Celebrating SA's women in finance
As the nation commemorates Women's Month this August, paying tribute to the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest for freedom and equality, two modern South African female accountants share their insights on thriving in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Lauren Du Plooy, a professional accountant who partners with the innovative global accounting and business software solutions organisation, QuickBooks, says: "The financial industry is constantly changing. This means that professionals working in the sector need to be agile and comfortable with change while not holding on to legacy thinking, including any preconceptions of which gender would perform better in any particular role.
"For young women looking to pursue a career in the financial industry, or as an accountant like me, I'd say: be open to change and don't be afraid to be an agent of change. The industry is becoming ever more diverse and, ultimately, it is admirable to stand out from the crowd anyway," she explains.
Rich Preece, Global Leader of the QuickBooks Accountant Business, says: "Lauren makes a great point here; women leading industries and multinational boards across the world may stand out from the crowd, but they also serve as role models for so many young girls who may not otherwise be encouraged to pursue their interests and passions. As a nation, it's always great to see us unify behind the successes of female business leaders. In the financial industry, two examples that immediately come to mind are banking CEOs Basani Maluleke and Maria Ramos."
Referring to a recent study by management consulting firm, McKinsey, Preece highlights that gender diversity also correlates with profitability and value creation. "The report found that better inclusion strategies actually give companies the competitive edge. While social justice is typically the driver of such efforts, and rightfully so, there is an added bonus that diversity in business has proven to be a key enabler of growth."
Another professional partner of QuickBooks, Hajirah Dalvie, explains she is proud to have achieved her goal of running her own bookkeeping practice and being completely self-sufficient.
"I like the idea of a challenge and believe that any challenge is achievable. I hope that more women look to the financial industry for career opportunities because the industry needs more of us: we have goals, we can multitask and we always get the job done."
Incorporating the idea of equal opportunity into her own business, Dalvie is motivated by being able to help small businesses who can't afford expensive accounting firms to grow their businesses.
"In future, I would also like to start a training and development centre for young women, single mothers and women who are sole breadwinners. I want to empower more women in this field," Dalvie explains.
Preece says: "Our country, and the rest of the world, has come a long way since 1956. However, despite the fact that women make up just over half of the country's population, they remain relatively unrepresented in many industries and professional positions."
According to Statistics South Africa, women fill only 44% of skilled posts, a figure which hasn't shifted much over the years, standing still at the same percentage it did back in September 2002.
"The bravery and sacrifice of the powerful women who fought for freedom, fair representation and equal opportunity have paved the way for our daughters, sisters, aunts and mothers today. With the backing of such passionate and determined women in the financial industry, the dream of a South African workforce which accurately represents our population is within reach," Preece concludes.