year to decide carefully on what she wanted to study. It was during this “gap” that Nonkululeko Gobodo was introduced to the accounting profession, which later saw her become the first black woman chartered accountant [CA(SA)].

Her love for the profession began when she was working as a bookkeeper at her father’s panel beating shop during her gap year. At that time, her father’s shop was being audited by Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu’s firm [first black CA(SA)]. It was then that she got exposure to the profession and fell in love with it. With the aspiration and clear goal that she wanted to be a CA(SA), she pursued a BCom degree at the University of Transkei (UNITRA) in 1981. During vacations, she would work at Prof Nkuhlu’s firm, where she worked with the first three black CAs(SA). On completion of her degree, she lectured for two years at UNITRA and began her articles. Her dream of being a CA(SA) finally came true when she qualified in 1987.

Realising her dream
“I was not aiming to be the first black woman to qualify; I did not even know I could be the first. My dream was to just be a CA(SA)”. She refers to it as a double achievement, which she did not realise until after it was announced by the media. With a vision of one day owning her own company she turned down a partnership offer at KPMG in 1988. “I did not accept it because it wasn’t a good offer, but to me it was going to be a limitation of what I was aiming for”. She then had a brief business venture with Sindi Nkonki where they formed Filtane Nkonki in 1992 and later parted ways.

New guys on the block
Her vision to establish a medium-sized black firm gave birth to her current company Gobodo Inc in 1996. Starting out small with not much capacity, the company had to prove that it had the capabilities that other firms can offer, if not more. At that time, most of its work came from the government. With the private sector saying “we are international companies so we have to use international auditors, etc”, this was a barrier between the firm and the private sector, but she attributed every set back as being room to improve.

Having recently come back to the profession, she says as much as the profession has progressed and a lot of change has taken place, and barriers have been broken down, most of the issues that were affecting the profession in 1996 are still there. The constant obstacle/challenge is getting enough work both from the public and private sector. This cannot only be blamed on the big companies, but also on small companies for limiting or marginalising themselves.

Even though small companies struggle, she acknowledges their growth with reference to her company, which has doubled in size and capacity and has offices nationally. Currently, her vision is to usher Gobodo Inc into a new era. Acknowledging the success that her board members have achieved, she says, “There is always room for improvement, and my aim is to improve the company and pursue my vision for economic transformation”

Believing that South African citizens can control their own economy, she dreams of a time when citizens will adopt the mentality of being builders and not being dependant on government hand-outs, where they will find projects that will sustain them and have all citizens contributing to the economy. For now, Gobodo’s focus is on growing the business and seeing her dream of economic transformation coming to pass.

Future for the industry
“What is paramount now is addressing the recession issue until we come out of it”. She adds that this is an issue that is not just affecting the accounting industry, but feels that the accountancy profession can make a notable impact in minimising the problems and also creating awareness.

“Business has the platform to provide jobs for the future. That is why we need to strategise on how to grow our economy. The challenge within the business sector is for businesses to see themselves as responsible for alleviating poverty in terms of growing the economy”.

Noting that, over the years, the accounting industry has done some commendable work, which is evident by the number of CAs(SA) that are qualifying annually. Credit for this can be given to various organisations within the profession that have all worked together towards the same goal of bringing in more black accountants. Nonkululeko adds that, even though there is still a large gap to be closed in introducing potential CAs(SA) to the profession, this can be achieved if there is active participation at an early stage. “All we can do is give exposure and encourage people to get themselves into the profession”

Maya Angelou said it best when she said “courage allows a successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from that failure so that, in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” Even though struggle has always shadowed the business career of Nonkululeko, without doubt, the same determination and focus that she exercised to become the first woman black CA(SA) will see the growth of Gobodo Inc and economic transformation taking place in our times.