Tomorrow’s leaders on the rise

Gender transformation is happening at a relatively slow pace in South Africa — just two women chief executives were listed among the chief executives of the top 100 companies by the JSE in December 2014. 

Koo Govender says she believes only five advertising companies have women leading them. “We need to take a step towards empowering women to attain serious positions of leadership in the advertising and marketing industry,” she says.

“Almost 24 years ago, when I started working, I had the academic qualifications but no life skills to enable me to survive in the corporate world.”

Many young women find themselves in the same position today, she says. She recalls looking up to the women she saw in higher positions, but could not rely on them for mentorship because many did not seem focused on the advancement of women in the workplace.

Govender was appointed chief executive at brand experience agency VWV Group in September 2013 after 22 years with M-Net, where she rose to the position of director: corporate marketing and communications. 

Last year she launched the Phakama Women’s Academy, VWV’s corporate social responsibility project. Phakama means “to rise” in a range of Nguni languages. 

The academy is aimed at fast-tracking young women’s acquisition of skills. “We take on second- and third-year female students in the field of marketing and public relations, at the point where they are getting ready to go out and find internships,” she says.

The students come from three different institutions of higher learning: the AAA School of Advertising, the Vega School of Brand Leadership and the University of Johannesburg. 

“All three offer courses that fit in with VWV’s sphere of business, and that’s why they were chosen,” says Govender.

The students are selected on their academic performance — they have to be achieving a solid 60%-plus —but there is also an interview process. One of the things assessed is their “passion for giving back to women”, says Govender.


The selected students are offered the opportunity of attending classes at VWV, packing in a great deal of learning every alternate Friday from 1pm to 4pm for three months.

A total of seven modules is covered in that period, focused on practical work skills such as writing an effective curriculum vitae, managing a personal brand in the workplace, finding a suitable coach or mentor, etiquette in the boardroom and modules dealing with negotiating office politics.

On top of this, each young woman is assigned an individual mentor. These are not VWV staff; Govender sourced appropriate chief executives and marketing directors, many of them personal friends who share her passion.

All of the 26 young women who were part of the 2014 pilot project and graduated from Phakama last November have found jobs; many of them, according to Govender, were employed by the mentors to whom they were assigned.

For her, this initiative is personal. “I want to lead a life of significance,” she says. “This is my legacy.”

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Protective equipment for schools in KwaZulu-Natal goes ‘missing’

Without protective equipment, schools in uMlazi, Pinetown and Zululand won’t meet the already delayed deadline for reopening

The statue of Louis XVI should remain forever handless

A statue of the French king in Louisville, Kentucky was damaged during the protests against police killings. It should not be repaired
Advertising

Press Releases

Empowering his people to unleash their potential

'Being registered as an AGA(SA) means you are capable of engineering an idea and turning it into money,' says Raymond Mayekisa

What is an AGA(SA) and AT(SA) and why do they matter?

If your company has these qualified professionals it will help improve efficiencies and accelerate progress by assisting your organisation to perform better

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday