This Women’s Month, African Bank pays tribute to three of the women who embody the spirit of strength and collaboration that culminated in the Women’s March back in 1956: CEO Basani Maluleke; Lindiwe Miyambu, Group Executive: Human Capital; and Chief Information Officer, Penny Futter.
Maluleke says that the most important asset propelling her through a career that has spanned more than 15 years in financial services is simple: a strong support structure. “I have faced many obstacles during my career, but my support structure has seen me through each time. These people are always there to provide perspective, guidance, a shoulder to cry on and anything else that may be required to overcome adversity, as well as to join me in celebrating success,” she reflects. “I used to think that I had to overcome obstacles on my own, to prove that I am independent and resilient – but I keep learning that there are many people who will help, if I just ask.”
Equally helpful is the knowledge that hard times come and go. She further draws on the confidence that the vision she has for her life is both important and achievable. This means that giving up is not an option.
Maluleke has been both consistent and deliberate in creating this vision and it has provided a North Star to guide her decisions. She has, however, learnt to accept that failure is not only inevitable from time to time; it is useful, too, and may impart critical lessons – the most important of which, she says is coming to understand the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.
Miyambu says that she also understands hard times are inevitable; an insight her parents ensured she accepted during childhood. However, her grandmother also inculcated an acknowledgement that any challenge could be overcome with hard work. “I still believe that there is no substitute for working hard, but I also think that there is a lot of truth in the saying ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’”
This manifests in her passion for people; indeed, she says that people – from her family to her children and her colleagues – are her greatest source of inspiration. “I’ve found that these people create a support structure that really helps to keep you on track when you face a challenge – especially since women encounter countless obstacles as they try to raise kids while succeeding in the corporate world.” At times like this, she says that it also helps to remember who you are and what you stand for, so that you can stay true to that person and to remind yourself that you do not have to respond unthinkingly to external triggers.
Other tips for fellow women striving to make their mark in the often unforgiving corporate world? “Love yourself. This makes you a better partner, mother, friend and colleague. There is nothing wrong with investing time and care in yourself, no matter what society tells you. At the same time, invest in your relationships. One of the greatest lessons I have learnt through my career is that such time is invaluable; the investment pays back many times over.”
Like Miyambu, Futter is a great proponent of the value of hard work and perseverance, describing these as the cornerstone of her career philosophy. “There are many things that I have struggled with in my career, but I know that if I keep working and refuse to give up, there is very little, given time, that I won’t be able to do.”
This is the insight she applied when facing what she says has been her greatest challenge: becoming a parent and trying to figure out the right balance between work and family. She found the sweet spot with the help of her extended family structure and now works towards spending quality, rather than quantity, time with her loved ones.
Futter admits that she has come to this understanding through a journey, which also showed her that it is not a weakness to show her vulnerable side. In fact, doing so has helped to build a network of support that is always there when she needs it. At the same time, she thrives on helping her team mates uncover their own strengths. “Every person has something they are great at and finding and harnessing this, allowing them to do something they love and can be successful at, is a powerful building block in any team. I believe that the secret to success lies in being yourself – do that, and you will be amazing.”