Women in the boardroom: more than a number

At a time when gender inequality in the workplace persists, women need to be recognised as more than a number, more than a quota, writes Fhulu Badugela (below), chief executive of MultiChoice Africa Holdings.


This article is sponsored by Multichoice

As a woman in a position of leadership, I am not naive about the kinds of discrimination we face in the corporate world. But I believe that women’s full participation in leadership at all levels of the economy remains an imperative.

Today, women account for 47.7% of the global workforce. Yet only 27.1% of women are managers and leaders. This is despite the fact that research shows companies with more women leaders experience increased inclusivity, innovation and a stronger financial performance.

There’s no denying the impact and benefits that substantial representation brings to the organisation. But there’s still considerable work to be done to ensure greater inclusion, acceptance and participation in leadership positions.

This goes beyond hiring the legislatively-determined number of women to fit a quota. It comes down to empowering women in corporate environments to own their role, their voice and their potential to enact change.

I believe that now more than ever, the opportunity to reap the rewards of an inclusive and equal environment is ripe. That’s why at MultiChoice Africa we are quite intentional when it comes to creating a more inclusive environment for all to thrive.


I am determined to not hire women just for the sake of meeting a quota or having greater representation on our books – that is not the progress we want to see. We aspire to be at the forefront of gender equity, attracting women who will contribute to the strategic mandate of our business.

In line with this year’s theme of International Women’s Day, we’re focussed on embracing equity within our own sphere of influence. It’s our mission to challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias and seek out inclusion.

We are pioneering several inclusive initiatives that intentionally work to create a fair and equal world. These programmes have been designed to offer education, upskilling and bursaries that aim to accelerate the advancement and professional growth of women across the Group.

We have launched a compulsory e-learning module on diversity, equality and inclusion across all levels of the organisation from interns to Exco. 

This course shines a light on blind spots that people typically tend to overlook, like pay gaps and women’s role in the workplace, as well as the greater societal impact of equality. 

We also actively track and interrogate hiring, retention and attrition stats across our business to  check for any unconscious bias and blind spots that exist and needs eliminating. 

All our Exco members have a bonus objective on diversity and inclusion to ensure female representation is realised and specifically at the right levels. This demonstrates  just how much value we place in the upliftment of women.

We also aim to foster internal opportunities for women to grow and further their careers. 

This is apparent through our bursary allocations, employment and development investments, as well as the MultiChoice Talent Factory opportunities for female film-makers. 

I am also passionate about mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for young women looking to unlock their talent and potential, so they too can grow and work to break down gender biases.

Empowered women

But the true impact of greater female representation can only be reaped when women feel empowered to be their authentic selves. It’s not just up to the business to cultivate an environment where women can thrive – women need to have a hand in creating the world they want to see.

As a woman, I believe in our innate power to drive change. I believe we have great traits which come naturally to us as women like ability to nurture, groom and grow. 

These skills are increasingly becoming sought after in leaders, and we should leverage them. 

I also believe women should never feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness and that they can’t cope. I can’t tell you how beneficial and timesaving it is to put up your hand and ask for help. 

Ensuring greater inclusion, acceptance and participation
in leadership positions goes beyond hiring the legislatively
determined number of women to fit a quota

While I have no doubt that women can figure out any task on their own, the point is that you don’t always have to. Others have come before you and can support you as you grow. 

So, go out there, make your voice and opinions heard – but always remember to show up prepared. That builds credibility and allows you to speak with great conviction. Don’t leave room to second guess yourself.

Another piece of advice I have for women championing equality is to remain accountable. We’re all human: we’re bound to make mistakes, but true integrity comes from owning up to your mistakes. 

Doing so will show the people around you that you are worthy of trust, a reliable member of the team and a person that can be depended on during tough times.

Lastly: never doubt your ability to change the narrative. While sometimes you might feel that you must work twice as hard as your male counterparts to achieve the same results or recognition, you have undeniable power to create the culture you would like to see. 

While the imperative to drive true gender equality might be a long and difficult road to travel, it must be done for the benefit of all.

Fahmeeda Cassim-Surtee,
CEO, DSTV Media Sales

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
Policy changes must promote inclusion and equity, addressing recruitment into senior leadership; equal pay; and flexible working conditions. There should be constant audits and compensation benchmarks. There needs to be a mindset change around the advancement of women, to curb stereotyping and forge an inclusive environment for women to thrive in!

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
It is about putting steps in place to get to an ideal state of equality.

Angerie van Wyk,
Group Executive Head of Marketing, MultiChoice Africa Holdings

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
To talk about inclusion and equity in the business for To talk about inclusion and equity in the business for women is in itself a misnomer. We already have so many hierarchies and governance and cultural nuances in a matrix of a Pan-African organisation – ‘women’ simply shouldn’t be one of them. My advice is sometimes for us women to ‘show up differently’ – to break the stereotypes and anxieties – don’t think of yourself that you are different from a male colleague, don’t be intimidated by anyone – bring yourself, your passion and your knowledge and then you will automatically demand respect from both male and female colleagues and leaders. As leaders, we must create these safe spaces for anyone to ‘show up as themselves – and that will make a difference all round.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
To me it means we all still have a long way to go for equity to be a ‘given’. I will do what I can and will encourage everyone I come in contact with to do the same.

Caroline Oghuma,
Executive Head of Corporate Affairs, MultiChoice Nigeria

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
Develop a framework to formalise the inclusion and equity strategy at the workplace, implement it and ensure that employees are aware of it.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
Equity means treating everyone the same despite our differences. Embrace Equity means acting with fairness.

Emma Gichonge,
Managing Director, MultiChoice Malawi

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
By asking the ladies what they would like to see change and improve at the workplace for them to be more productive.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
It means meeting someone where they are and supporting them to grow in the most meaningful way that makes sense for them.

Gelila G. Michael,
Managing Director, MultiChoice Ethiopia

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?

Start by creating an environment in which all employees feel safe and protected, where they feel valued, respected, and granted equal opportunity. 

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
#EmbraceEquity – first of all acknowledge inequity and commit to addressing it by giving people their voices. 

Jacqueline Woiso,
Managing Director, MultiChoice Tanzania

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
In the complex, dynamic and diverse world we live in today it is crucial for an organisation to promote equity and inclusion in the workplace for it to be successful. Equity and inclusion need to be part of every organisation’s area of focus. An organisation needs to develop and create a culture that makes people feel a sense of belonging while in the workplace and this can be possible through: 
• Making the effort to raise awareness of unconscious bias 
• Upskilling and empowering employees, both female and male
• Developing strategic training programmes
• Designing well-made mentorship programmes
• Promoting pay equity – equal rates for males and females based on merit. 

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
Fostering an inclusive workplace where every one of us has a responsibility to fulfil. This can be achieved only if an organisation has a well-defined set of policies and culture.

Kemi Omotosho, Group Executive Head, Customer Value Management, MultiChoice Africa Holdings

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
Inclusion to me, means everyone. Everyone should have a voice that is heard, so everyone must commit. 

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
Inclusiveness and equity needs unified solidarity, where we stand together as one. Embracing equity should be everyone’s superpower.

Leah Kooma,
Managing Director, MultiChoice Zambia

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace? 
To promote inclusion and equity in the workplace, everybody needs to play their part for a positive change in the world. We need to respect and accept that people are different.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you? 
For me, Embrace Equity means being able to call out stereotypes, gender discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion.

Lerato Rikhotso,
Group Executive Head, CX and Care,  MultiChoice Africa Holdings

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
Equal pay for equal work,  regardless of gender, race, disability or nationality or of remuneration disadvantages due to a former employer’s neglect of inequity. Inclusion means a conscious appreciation of diversity including language, religion and cultural practices.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
It is not equality! It is a conscious acknowledgement of privilege and an active, but non-defensive, empathy for the disadvantaged.

Nancy Matimu, Managing Director, MultiChoice Kenya

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
We are a purpose-led organisation. Diversity, equity and inclusion is critical, and we must ensure we deliberately promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures and sexual orientations.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
We envision a just society where all are affirmed in their whole humanity.

Sibongile Ngwenya,
Group Executive Head of HR, MultiChoice Africa Holdings

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
By creating an environment where everyone is encouraged and comfortable to freely express themselves, and most importantly,
to be themselves.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
Embracing equity means creating a healthy environment where each individual feels heard, valued, has a sense of belonging, and is empowered to succeed and thrive as their own authentic self.

Stephanie Pillay,
Managing Director, MultiChoice Botswana

What can be done to promote inclusion and equity in the workplace?
Commitment to create environments that acknowledge the impact will be critical. As we create environments of belonging, it is key to create workplaces that are trusted and empower our people to deliver to their highest potential.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
Leading people is a critical aspect of creating an inclusive ecosystem that promotes difference as a strength.

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