Vuyo Mahlati is the newly appointed President of the International Women’s Forum of South Africa, focusing on women leadership, talent and building global leadership networks across the continent and the world.
Who do you regard as your all-time female role model/leader?
My female role model is the late MaSisulu [Albertina Sisulu], particularly as an activist who with integrity and grace handled roles as mother, wife and professional, to the appreciation of all.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Life is a message… Heed!
What do you think of the criticism that women’s development has become the flavour of the month and that it’s attracting too much attention in South Africa?
When the gender picture remains skewed in households, work places and decision-making centres, irrespective of so much progress, I would argue that we need to attract more attention until it is a norm, and not an exception, to have women leaders and champions.
What are your favourite leadership books?
I’m currently reading W Chan Kim’s Blue Ocean Strategy and Commanding Heights by Roy Andersen.
What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in leadership now?
The challenge for women leaders is that, as natural nurturers, standing and pushing for value-based and principled leadership in an unpredictable, commoditised and competitive world is what defines our daily struggle. The opportunity is knowing that there are those who walked the talk before you, and the global network that is easily accessible for us all to make a difference. Above all, being a South African gives one the conquering spirit.
* Ms Mahlati is the chairperson of the board of directors of the SA Post Office and a Commissioner of the South African Planning Commission, and the former programme director of the Kellogg Foundation for Southern Africa. Between 1997 and 2000 she was the programme manager for spatial development at the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
The International Women’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA), established in 2000, is a progressive organisation of women leaders whose vision is to educate, empower, nurture and mentor the next generation of women leaders in South Africa through various programmes. The organisation was initiated in South Africa by the IWFSA Patron, Ms Zanele Mbeki. The IWF, a global membership organisation headquartered in Washington DC, has 62 affiliated forums in 21 countries and about 4 500 members worldwide.