In the media
Black businessmen 'are too territorial'10 May 2015
Black men in top management positions in South African companies are still keeping the boardroom doors closed to women.
This is according to business leader Dr Anna Mokgokong, who says: “They had the same problems as us [black women], but other men brought them in. Now that they’re there, they want to protect their positions.”
As co-founder and executive chair of Community Investment Holdings, chair of Afrocentric Investment Corporation and nonexecutive director at Adcock Ingram, Mokgokong opened her own doors in the corporate world.
She is a medical doctor, but started her first formal business when she was still at university. “I sold handbags as a hawker and later added selling agents. My business kept growing and, when a shopping centre in our community opened up, a friend said it was time for me to get my own shop.”
It was like an itch – the urge to start her own business – she says at her home in Waterkloof, Pretoria, between a meeting and another media interview. A navy blue Bentley waits outside to take her to her next appointment.
She believes entrepreneurship is inherent. “It’s within you. You can’t help it. It just appears and takes you in a certain direction. You do not plan on doing this or that. It just happens spontaneously.”
She also talks passionately about the empowerment of female leaders in South African business.
She says women excel in the fields of research and academia, but not in the business world.
“They are in their millions at the lower levels, but very few of them make it to the top. Why? Because the business world globally has always been a man’s world.”
And yes, South Africa has more women in leadership positions and is moving in that direction, but things can go faster. She says the female struggle to really get to the top of large enterprises – instead of merely managing portfolios in public management or human resources – should not be racialised.
“It’s not a race thing. It’s a male thing to rule and protect your territory. It’s actually something instinctive.”
Her home seems far removed from male corporate power games. Her feminine living room is filled with shades of cream and gold, with crystal and straw-coloured scatter cushions. There’s a grand piano in one corner of the room. We drink tea from porcelain cups with pink roses and talk while the photographer adjusts his camera over the new lights that are there to ensure “the children do not fall into the pool”.
And yes, she says, you can and must be strong as a female leader.
“Women are in the majority but are still marginalised. We who have already made it to the top should help others because, as decision makers within organisations, we have influence.”
But what about the people who feel they will never be helped up again? Those who feel they no longer have a place or future in South Africa?
“People who sit in a small corner and look very narrowly at everything feel like that. I believe South Africa embraces all races.
“I believe in the new South Africa and the young people who believe there is a future,” she declares, with passion.