Women in South Africa are the rock

Head of ACCA SA, Nadine Kater, is passionate about the empowerment of women.

National Women’s Day commemorates 9 August 1956 when 20 000 women of all races marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the so-called pass laws and to hand-over 100 000 petitions to the government of the day.

Women in South Africa have a proud tradition of standing up for what they believe is right; they are also renowned for always being the first to make personal sacrifices for others. It is little wonder that fifty-seven years after this famous march, the phrase ‘wathint abafazi wathint,’ “You strike a woman, you strike a rock,” has come to epitomise the strength and courage of women in South Africa.

South Africa has produced thousands of truly remarkable women. Unfortunately a blog does not provide sufficient space to list all of the women in South Africa, whom I personally admire. My personal short-list includes the likes of Chairperson of the African Union, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma; Chief Executive of the Absa Group, Maria Ramos; Governor of the Reserve Bank Gill Markus; and CEO of the JSE, Nicky-Newton King.

These women are all pioneers in their respective field; they have paved the way for other women to follow. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is the first female to hold the position of Chairperson of the African Union; Maria Ramos is the first female Chief Executive of the Absa Group; Gill Markus is the first female Governor of the Reserve Bank; and Nicky Newton-King is the first female to hold the position of CEO at the JSE. These women have all demonstrated how the possession of the requisite skills, qualifications and work experience, coupled with strong leadership skills, ambition, personal drive, and a willingness to do what it takes, makes it possible to “get to the top.”

My list would be incomplete without the addition of two women, who have made it onto the highly influential Forbes List. Unfortunately, the 2013 Forbes list of powerful people in African business has not yet been published. However, Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, CEO of Acelor Mittal, was cited on the 2012 list. This is a remarkable achievement. The 2013 Forbes List of the World’s Most Powerful Women has been published. Gail Kelly, CEO of Wespack Banking Group was listed as 62nd on the list. While Gail may now have Australian citizenship, as a former South African, I think it is only fit to cite her as a role model for South African women and proof that South African women have what it takes to play on a global stage.

As we celebrate Women’s Day and Women’s Month, I urge women in South Africa to make a commitment to mentor a young South African woman, or even a young girl. By so doing we can help to create a pipeline of talented young women, with the ambition, skills, drive and talent to make it in the top.

While we often tend to focus on prominent women already in the spotlight. I would like to pay homage to the thousands of women in South Africa, unsung heroines, who raise children and grandchildren and selflessly support others in their communities, often against great odds. You are indeed a rock, and serve as wonderful role models for all South Africans.

Nadine Kater
Head of ACCA SA

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