stakeholders regardless of their gender”. This is an edge that women have over the opposite sex, which places them at an advantage in reshaping the playing field.
It would be true to say that, for centuries, men have ‘got away’ with almost everything in the office – from securing that all-important, yet elusive, deal right up to claiming credit for work that a woman has sweated for! However, as Michelle points out, that is now a bygone era, as many a woman now creates and owns her own personal brand and knows what she wants.
“A dress style that epitomises who you are, poise, an attitude that exudes confidence and, most importantly, a woman’s ability to demonstrate her worth without force, but through positive, structural communication is the gamechanger for women in leadership positions,” notes Michelle.
Delivering on Promises
In any setup, and particularly one involving women, Michelle says that the driver is always to deliver on what you promise. “Ensure that you only commit to what you know is achievable (within reason), and then deliver on it in the best way possible,” she explains.
Michelle adds that the valuable human assets to an organisation are those people who not only deliver results, but are also able to influence stakeholders positively. Women leaders who have this ability create teams that are motivated and driven, and that can take the business’s core objectives and turn them into results.
Women who reshape business, according to Michelle, are not defined by ultimate power, but “rather by an ability to reshape the mind-sets of business regarding the value of women, while not devaluing men”. It is about changing the age-old notion of women in business and encouraging an understanding of the value that women can add.
Reshaping business also means that women need to take heed of their value in the workplace and empower one another and others to embrace their own qualities, their values and their personalities in becoming successful professionals. “Through this, we will witness a shift in business from a male-dominated environment to a gender-neutral one – an ideal situation for success in today’s business environment,” she emphasises.
Striking a Balance
There is steady progress on the South African business landscape, with businesses evolving to accommodate femininity. “We are slowly seeing a shift in the way the business environment views women. A few years ago, women had to fight their way into the corporate world by taking on a manly persona,” says Michelle.
Fast-forward to a few years later, she adds, and you find that, while there is still a need for a woman to be strong and present skills and a personality that can ‘compete’ with those of the male employee, there is increasingly the need for a woman with empathy and understanding, and that businesses are starting to understand the real value of women in the workplace.
Michelle is quick to point out that this does not mean that women can’t adapt to change. “Instead, we should embrace both change and constancy and find a balance in between – one that works for both men and women in the business.”
Empowering Women for Reshaping Business
Michelle has found her balance in business. The mother of two boys is mindful of the need to empower young women and help them strike such a balance in order to play a meaningful role in reshaping business. “I ensure that any interaction I have with young women is valuable,” she says. “During that time, I impart my knowledge to them and I encourage them to use their skills and ability to shine within the business environment.”
As a leader whose team includes a few women, Michelle ensures that she shares her knowledge and skills regularly. “I am very focused on ensuring that the women in my team understand their worth and that they present themselves well within the workplace. I stress that they should have an opinion and deliver on it – this is the key to mentorship and empowerment, especially for women!”
The ability to reshape business rests firmly in the hands of women if “we believe in ourselves and in our own capabilities, and if we never give up”. Everyone is a leader, albeit one without a title, concludes Michelle. “The onus is on us to display our leadership abilities as women – at home, within our religious groups, at social gatherings, within the workplace, and in our daily interactions with stakeholders.”
The way to go is to subscribe to Michelle’s personal ‘CSR principles’. Whatever life hands out to you- focus on three key principles – Competence, Sincerity and Reliability. In this way, you will not only reshape your own life and the lives of those around you, but also the business landscape of your own organisation and industry and the South African landscape as a whole.
Women Reshaping Business
Diversity, persuasion, flexibility, and the ability to multitask are some of the unique qualities that female leaders bring to the table in reshaping the business landscape, says Dr Michelle Potgieter, Head of Marketing and Communications at Samsung South Africa.
“What is commonly noticed is that women leaders are able to show empathy, which brings diversity to the workplace from a conflict management and interpersonal perspective,” says Michelle. She adds that female leaders who have created their own brand within their work environment bring a sense of emotional strength to the workplace.
Coupled with compassion and empathy, this strength ensures that women are able to cope with the demands of the workplace and presents “them with the opportunity to interconnect with different
by Andrew Ngozo