Female CFOs should be daring and resilient, says IDC CFO Nonkululeko Dlamini

“Growing into a well-balanced CFO is a journey which requires identifying role models and learning from them. And learning from your own mistakes,” says Nonkululeko Dlamini, the CFO of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), a public development finance institution with the mandate to promote economic growth and industrial development. Nonkululeko and her mentee, Nozibele Tshobeni, a Senior Financial Manager, attended the CFO South Africa Women’s Dinner on 17 August 2017 at the prestigious Saxon Boutique Hotel. We sat down with Nonkululeko and Nozibele to chat.

"I feel it is a requirement for CFOs to uplift and empower younger employees. In some instances, we shouldn't allow people to stumble in areas where we have the ability to help. It is important for your team to know that there's someone to talk to… CFOs should be the most approachable people in the business."

How did your mentor-mentee relationship come to be?
"I nominated her as my nominee, because she was the only one who didn't ask me to mentor her," laughs Nonkululeko.
Nozibele had identified admirable qualities in Nonkululeko, and says: "She has a lot of energy. When I'm working on Sundays or after hours, I can be sure that Nonkululeko is also working. We've worked together on a few projects and I've learnt so much from her already. She's the boss lady. She takes control and this is very inspiring to witness as a woman."
Nonkululeko says she in turn is inspired by Nozibele's - and other younger employees like her - willingness to learn and her openness to be placed in new and uncomfortable situations and environments.

Why do you think mentorship is vital for female finance professionals?
Nozibele says: "In order to model the same confidence, and skill-set as your role models - you need to be close to them. You can't hide. Mentorship brings you closer to the people you aspire to be like. As someone who's not in the CFO position yet, I don't necessarily know how to get there or what the next step to take is. But having a mentor, someone who has been there and can see the bigger picture, helps you decide what the next steps are."
For Nonkululeko, "a woman's technical skills need to be balanced with other soft skills". Mentorship is also about challenging someone, she adds. Nozibele laughs and says, "She's very good with that!".
"You might be a very good CA but in the boardroom, they're not interested in the technical jargon," continues Nonkululeko. "In the boardroom, it's about how you present to the board; communicating the bigger story with confidence. That's why it's important to invite younger employees into the boardroom, so that they can see how the CFO is grilled by the board."

"Mentorship allows you to identify your strengths, weaknesses and your path. It's a broader community you create for yourself."

Why is mentorship vital in the public sector?
"Can I answer this question, CFO?" Nozibele asks politely. "I've always worked in the private sector, so this is my first public sector position. And I must say, I feel very fortunate that my first public sector has been with the IDC. There's no difference. You're expected to know what you are doing here - just like you are in the private sector. But, mentorship is even more important in the public sector because the public sector has the role of grooming future leaders. It is the training ground for the next leaders.""For me it is important to deal with the perceived complacency in the public sector," Nozibele continues. "We must make sure we groom the best leadership in the public sector. The public sector is doing a very important job in ensuring that development happens. It is therefore critical to groom the best of the best female but also male employees. Just imagine how it would be if the public sector was functioning like the private sector at all times."

Do you feel more responsibility as a public servant in comparison to the private sector?
"It is a huge responsibility either way," Nonkululeko answers, "but the role you play in the public sector is a huge responsibility. We hear about job losses in the news every day. Our responsibility as the IDC is to counter that and to create as many jobs as possible, as well as keeping the financial sustainability of the organisation in mind. We need to ensure that we deliver on our mandates. This is a big responsibility that we need to take very seriously."
"I was talking to my team members the week before last. I sat them down and said, 'You have to remember that in this environment, our shareholder is not some fat cat somewhere sitting and waiting for his dividend," says Nozibele.

"Our shareholder is your mother, your father, your uncle. The people of this country. That is your responsibility. You work for the people of this country. It doesn't matter what is on paper - that is who your shareholder is."

The Future of Finance is Female and this year's event saw South Africa's leading CFOs from private and public companies, along with their mentees, gather to discuss how network-relationships can strengthen and catapult their careers. Inge Walters, facilitator and coach at Eve Learning, a company focused on leadership development for women, which she founded in early 2015, facilitated. Guest CFOs also included Nonkululeko Gobodo, CEO of Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, and Aarti Takoordeen, the CFO of the JSE.