Although the mining sector has made progress with respect to transformation, Kweyama contends that there is still much that needs to be done for women, in a sector that has traditionally been regarded as a male terrain, in order to achieve equality in the workforce. “My appointment as the first black female in the position of executive director of Anglo American is not only a credit to our company’s commitment to transformation and diversity in the workplace, but is also symbolic of the transformation milestones that our company has achieved and of its ongoing commitment to this form of progress in the mining industry and in the country as a whole,” she says. Kweyama, who interacts with women who are some of the brightest, most curious and most involved South Africans, believes that the country needs to make room for these women at the table in order “to grow our economy and provide the life our Constitution promises. We need to harness the energy of these women.” She adds that the industry is not resting on its laurels in this regard. Fifty-three per cent of South African businesses offer female employees flexible work hours, while the country’s partners in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc lag behind with just 40%.
With a career spanning periods with several international companies, Kweyama’s résumé ‘packs a punch’. It is also worth noting that ‘transformation’ has been very much of a buzz word in her professional life. She acknowledges that, in her present post, the question of how to transform the mining industry is one that keeps her awake at night: “Transformation not just in the spheres of employment equity and gender, but transformation as it is outlined in the Mining Charter. If we use that as our road map, then we have to consider the broader community, and we have to think about poverty alleviation, as well as about education and skills development,” she notes.
All Hands on Deck
Kweyama explains: “When we transform the communities that an industry, any industry, operates in, we transform that industry. But, and this is the catch, for transformation to happen, businesses need a competitive environment. For business to be competitive, it must transform the way it does things.” However, she elaborates that government also has a pivotal role to play in the transformation process – and that is by creating a framework that is conducive to transformation. Anglo American should be credited with leading the way with its transformation efforts, contends Kweyama. As far back as 1989, Anglo American’s dedicated enterprise-development arm, Zimele, was helping to create commercially viable and sustainable enterprises that could operate in the mainstream economy. Not only has this strengthened Anglo American’s own business, but, through the creation of employment and income-generating opportunities, it has also resulted in significant and continuing benefits for the entrepreneurs’ communities and their families. Many of the people supported through this initiative are women. “We believe that, in partnership with government and communities, we can drive improvements in education and in access to health services. Education is a driver for job creation and entrepreneurship, and a skilled and educated workforce then makes it easier to build capacity across business. By building capacity, we deliver opportunity,” Kweyama emphasises.
Recognition so as to Empower
The recognition gained through awards is one tool that Kweyama intends to use to build capacity and deliver opportunity. “Women need role models, but those women breaking the glass ceiling need to hold the door open for everyone behind them. To build strong women, you need strong female role models. Empowering women in business, as well as entrepreneurship, serves as a positive force for social and economic upliftment,” she says. However, she adds, many of South Africa’s women lack the business experience and financial resources to break into the formal economy. This can be dealt with by providing women with opportunities to build thriving businesses or to get the right jobs. By doing so, they will be able to provide for themselves and their families. Women should not rest on what they have already achieved and look to other agencies such as the government for empowerment, stresses Kweyama. “Why should industry wait for the Draft Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill to legislate equality? Why should we wait to do the right thing? There are innovative policies that businesses could introduce to help women be successful in every role they choose to take on,” she declares. While, arguably, Kweyama has reached the peak in her career, she believes that there are more mountains to climb, particularly in the mining sector and for Anglo American. But, in order to move on to the next goal, South Africa has to wrap up the current goals, for, “if we moved on without doing that, we would be acting prematurely. Let’s succeed in achieving our developmental and transformation targets together before we move onto the next goals,” she concludes.
Passionate about Transformation
The mining industry in South Africa is an industry faced with a multitude of challenges, including labour unrest. As a result, the outlook for the sector and the country appears somewhat bleak, as mining constitutes the very foundation of the economy. This is a tough situation, in a tough industry, yet an unlikely force is rising to ensure that as little damage as possible is done in order to maintain a sustainable South African economy.
Khanyisile Kweyama, Executive Director at Anglo American South Africa Limited and the Resources and Integration Processes Sector winner of the 2013 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Award, is faced with a multipronged task. She has to make sure that the industry emerges unscathed from the recent occurrences and, at the same time, must maintain the strategic direction of a big multinational conglomerate such as Anglo American South Africa.
by Andrew Ngozo