Purposeful Woman: Tendani Mantshimuli

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Tendani Mantshimuli is a career woman, economist, mother, friend, mentor and an inspiration. As a young woman, she was interested in becoming a Botanist. However, economics appealed to her at her University orientation week … and the rest as they say, is history. She was one of the first female African economists to sit in the newsroom and provide commentary on Economic matters. She worked at the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) for 9 years before moving into the private sector. Tendani has worked in the financial services industry for 18 years and, in addition to being the resident consumer economist, she is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Group IT business unit within Liberty Group Limited. Here Tendani shares some of her personal story with us: her role model growing up, her views on women in the workplace, and her super-power.

My mother, currently 81 years old, was my role model when I was growing up. She was not afraid to be controversial. She became a nurse in 1958, which, at the time was unheard of for her village peers. My mother inspired me to be different, to be financially independent, to take pride in myself - the way I look (grooming) and in my achievements. The high expectations she had of her kids, however, may have created a level of self-criticism later in my life. She was never afraid of trying new things, and even today she is fearless. My mom learnt to drive a car when she was 60 years old, and isn't afraid to travel abroad – all this in her retirement years!

As a woman, you need to work extra hard to prove that you know your stuff. I refuse to be someone's EE target and I won't be a victim. I belonged in the roles I've fulfilled because I was being me. My advice to other women is to accept that bias will never go away. There are two choices: to be put in a position because of targets to be met, or to strive for personal excellence. Focus on merit, focus on being the best – no one can fault you on that.

I believe that the biggest barrier for women to rise to senior leadership positions today is not acting like a man – not being part of the boys' club. Unfortunately, this is the accepted norm. We need to push back at all levels and challenge the status quo. This is a journey and won't happen overnight. However, all of us need to challenge current norms in our own small way.

Knowing what I know today, my advice to my daughters (regarding the corporate world) is to know when to walk away. My children didn't grow up with overt racism; they attended multi-racial schools from their pre-school days. They must, however, be able to make the choice – to lose the battle to win the war. Don't waste energy on small things; explore other opportunities. You will never find the perfect environment, but if it becomes too rigid or strained, leave - there are always other prospects on the horizon.

I'm a good home-maker and baker – this is my super-power :). I make a really good ginger bread and ox-tail; I don't need to follow a recipe to make a good meal.

This quote by Lao Tzu is the one I live by: "He who know others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened". Everything I have to offer is within me. I would tell my younger self "Don't pretend to be someone you're not to fit into others' expectations." I know myself; I know my limitations; I know what I need to work on in my weaknesses. I hate injustice, but I am flexible. 

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