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In Women’s Month, The Innovation Hub reflected on the progress made by women in South Africa and the strides made by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their country and communities.

The Innovation Hub believes in contributing to the empowerment of women entrepreneurs and in celebrating Women's Day, the day that commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country's pass laws, hosted its #ShineBrightLikeADiamond event, where the likes of Dr Judy Dlamini and newly appointed Gauteng Growth and Development Agency CEO Mosa Tshabalala spoke about their journeys and how they use their influence to bring about positive change for women and shared both industry knowledge and strategies which will would help these entrepreneurs work toward enhancing their business value propositions.

Celebrating the strides made by women innovation

Earlier in the month, the GirlCode Hackathon was hosted at The Innovation Hub, which aimed to identify key female leaders in the technology industry. The initiative was even recognised by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said that institutions like these have taken up the baton of struggle towards a truly non-sexist and egalitarian society. “[Women are] blazing a trail: in the workplace and in the boardrooms, in our factories and on our farms, in our Parliament and in our civil society organisations,” he said.

On Friday 23 August, The Innovation Hub hosted a Women’s Entrepreneur Networking session aimed at overcoming some of the key challenges faced by entrepreneurs. The Speakers included Nan Mankai, Principal Investment Officer of Bigen Group, Tumi Sibanda, a certified life coach, business coach, inspirational speaker and author and Allegro Dinkwanyane, an entrepreneur and media personality.

The ladies imparted some of their wisdom to up and coming female entrepreneurs.

"Growing up, women like me could only be domestic workers, but here I am, a doctor, businesswoman and author, the Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand and the founding chairperson of Mbekani Group. My parents raised me to believe I'm equal. I can be anything I choose to be," Dr Dlamini said at the event.

She said it was important for women to teach these values to future generations, and that mentorship was one of the tools that could be used to achieve this. "This is the message we have to tell our children, our girl children. As long as you have the gift of life, try everything, because if you don't try, you'll never know."

She highlighted that people who hold a wealth of knowledge in a specific learned area, who are the perfect candidates to become mentors to those who are still learning the ropes of their industry, should not sit back and wait for someone to approach them. "Instead of waiting for young people to ask, you offer, you do. We need to deliberately find those women, invest in them, in their small and medium enterprises. And we shouldn't be apologetic. African women are the most underprivileged, under-resourced people in the country and it takes each and every one of us to change that."

In 2017, 31% of South African companies did not have any female representation in senior leadership roles. “Leadership gives you the power to change the status quo, it’s vital that the gender parity needle moves.”

However, she noted that mentoring should not just be confined to one gender or a specific age group. "Women should not only focus on providing mentorship to young women, but also to young men to teach them the difference between right and wrong. It is very important to be holistic in how you mentor people. It's important to identify the young people that will make a difference in the country.

Speaking of the challenges that come with balancing their careers, being mothers and wives and being all these things at the same time, she said that often, women feel that they do not have the time to commit to a mentorship. "However, there are still opportunities for you to assist someone in leveraging themselves. Even if it doesn't make sense to you, perhaps you know of someone who can do something with an opportunity that you are aware of. Open those doors. That's our duty. It's bigger than just mentorship sessions."

With The Innovation Hub being one of the GGDA’s subsidiary, they are proud to have CEO Mosa Tshabalala, a 35-year old powerhouse, at the helm of policy direction in Gauteng’s catalytic agencies for economic growth and change. Speaking at the event, she told attendees that many women were still faced with the inability to own their spaces in a world that is still male-dominated in most boardrooms. “We need to realise our own strengths. We need to start asking, instead of ‘Why me?’, ‘Why not me?’”

“What we do as women, so well, is justifying every reason why not you. We are too scared to step into positions of power, or we wait for permission. No one is going to give you permission to speak, to assert yourself, to speak. You need to take control of your narrative,” she said.

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.