CFO SA's first women's dinner discusses influence and power

With an impressive selection of South Africa’s top finance executives in attendance, CFO South Africa’s first ever dinner event for women CFOs was a resounding success. The evening delivered fascinating insights into the power women have to bring men into conversation about the workplace, modernise views on parenting and multi-role professionals and – most importantly – be leaders by example.

Hosted at the Saxon Boutique Hotel on 11 August 2016, the women shared their thoughts on the theme 'Influencing through presence - women and power in the workplace'. Special guest Inge Walters, a facilitator and coach, discussed ways of dealing with the "all the time anywhere" syndrome many women executives suffer from.

As is typical of CFO events, knowledge sharing and networking were central to the CFO dinner, with exceptional food and laughter as a side dish. The difference this time was the unique opportunity for women leaders to be among each other, with CFO MD Graham Fehrsen in the room to listen and learn.

Essential reading: How can women leaders reach their full potential? A chat to Inge Walters

As the evening wrapped up the CFOs discussed some takeaways from the evening and commitments they would like to make to influence their workplace. Some of them were:

  • Work with male counterparts who are open-minded, curious and respectful.
  • Have the opportunity to lead and be seen as influential leaders for the way we operate, not title or gender.
  • Break the shackles of output-driven cultures and make more time to connect and grow teams.
  • Give recognition to their parents (often strong mothers) for their children's success
  • Empower younger generations of women and men in a way that creates more diverse and open organisations.

Earlier in the evening, Eve Learning's Inge Walters outlined how modern professionals are all faced with the challenge of compartmentalising work and personal demands. This is no easy task. The 'always on', multi-role lives we lead are often onerous and a real drain on our energy and sanity, regardless of gender. As the CFOs discussed their perspectives on power and influence it was abundantly clear that the language that is used to grapple the issues, really matters. Almost all the CFOs at dinner had a near allergic reaction to the word power, preferring instead to reframe it or use alternatives such as influence.

The CFOs agreed that guilt was a prevalent feeling for the busy executive, no matter how they divide their attention. If they are working, their home lives are being neglected and vice versa. The assertion is that women feel this in a heightened way and sometimes only because of the social expectation that they should be primary caregivers.

Participants:

- Yvonne Chetty, Department of Energy
- Irene Singo, Department of Mineral Resources (interview about clean audits)
- Lauren van Zyl, Eqstra Fleet Management & Logistics (CFO of the Week interview)
- Inge Walters, Eve Learning (interview about women leaders)
- Megan Pydigadu, MiX Telematics (profile)
- Nichola Dewar SAPO (interview from 2014)
- Libby King, Standard Bank
- Marienne Burger, Standard Bank
- Yolinde Harper, Standard Bank
- Jeanette Hern, Smollan
- Jo Pohl, Telesure (interview about risk)
- Refiloe Nkadimeng, Thebe Investment Corporation