President Buhle Hanise reflects on the AWCA’s 21 years of helping women CAs navigate challenges.
Established two decades ago, AWCA embarked on a mission to ensure a steady pipeline of African (Black, Indian and Coloured) women chartered accountants. President Buhle Hanise remarks, “When the organisation was started 21 years ago, the dynamic was obviously quite different. All we needed to ensure was that there was a pipeline of African female CAs.”
However, as times have changed, so have the challenges and opportunities for women in accounting, as well as many other fields in finance.
The shifting accountancy landscape
Buhle stresses the enduring importance of maintaining a pattern of chartered accountants while adapting to the shifting landscape. “The experiences of past generations may not fully resonate with today’s aspiring professionals due to technological advancements and changing societal dynamics,” she points out, underscoring the need for current CA candidates to adapt and prepare for an environment where remote work, international exposure, and technology integration are becoming increasingly prevalent.
“The reality is we don’t really know what’s coming. The best we can do is work with whatever information we have available, which right now is all about AI, technological advancements, and digitalisation,” Buhle says.
She explains that Covid-19 has given people an opportunity to embrace hybrid working environments. “Now we see CAs that are based in South Africa working for international companies. They are getting the international exposure they need without having to bear the expenses of having to relocate to a different country.”
Buhle emphasises the importance of taking everything in our changing world into account.
The changing role of the AWCA
Reflecting on the organisation’s impact, Buhle expounds on the ways in which the AWCA has evolved beyond its initial mandate and spread to other realms of finance and creating opportunities. The organisation not only supports candidates through their studies but also helps them navigate critical career junctures such as entering the workforce or pursuing entrepreneurial endeavours. AWCA collaborates with educational institutions and other organisations to provide practical knowledge and real-world experiences, ensuring that future CAs are well-prepared for the challenges of the profession.
“We launched an entrepreneurship forum, which is something I’m very passionate about because it's important to drive young people into opening businesses and investing in their futures so they can thrive,” she says.
Buhle also highlights the unique perspective and contribution women bring to the table.
“It’s important to embrace femininity, because it gives you the ability to consider a broader range of factors in decision-making, which can lead to more holistic and inclusive outcomes.”
She emphasises how important it is for people to evolve and try new things. “You are allowed to change your mind. And changing your mind can come in different forms, so don’t sit in an environment where you’re not happy.”
A personal connection
Buhle’s personal connection to AWCA’s mission is evident as she talks about the organisation’s significance. She describes her involvement as a labour of love, stemming from her own experiences of receiving support from various quarters.
Her aspiration is to create a sisterhood where women can share experiences, learn from one another, and uplift each other professionally. With the organisation celebrating its 21st anniversary, Buhle draws parallels to a person’s 21st birthday, which is an emotional mark of the transition to adulthood. She highlights the milestone as a testament to AWCA’s impact and the realisation of its founding objectives.
As AWCA enters its third decade, the organisation remains committed to fostering the growth and success of female chartered accountants. Buhle expresses optimism about AWCA’s continued role in shaping the future of the profession and supporting women in their diverse career journeys. The organisation’s dedication to adapt, collaborate, and empower underscores its significance in the landscape of accounting and beyond.
The AWCA’s 21st anniversary is not only a celebration of its past accomplishments, but also a reminder of the ongoing commitment to building a thriving community of female chartered accountants who will shape the future of the profession.
After all, Buhle says, they are an organisation about women. “It’s a huge milestone that says, ‘Wow, you've done it girl, you’ve impacted so many people and this is a history. There’s a reason why you were founded and you’ve actually achieved what you were founded for.”